Making sense of theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches: Exploring conceptual change and interest in learning from a sociocultural perspective

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Journal Article
Australian Educational Researcher, 2005, 32 (2), pp. 25 - 47
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Educational psychology has a tradition of considering learning and motivation in terms of the individual and individual functioning. Short-term intervention studies have been common and quantitative measurement of the causes and effects of variables has been the aim of much research, When a sociocultural approach forms the basis of research into psychological constructs, a reappraisal of the research aims and the ways in which data are gathered and analysed is necessary. If the underlying assumption is that learning and motivation are socially and culturally situated, the design of research studies needs to encompass participation in authentic and purposeful activities. In order to develop a rich sociocultural understanding of these constructs, qualitative research designs become increasingly important. In this article, we consider two current research projects, one focusing upon conceptual change amongst students in a first year university class, and the other a classroom-based qualitative study exploring primary (elementary) students' Interest in learning. In each project, data have been collected overtime in relation to both social interaction and individual functioning in specific sociocultural contexts. Our frameworks for data collection and approaches to data analysis are discussed in this article, together with some of the issues which we have identified as problematic. In particular we are conscious of the difficulties associated with articulating and describing the nature of social and cultural contexts, especially those with which we are familiar, and of distinguishing their most salient features. We are also critically aware that because our research is situated within very familiar environments, we need to Identify and explore our Implicit assumptions about those environments and the ways In which our roles as teachers and researchers both coincide and occasionally conflict.
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