Into the Labyrinth : A PhD Comprehensive Portfolio

Theoretical Frameworks

     A theoretical framework identifies a researcher's worldview, from the heart, not the head, and impacts every decision made in the unfolding of the research (Grant & Osanloo, 2014). The choice of research theory needs to be explicitly and clearly stated (Grant & Osanloo, 2014). My PhD research is grounded in the theoretical foundations of socio-cultural constructivist theories of learning originating from Dewey, Vygotsky, and Papert (Dewey, 1916; Lowenthal & Muth, 2009; Papert & Harel, 1991; Roth & Lee, 2007) and critical literacies (Freire, 2009; Giroux, 2010; Luke, 2012). My “constructivist paradigm assumes a relativist ontology (there are multiple realities), a subjectivist epistemology (knower and respondent co-create understandings)” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2013), and framed by conceptions of shared and collaborative practice within networked and participatory cultures (Gee, 2015; Ito et al., 2010).
     This research will apply an interpretive framework from a constructivist-interpretive and critical paradigm (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). The interpretive researcher is described as a bricoleur (Denzin, 2017; Denzin & Lincoln, 2011), informed by "personal history, biography, gender, social class, race, and ethnicity and those of the people in the setting"; one who "stitches, edits, and puts slices of reality together” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011, p. 5). I push this notion of researcher as bricoleur by suggesting this interpretivist research as a crystallization accomplished by an alchemist, mixing elements into something precious and worthy of recognition (Stewart et al., 2017). I will explore this notion of crystallization in other sections of this literature review.
     The theory of connectivism (Siemens, 2018) will be explicated within this research. Connectivism relates to the role of cognition when generating connections and networks, both internally and externally to the human brain. Siemens (2012) set out the principles of connectivism as a “response to a perceived increasing need to derive and express meaning, and gain and share knowledge. This is pro­moted through externalisation and the recognition and interpretation of patterns, which are shaped by complex networks” (Tschofen & Mackness, 2012, p. 125). The four key principles of connectivism – autonomy, connectedness, diversity, and openness – (Siemens, 2012; Tschofen & Mackness, 2012) are supported by emerging technologies that are shaping human cognition in the way we “create, store, and distribute knowledge” (Couros, 2010, p. 114). For this research, the cognitive processes within the connectivist structures of teacher educators will be explored in the stories of their lived experiences as they navigate and make sense of complex MDL and OEPr amalgamations.
     This research is positioned within the cognition and learning field of study. I am interested in exploring the inner and outer cognitive landscapes of the human mind in relationship with others and technologies, as mediated by MDL within OEPr. Research into the cognitive theory of multimedia learning focuses on the demands on cognitive processing and the retrieval of information from long term memory. Working memory (WM), particularly our cognitive ability to manage multimedia information within complex teaching and learning environments, can impact MDL and OEPr. WM processes are described as essential, extraneous, and generative (Mayer, 2017). There are specific cognitive demands placed on teacher educators when using multimedia and exploring MDL. Multimedia is holistically defined by de Vries (2003) as “the influence of different symbol systems” presented concurrently or consecutively using text, pictures, sound, and animation (p. 157). Conceptions from the theory of connectivism, cognitive load theory (van Merrienboer & Sweller, 2005), and socio-cultural cognition (Kirschner et al., 2018) impact teacher educators as they engage with MDL to enact their OEPr. 
     This research is influenced by the philosophy of technology and material engagement theory (Ihde, 2011; Ihde & Malafouris, 2019) to better understand the humantechnology relationship. Since the "larger overarching social, cultural, and political frameworks in which people partake and that may be said to vary on a scale from ‘left,’ e.g., (neo-)Marxist to ‘right,’ e.g., (neo)liberal" (Van Den Eede et al., 2015, p. 239) impacts how OEPr and MDL are perceived. I recognize that the everyday use of technology in education does not take place in a vacuum (VanDenEede et al., 2015). My interest lies in understanding the individual and socially negotiated actions that lead to a TEd's enacted OEPr and where this is influenced by MDL considerations.


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