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Towards Epistemic and Interpretative Holism: A critique of methodological approaches in research on learning
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8772-0195
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Epistemisk holism och tolkningsholism : En kritik av metodologiska ansatser i forskning om lärande (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

The central concern of this thesis is to discuss interpretations of learning in educational research. A point of departure is taken in core epistemological and ontological assumptions informing three major approaches to learning: behaviourism, cognitive constructivism and socioculturalism. It is argued that all three perspectives provide important insights into research on learning, but each alone runs the risk of reducing learning and interpretations of learning to single aspects. Specific attention is therefore given to Intentional Analysis, as it has been developed to account for sociocultural aspects that influence learning and individual cognition. It is argued that interpretations of learning processes face challenges, different kinds of holism, underdetermination and the complexity of intentionality, that need to be accounted for in order to make valid interpretations. Interpretation is therefore also discussed in light of philosopher Donald Davidson’s theories of knowledge and interpretation. It is suggested that his theories may provide aspects of an ontological and epistemological stance that can form the basis for interpretations of learning in educational research. A first brief sketch, referred to as ‘epistemic holism’, is thus drawn. The thesis also exemplifies how such a stance can inform empirical research. It provides a first formulation of research strategies – a so-called ‘interpretative holism’. The thesis discusses what such a stance may imply with regard to the nature and location of knowledge and the status of the learning situation. Ascribing meaning to observed behaviour, as it is described in this thesis, implies that an action is always an action under a specific description. Different descriptions may not be contradictory, but if we do not know the learner’s language use, we cannot know whether there is a difference in language or in beliefs. It is argued that the principle of charity and reference to saliency, that is, what appears as the figure for the learner, may help us decide. However, saliency does not only appear as a phenomenon in relation to physical objects and events, but also in the symbolic world, thus requires that the analysis extend beyond the mere transcription of an interview or the description of an observation. Hence, a conclusion to be drawn from this thesis is that the very question of what counts as data in the interpretation of complex learning processes is up for discussion.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Education, Stockholm University , 2017. , 94 p.
Series
Doktorsavhandlingar från Institutionen för pedagogik och didaktik, 51
Keyword [en]
interpretation of learning, Intentional Analysis, conceptual change, epistemic holism, interpretative holism, principle of charity, salient features
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-140540ISBN: 978-91-7649-754-8 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7649-755-5 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-140540DiVA: diva2:1080567
Public defence
2017-05-29, Lilla hörsalen, Naturhistoriska riksmuseet, Frescativägen 40, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2017-05-02 Created: 2017-03-10 Last updated: 2017-04-27Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The contextuality of knowledge: an intentional approach to meaning making and conceptual change
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The contextuality of knowledge: an intentional approach to meaning making and conceptual change
2013 (English)In: International handbook of research on conceptual change / [ed] Stella Vosniadou, London: Routledge, 2013, 2. uppl., 509-532 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: Routledge, 2013 Edition: 2. uppl.
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-140533 (URN)9780415898829 (ISBN)
Available from: 2017-03-10 Created: 2017-03-10 Last updated: 2017-04-27Bibliographically approved
2. Cognitive conflict: Actions taken in the process of conceptual change
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Cognitive conflict: Actions taken in the process of conceptual change
2010 (English)In: Nordic Educational Research Working paper seriesArticle in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Conceptual change is described as a multifaceted process involving restructuring and reorganization of already embraced beliefs. Twenty-nine preschool children were interviewed about their conceptions of the earth every year from the year they were four to the year they were six years of age. For the children the incentive for changing ideas about the earth was their processing of incoherencies. The children processed a lot of conflicting information. However, there does not appear to be any major conflict that causes the process of conceptual change to occur. This process is affected by incoherencies revealed in a relation between three entities, that is, two or more different facts or conceptions that conflict when related to one specific context. Conceptual change involves a simultaneous processing of information and complex conceptions, on the one hand, and revisions and changes at a model level on the other.

National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-140538 (URN)
Available from: 2017-03-10 Created: 2017-03-10 Last updated: 2017-04-27Bibliographically approved
3. Conceptions and contexts: On the interpretation of interview and observational data
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Conceptions and contexts: On the interpretation of interview and observational data
2007 (English)In: Educational psychologist, ISSN 0046-1520, E-ISSN 1532-6985, Vol. 42, no 1, 25-40 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Research within a constructivist approach often relies on interview data, which are used to reveal beliefs held by the interviewee or to expose conceptions or conceptual structures that are supposed to reside within the interviewee. From a sociocultural perspective, severe criticism has been leveled against the neglect of the problems of inferring conceptions held by a participant from what is uttered in an interview. Utterances should be looked upon as cultural tools used to realize discursive practices, rather than as propositions mirroring mental entities. It is argued that the clinical interview, often used by constructivists, disregards the impact of a situation and discursive norms with regard to what is uttered in aconversation. Here, it is argued that by taking into account an interviewee's conceptions of the situation, as well as of the subject matter being talked about, some sort of a bridge between the methodological standpoints of constructivism and sociocultural theory can be formed. It is proposed that utterances should be regarded as actions, and thus the problem of ascribing meanings to behavior is in focus, that is, how a series of behaviors can be regarded as an intentional action. It is argued that by means of such an approach, it is possible to make inferences about conceptions and conceptual structures much in the same way as is done in research on conceptual change. However, this means that utterances cannot just be "read off." The interviewee's aims, conceptions of the subject matter talked about,as well as the interviewee's conceptions of the situation to hand must be taken intoaccount. A reinterpretation of data reported by Andrea diSessa and Bruce Sherin is used as an illustration.

National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-11848 (URN)000245926100003 ()
Available from: 2008-01-15 Created: 2008-01-15 Last updated: 2017-04-27Bibliographically approved
4. Making meaning of historical evidence: The variety of salient features in a shared activity
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Making meaning of historical evidence: The variety of salient features in a shared activity
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-140539 (URN)
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2017-03-10 Created: 2017-03-10 Last updated: 2017-04-27Bibliographically approved

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