Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Using Activity Theory for E-Portfolio Research


Yesterday evening I gave a presentation to my co-supervisor Professor Johannes Cronje's Education and Technology MA and PhD students on how I'm using Activity Theory to study aspects of  sustained curricular adoption of e-portfolios in Secondary Schools:

As this environment is very complex, it is important to relate understandings at a micro-level (such as the individual learner's use of e-portfolio software operations in class...) to the macro-level (... and how learners' goal-directed activities meet or subvert the educator's curricular goals). Describing and relating these levels is useful for writing a rich description to cover the most salient issues related to learner and educator use of new curricula.

Activity Theory also affords an opportunity to study the tensions and obstacles of sustained curricular adoption from multiple perspectives; such as pedagogical, IT and school management. By describing how these perspectives affect a subject's activities through each community's rules and division of labour, the researcher can identify sources of tension and conflicting goals (for example, an IT perspective might want to control bandwidth costs, while the educator's pedagogical perspective would want no bandwidth cap for extensive e-portfolio use). By listing all the potential challenges, the researcher can assist Visual Arts educators and other key decision makers with identifying any "showstoppers" and defining steps to avoid them.

Feedback to the presentation was very positive and my co-supervisor felt that it showcases the value of closely following a theoretical model. Good suggestions were also made on improving in it: in particular, I need to add two slides; one that gives a theoretical justification for Activity Theory's use, the other an overview of its limitations. These will be added to this presentation's next version.

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