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Developing knowledge through intervention: meaning and definition of 'quality' in research into change

Somekh, Bridget and Saunders, Lesley (2007) Developing knowledge through intervention: meaning and definition of 'quality' in research into change. Research papers in education, 22 (2). 183-197.. ISSN 0267-1522

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Abstract

This contribution takes as its starting point the principle, drawn from cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) that, since social activity is mediated by tools, we gain fine-grained understanding of its processes by intervening in them. Knowledge of sociocultural practices is generated by engaging actively in those practices and co-constructing meanings with participants. The attempt to disengage from, in order to establish 'objectivity' about, social activity and social change—of which learning is a prime example—is highly problematic for educational researchers, and this contribution argues that, when the focus of the research is the process of social change, adopting such a 'disembodied' approach would undermine the trustworthiness of the knowledge created. The authors illustrate and elaborate this theoretical position in their discussion of the activities involved in the Pedagogies with E-Learning Resources (PELRS) research and development project. The first phase of this project was carried out in 2003-2005 by a team of university-based researchers, led by Somekh, from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) working with teacher-researchers and pupil-researchers in four schools in the primary and secondary sectors. The focus of the work was on the question: Can we organize teaching and learning in radically different ways now we have the Internet, Internet-look-alike CD/DVD materials, digital imaging, video and other new technologies? A set of inter-related intervention strategies, informed by CHAT, was used by the co-researchers to set up prototype 'learning events' to explore this question. The General Teaching Council for England (GTC) supported this work with funding and advisory input because of the project's potential to enable teachers to work with their pupils and with academic researchers to harness the power of technologies in changing the way the curriculum is experienced, to challenge narrowly transmissive models of pedagogy, and to foster a greater sense of authentic and creative engagement with teaching and learning. The contribution ends by presenting the knowledge about the process of transforming learning with ICT generated by this project and arguing for its epistemic robustness.

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