Contradictions, disturbances and transformations: An activity theoretical analysis of three faculty members' experience with designing and teaching online courses
Lisa Peruski, Michigan State University, United States
Michigan State University . Awarded
The activities of course design and teaching in higher education settings is a long established work activity for many faculty members. With the advent of the World Wide Web and online education, the context for these activities is changing. Many institutions of higher education are implementing distance education programs and charging faculty members with the task of developing and teaching online courses for the first time. This presents a challenge to faculty members' established ways of thinking about course design and teaching. It requires new course design procedures to represent and teach content in new contexts, and it requires the use of new tools as well as the creation and transformation of artifacts. It also requires new kinds of support and collaboration.
In this study, I used an activity theoretical framework to analyze three faculty members' experiences with designing and teaching online courses for the first time. The analysis is presented in three case studies (one devoted to each faculty member) as well as a cross case analysis. Although the analyses focused primarily on the faculty members' experiences and outcomes, activity theory offered a framework to study goal-oriented individual and group actions that took place within wider contexts or activity systems. Individuals from different activity systems within the university united in a new activity system to work collaboratively to achieve a common objective. Thus, the participants were concurrently members of other systems with distinct developmental histories emphasizing different goals, tools, divisions of labor and rules. The analysis revealed contradictions within and between systems that manifested themselves in disturbances and breakdowns in individuals' work processes. Some of these disturbances and breakdowns forced individuals to reflect on the ongoing activity, which led to innovations, transformations in thinking, work processes and systemic change.
The analysis was also extended to a search for continuities in individuals' thinking and activity across contexts. It was revealed that continuities, in addition to contradictions and disturbances, were springboards for reflection, contradictions, disturbances, transformations, and sometimes, no change at all.
Peruski, L. Contradictions, disturbances and transformations: An activity theoretical analysis of three faculty members' experience with designing and teaching online courses. Ph.D. thesis, Michigan State University.
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Using activity theory and its principle of contradictions to guide research in educational technology
Elizabeth Murphy, Maria Rodriguez-Manzanares & Maria Rodriguez-Manzanares
Australasian Journal of Educational Technology Vol. 24, No. 4 (Jan 01, 2008)
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