Posts Tagged ‘education

I was intrigued by my colleague Damien’s recent blog , within which reference was made to educational terms as “education buzzwords” or “eduspeak”. Damien asks:

 How exposed are academics to this language by curriculum designers (now known as edunerds – pronounced ed-u-nerds)?

Damien then provides “an initial list of eduspeak buzzwords”, some of which are technical language within the education domain, others are newly coined educational terms arising from the trends of information age and influences of new technology.

Upon reading Damien’s blog, I too couldn’t help but reflect on the difficulties I faced almost daily with the language of other disciplines, more recently the technical language in auditing, accounting, economics and finance as I engage in curriculum design work in business education. But the fact remains that I am very comfortable with the language of my discipline, as the academics I have been working with are comfortable with their respective discipline language.

Why might this be the case? One explanation is that of acculturation. We absorb the culture, values and practices of our discipline and we find meanings through written and spoken words. Without this common language, our world in this culture/discipline would be meaningless. The notions of natives and immigrants are apt here – it is a lot harder to learn  and master a second language!

But the interesting thing in the eduspeak debate is that criticisms of this nature are more prevalent in the world of academia, compared to say the world of medicine. As observers as well as consumers of the medical field, we simply accept that there are many medical jargon that will take us years to understand, but we try to anyway, perhaps out of fear, interest or simple curiosity.

On that note, I would like to share an interesting observation about the transformation of an academic who was totally “non-edunerd” when our curriculum renewal project began a year or so ago. She now finds herself proposing a PhD research on education-related topic. The language spoken in her PhD proposal was not one coming from a Finance expert but one who has developed an interest in educational practice. Sure, it is her second language, and she is finding it a challenge, but her decision to acculturate no doubt will alleviate many of her difficulties over time.

I guess it is about ones willingness to understand the culture and practices of a particular discipline that makes the difference. But at the end of the day this boils down to interest, motivation and the affordances of time.

After long and laborious work, thinking and writing about a myriad of ideas relating to the educational issue I wanted to pursue in my PhD study, I think I finally got it.

My working title is something like this:

Enculturation into discipline specific ways of thinking and acting whilst at university: Implications for professional practice

 I have synthesized  the problematic for the research, as follows:

The educational issue that my research proposes to address is that traditional learning environments do not represent the values or practices of the profession for which educators intend to prepare students. In these types of environments students acquire abstract and decontextualised knowledge coming from teaching approaches that tend to separate “knowing” from “doing” (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989). In approaches where the interdependence of situation and cognition are ignored, the students do not perceive the knowledge acquired as being useful in solving real problems outside university, so what they develop is only “inert knowledge” (Collins, Brown & Newman, 1989). This is a type of knowledge that people can recall when prompted but cannot recall in problem solving situations (Bransford, et al, 1990; Cognition & Technology Group of Vanderbilt, 1990; Herrington & Oliver, 2000). Within the accounting domain, for example, researchers and practitioners both identify inert knowledge in graduate accountants, claiming that graduate accountants accumulate a storehouse of technical knowledge they cannot apply to solve real world problems (Freeman, 2008; Sundem, 1994; Catanach, et al., 2000).

The central aim for my research that I have so far identified is:

To propose, exemplify and test alternative approaches to learning and teaching in higher education that provide students bridges rather than gaps between learning at university and professional practice.

The preliminary research plan goes something along these lines:

I envisage adopting an iterative empirical approach, which will be guided by an experimental framework known as ‘design-based research’ (Brown, 1992; Collins, 1992). Design-based research ‘blends empirical educational research with the theory-driven design of learning environments [thereby shaping] an important methodology for understanding how, when and why educational innovations work in practice’ (The Design-Based Research Collective, 2003, p.5). Consistent with the principles of design-based research, both quantitative and qualitative methods will be used in the iterative cycle of design, implementation, analysis and modification. Ethnographic approaches will be used as it provides qualitative methods for looking carefully at how a design plays out in practice and how social and contextual variables interact with cognitive variables (Collins, Joseph & Bielaczyc, 2004). Additionally, the quantitative method of administering survey questionnaires provides a means for evaluating the effects of independent variables on the dependent variables (Collins, Joseph & Bielaczyc, 2004). The adoption of mixed methods is useful for the description of phenomena reflecting the complex issues that should be addressed (Brown 1992). As this research involves human participants, approval for Ethics in Human Research will be sought. The study will proceed in three phases, as follows:

Phase 1: Development of framework

This phase will involve a review of literature on educational innovations facilitated by previous research initiatives. The different educational approaches that have evolved will be contrasted, and I will identify the theoretical frameworks that chime with the conventions of selected disciplines as case studies. The goal is to ‘specify the significant disciplinary ideas and forms of reasoning that constitute the prospective goals or endpoints for student learning’ (Cobb et al, 2003, p. 11).

Phase 2: Design and development of prototypes

The curriculum design principles formulated in the previous phase will underpin the development of prototypes, within which intended learning outcomes, instructional materials, activity structures and assessment are central to the design. Because the focus of this study is on the design of a model of learning, this is reified in the technology-enhanced learning environments. As Kelly (2004) observes, the exploration of research questions about learning are reified, explored, and tested by the design and use of the learning environment.

Phase 3: Implementation, data collection, analysis, and modification

Multiple cycles of implementations and evaluations will be carried out in partnership with academic teachers at different campuses of a regional university. Both students’ and teachers’ perceptions of their “classroom” experiences will be investigated and, following the main tenets of design-based research, evaluation will be carried out using multiple strategies, e.g. observations and recording of classroom episodes, survey questionnaire, individual interviews and focus group interviews.  Within the different cycles of the implementation, the iteration process for analysis – prototypes modifications – evaluations will be documented in my thesis, and will focus on validating assumptions embodied in the prototypes, developing new ones, and finally refining and enhancing the different prototypes.

And finally the intended outcomes of my research:

The conclusion of my PhD will deliver a greater understanding of how students build their knowledge in learning environments where preparation for professional practice is the explicit aim. It is also anticipated that the outcomes of my research will include practical guidelines for designing learning environments that facilitate better prepared students for their chosen professional careers.


Bransford, J.D., Sherwood, R.D., Hasselbring, T.S., Kinzer, C.K. & Williams, S.M. (1990). Anchored Instruction: Why we need it and how technology can help. In D. Nix & R. Spiro (Eds.), Cognition, education and multimedia: Exploring ideas in high technology, pp.115-141, Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Brown, A.L. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. The Journal of the Instructional Sciences, 2(2), pp. 141-178.

Brown, J.S., Collins, A. & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning, Educational Researcher 18(1), pp.32-42.

Catanach, A.H., Croll, D.B. & Grinaker, R.L. (2000). Teaching Intermediate Financial Accounting Using a Business Activity Model, Issues in Accounting Education, 15(4), pp.583-603.

Cobb, P., diSessa, A., Lehrer, R., Schauble, L. (2003) Design Experiments in Educational Research, Educational Researcher, 32(1), pp. 9-13.

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1990). Anchored instruction and its relationship to situated cognition, Educational Researcher, 19 (6), pp.2-10.

Collins, A. (1992). Towards a design science of education, In E Scanlon & T O’Shea (Eds), New directions in educational technology, Springer, Berlin.

Collins, A., Brown, J.S., & Newman, S.E. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: teaching the crafts of reading, writing and mathematics. In L.B. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, learning, and instruction: essays in honor of Robert Glaser. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Collins, A., Joseph, D. & Bielaczyc, K. (2004). Design research: Theoretical and methodological issues. The Journal of the Instructional Sciences, 13(1), pp. 15-42.

Design-Based Research Collective (2003). Design-based research: An emerging paradigm for educational enquiry, Educational Researcher, (32)1, pp. 5–8.

Freeman, M., Hancock, P., Simpson, L., & Sykes, C. (2008). Business as usual: a collaborative and inclusive investigation of existing resources, strengths, gaps and challenges to be addressed for sustainability in teaching and learning in Australian university business faculties. ABDC Scoping Report, March, 1-54. 

Herrington, J., & Oliver, R. (2000). An instructional design framework for authentic learning environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(3), 23-48.

Sundem, G.L. (1994) Scholarship in four dimensions, CA Magazine, 127(3), pp.39-44.


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