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post seminar notes: theory and theorising

Thank you for attending / registering for our event on theory and theorising in researching technology for learning. One or two people who had registered were not able to attend but the main points should be clear from the materials posted at

  • We discussed different notions of theory and theorising and many of the problems when people talk about theory is that they are talking about different things. We noted a move in some circles to do away with theory as a term altogether.
  • Some found page 5 of the PPT useful as it showed ways in which social theory could be articulated. This was compared to the hand-out of Peter Twining’s paper on theory in qualitative research. (I do not know if anyone has alternative resources on theory in addition to the references given in the PPT that they could share?).
  • We discussed theorising and its position in research. In ‘qualitative’ research what is often described as inductive often has an abductive move within it - a hunch or ‘guess’ that leads to a central idea to explain the data – this is well discussed in Swedberg.

  • We discussed the state of theory in education and in educational research. This discussion only touched the surface and I wonder if those who critique educational research really make due recognition that our research is closer to practice than in many disciplines. This of course brings both opportunities and limitations – a balance is needed.
  • In the afternoon we deliberately focused on only one case study to show how theory was used in a project. [For those wanting to get a flavour of my presentation on Valsiner the paper is included on the web site and there are some additional notes in the PPT. Meanwhile Sarah had prepared some thoughts on theory of community in educational technology and these are attached too on the web site.]
  • The presentation we looked at was Crisitina’s on the idea of habitus. Cristina explained how Bourdieu’s idea of habitus enabled her to understand the data she had collected concerning new digital academic practices. The key point here was that through Bourdieu she was able to see the limits of the optimistic discourses about new academic practices. In the key slide Bourdieu is claiming that the way we understand the world is both a product of individual actions and disposition but the way we think is in turn the product of social structures.
  • In her last slide Cristina references the blog Social theory applied which she helps curate.
On a similar note we have a growing faculty resource for research students on theory and theorising at

  • Cristina’s case setting was interesting as it not only helped show how theory enabled her to get a perspective on her own data but it also helped us to think about our own role and our dispositions in carrying out research. Sarah organised us into a discussion about this, one of many things discussed was the pressure towards conformity in the field and the challenge of developing more creative approaches, more ‘hybrid’ or interdisciplinary ones. A key issue here concerned one’s role – how far was theorising curtailed by expectations in the field and of course by institutional requirement to report and present even when we are not really ready to do so.
  • At the end of this session Sarah lead us through the idea of the special issue and we decided to say something more about the mediation of theory for practice and on future directions in terms of theorising.
  • Files

Introduction: General Powerpoint;

Peter Twining and theory in qualitative research Twining

3 Zones paper Three Zones 


Bourdieu and new academic practice Cristina ppt

CoP and education: Sarah

Call for papers: Special Issue theory