Saturday 26 February 2011

Using Activity theory to study e-portfolio adoption

Yesterday, I gave a presentation to the Centre for Educational Technology's research group on "Using Activity theory to study e-portfolio adoption". In it, I defined my research questions and why Activity theory is well-suited to answer them. Then I described the research tools I am using and how the data gathered will be studied through the lens of inter- and intra-Activity theory frameworks. I closed by proposing a dual coding for my research; the first would define the relationship level (inter- or intra-framework), while the second would describe the relationship (construct to construct {i.e. Subject-to-Tool}).

Tony Carr was the designated responder to my presentation. He was pleased with the progress from my previous research proposal; particularly how I would be using the relationships between the common constructs of Activity theory to consistently address aspects in the complex secondary school educational environment. He advised that the activity system in a public school is likely to be very different from that in a private one, due to resourcing; these must be treated as distinct systems. Following his recommendation, I will define public-school Activity systems for; "before" and "after" adoption, "in-class" and "out-of-class curriculum" relationships and those that describe how the difference in decision makers' objectives influence curricular sustainability.
Dick Ngambi recommended that I could consider the process of using tools in the production of the e-portfolio separately from e-portfolios, themselves. He also encouraged me to think about how I could narrow the scope of my research, which has had to be an expansive exploration to understand all the factors that influence curricular sustainability.

Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams recommended that I use "backgrounding" and "foregrounding" to prioritize areas of my research. After establishing the key complexities that influence curricular adoption since 2009, she proposed that I should define what I won't explore this year. Cheryl also asked me about the tools I would use to analyze my data. Although I am currently using Excel, I answered that I am considering using a dedicated CAQDAS solution. Olive Birabi gave feedback on the challenges of using Nvivo at UCT. Cheryl recommended that I attend the next research group meeting; a talk on "Critical Discourse Analysis" will include the use of Excel for studying qualitative themes.

Michael Paskevicius recommended that I prepare a blog post on how I got to Activity theory after exploring Usability testing, Diffusion of Innovations Theory, Use-In-Practice Methodology and Social Network Theory.
In the second part of the research group's meeting, Tony Carr presented on how he is using Activity Theory and content analysis to study the "Breakdowns and Contradictions in an Online Conference". Following his review example of select E-merge conference attendees feedback, I must look into defining how my project addresses primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary contradictions in its research methodology. 
The research group meeting was very useful; it confirmed that my research process is on the right track, whilst giving me several ideas to improve. Thanks to its participants for their advice and encouragement!


  1. What an excellent presentation in the first place and a thoughtful reflective blog on the process. I will be alterting other students to this blog! Many thanks, Travis!
    Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams

  2. Your blog is inspiring.

    You really use it to help build on your research. I will aim to follow this format in future...


This blog is moderated due to problems experienced by a few readers who could not submit unmoderated comments. Please keep your comment length under 300 words; any longer and you will struggle to submit it. Ta, Travis.

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