Looking back on getting started in Educational (Technology) Research – a glossary

Recently I looked out some of my old external hard drives. I was looking specifically for old files related to a side project from years ago which never reached fruition but I’d like to revisit (as it would be a lot easier for me to do now than it was then – anyway, more on that later!).

The files on the hard drives go way back, through the TLRP-TEL Research Programme (~2008 – 2012), right back to my first research job on the Cambridge-MIT Institute Plant Sciences Pedagogy Project (2005-2008). This was my first academic research post, just a couple of months after finishing my masters in Plant Pathology. My role in the project involved working within Plant Sciences, to conduct educational research into undergraduate teaching and learning within the department, and develop e-learning resources to support it.

As it was my first experience of educational and technology-enhanced learning research, it was accompanied by a range of vocabulary which was new to me. This must be quite a common experience for people getting started in educational and pedagogic research; Education, as a research field within the Social Sciences, shows a high level of heterogeneity in terms of researchers’ subject backgrounds (as shown in this chart – figure 4.3 from David Mills’ chapter in McAlpine & Ackerlind’s ‘Becoming an Academic’).

To help with this transition, I kept a document where I noted the words which were new and unfamiliar, as a working glossary, and I came across this when I was excavating the old hard drive. It was interesting to look back at the words which seemed unusual then but are now all so familiar. It made me wonder to what extent the glossary reflected trends in the field at the time – some of the concepts I’m sure are not as prevalent now as then – and how the glossary would look if it was being constructed today.

The list included the following (minus my slightly cringey notes 😉 ):

Action research

Activity theory

Andragogy

Behaviourism

Belief (as in the work of Posner)

BERA

Bloom’s taxonomy

Boundary objects (Wenger / CoP)

Bourdieu (esp. ‘habitus’)

Brokerage (Wenger / CoP)

Case study

Cognitive

Communities of Practice (Wenger)

Concept map

Constructive alignment

Constructivism

CPD

Deep learning (converse surface learning)

Didactic

Discourse analysis

Dweck

EARLI

E-learning

Emic

Engstrom (See ‘activity theory’)

Epistomology

EPSRC

ESRC

Ethnography

Ethnomethodology

Etic

Evidence based (Evidence informed)

Focus group

Gestalt

Habitus (see Bourdieu)

HEA

Hierarchy of needs

Humanistic

Intensional networks (Nardi et al., 2000)

Lexis

Liminal

Maslow – Hierarchy of needs

Meta-cognition

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)

Ontogenesis

Ontology

Pedagogy

Phenomenology

Piaget

Polanyi (Tacit knowledge)

Practitioner

Reification

Reflexivity

RLO (Reusable learning object)

Runaway object (Engstrom)

Russellian

Self-efficacy

Self-regulation

Sfard (metaphors for learning)

Social capital

Social constructivism

Stenhouse

Structuralist

Surface learning (converse deep learning)

Tacit knowledge

TEL

Threshold concepts (Meyer and Land)

TLRP

Triangulation

VLE

VRE

Vygotsky

Wenger

Of course, fourteen years later, it’s not possible for me view the field in the way that I did then. I’d be really interested to hear from others though – which were the words which stood out for you when you started out in educational research? What would be on the list now, that wasn’t then?

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