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H809 – Reading Oliver et al. chapter 2 (A3.6a)

February 26, 2011

Ok, here the part we should actually focus on – the methodology.

Hmmm, I think I was a little hasty with the perspectives and I should have turned over the last pages of Oliver et al.s (2007) chapter to see that he refers to different perspectives on learning technology. I guess we suppose to cover this, however question on is quite ambiguous and could have ment both. Well, back to reading and answering. I still have to listen to the podcast and reflect on the frameworks, not to talk about H807 where I assume to find at least 30 to 50 new postings in my one day absence.

The different epistemological positions have profound implications how e-learning should be studied. Depending on the perspective or paradigm data is understood and interpreted differently. Methodology describes this relationships, it determines whether the implementation of particular methods is successful and credible. Methodology is a simple way of making arguments for what we already know or suspect to be true (Agger, 2004 cited in Oliver et al.,2007). Conole (2003 cited in Oliver et al.,2007) claims that a reference to methodology is essential when talking about elearning in a research context.

Just as a reminder, more for myself 😉 , epistemology is the theory of knowledge concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge (Wikipedia,2011). The following three questions are addressed: What is knowledge?, How is knowledge acquired? and how do we know what we know?

Different perspectives

  • An action research perspective
  • A behaviorist perspective
  • An activity theoretic perspective
  • A perspective on power

An action research perspective

in educational involves practitioners researching their own educational situations and practices, as a means to improve these. Two cycles of action-planning, implementation, monitoring, critical reflection and application of what is learned through this process is followed by a new interaction of the cycle. According to Melrose (1996 cited in Oliver et al.,2007) three different perspective on action research can be identified:

  • Technical action research – established models of best practice are applied and the impact in relation to pre-specified educational objectives is evaluated (instrumental view)
  • Practical action research – professionals must take responsibility for developing their own understanding and practice
  • Emancipatory action research – adds a normative political dimension to the practical tradition (critical theory). Educators recognise and engage with structural constraints on their practice and address power issues

The practical and emancipatory perspectives believe that knowledge is created through talk within communities.

A behaviorist perspective

is primarily a perspective on learning. Principles of operant conditioning, i.e. reinforcing desired behaviours through rewards, diminishing others through punishments, has been used in education for decades.

An activity theoretic perspective

builds on the work of Vygotsky (1989), also well-known is Engeström (2001). Vygotsky’s idea was that learning is a social activity and that all human action is mediated through the use of tools. Yet, activity theory is also good to analyse the relationships and the possible problems that might arise within the activity model. You might want to have a look at two more detailed blog  entries I wrote for H810 Accessible Online learning: supporting disabled students  (Link 1, Link 2).

A perspective on power

considers how power is being manifested and understood in several dimensions of this situation. It analyse how (un)equal power is distributed and how willing individuals are to negotiate power.

Like mentioned above different methodologies based on different perspective might result in different interpretation from data. Using multiple methodologies can address this issue, combining thus the view from different discipline.

Coming finally back to the original question ‘How, if at all, are specific methods (e.g. interviews, surveys, etc) and methodological approaches related.

Methods are the techniques used to collect and analyse data whereas methodology describes the relationships between the different perspectives and determines whether the implementation of particular methods is successful and credible. Methodology is a simple way of making arguments for what we already know or suspect to be true, based on the data gathered with the different methods.


Engestroem, Y. (2001) ‘Expansive Learning at Work: toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization’ Journal of Education and Work [online], vol. 14, no.1. Available from (accessed 9 March 2010).

Wikipedia (2011) Epistemology. Available online

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