E891 Action 2.2 Thinking about (educational) theory

  • When you think about engaging with theory what comes to mind? Does it make you groan, turn eagerly to the next page of the Study Guide, or something in between? If so why is that?

I think of it a bit like eating my greens – not particularly fun in the short-term, but will probably benefit me if I take a longer term perspective.

  • What does this say about your understanding of theories, their nature and function? For example, you may consider that they have no function.

I feel that much of the theory I read in educational research seems quite alien to my everyday experience.  Perhaps I am influenced by my original academic background as a scientist, and by reading scientific research, and then by my experience working as a professional accountant working to tight deadlines where reflection was a luxury seldom afforded.  Occasionally, however, I do read something that makes sense to me such as the articles debunking the ‘digital natives’ construct and considering individual differences in students’ access to and interest in technologies and using technologies to support their studies.  These take a perspective that individual differences exist here, in the same way as they do for other characteristics.

I sometimes feel that educational research published in academic journals is not aimed at or designed to be read by the ‘mere practitioner’ such as myself.  However, ‘popular theory’ is often viewed with disdain in academic circles.  Yet, more academically rigorous work needs to be put across clearly and concisely to be useful for and to be read by time-poor practitioners and policymakers.

  • Think of a learner with whom you work – this could be a colleague or a pupil you support. What things about them, and that you have to help them to do, influence how you support them? Can you identify where you got these ideas from?

I am thinking of students whom I have seen for academic consultations this week.  They are studying accounting in the first year of their degree, and this is their first semester at university.  I try to take this into account – it’s not just my subject that is new, it is the whole concept of university study that is new to most of them.  However, I think the degree to which they show signs of and potential to manage their own learning (self-regulation, self-efficacy) does influence how much help I will give.  I want to see learners meeting me part of the way, and they should be putting in effort as well as me – even if they are struggling, if I can see they have tried, I feel I can do more to help them successfully.  Some of this comes from Entwistle and Ramsden regarding self-efficacy and self-regulation, the learner’s conceptions of study and the teacher’s conceptions of teaching.

  • Are there practices that you typically use because you know they work? Can you say why they work? If you could would it help? How might it help?

There are tips and advice I use such as using mnemonics, breaking things down into steps etc.  I think they work because they are changing something from potentially overwhelming to something more do-able.  These are strategies I have used in my previous studies, and some were taught to me when I was training to be an accountant.  I also try to use variety, different ways of explaining things, examples – these are things that have come to me from talking to, observing and being taught by my mother, who is a teacher.  In terms of other influences, they come from working with current and former colleagues, research and conferences on accounting education which I read and attend, and from my experience coaching junior colleagues in professional practice on a one-to-one basis.  I think if I could explain better (with evidence) why they work, it would make it easier for me to ‘sell’ the benefits to students during a course.

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