U3:A1 Adopting a Theoretical Framework



Photo by William White on Unsplash
Photo by William White on Unsplash

For the focus of my applied research project (ARP), I am leaning toward the adoption of a social constructivist lens as the broader framework to guide my research. The idea that learning can occur through meaningful social interactions with others (Dron & Anderson, 2014) underpins my interest in how a community of practice (CoP) model might contribute to organizational learning and employee development. Assumptions around social constructivism perceive reality as a social invention, knowledge creation as a product of meaningful and authentic interactions, and that learning is a social process (Kim, 2001). A CoP model is reliant on the social process of learning and situating that learning in an authentic context with individuals who participate in this process together.

Situated learning which emerged from Lave and Wenger’s (1991) seminal research around group interactions disputes that learning is not only about receiving information, rather according to Lave and Wenger it is fostered by increased participation in a CoP (as cited in Smith, Hayes, & Shea, 2017). Situated learning revolves around the notion of authentic learning situations that involve a social community to create meaningful learning (Northern Illinois University, n.d.). To this end, social constructivists view individuals “and the social society as interconnected…[and] assert that learners arrive at what they know mainly through participating in the social practices of a learning environment” (Woo & Reeves, 2006, p. 18). Given the emphasis of social and collaborative learning, situated learning, authentic tasks, and problem-solving which are all tenets of social constructivism (Dron & Anderson, 2014), I see this framework as a strong fit for my research. However, I am wondering if for the purposes of the ARP it might help to narrow in on a specific social constructivist framework? Activity Theory is one of those frameworks I am considering.

Activity Theory (AT) is associated with social constructivism (Dron & Anderson, 2014) and “focuses on the interaction of human activity and consciousness (the human mind as whole) within its relevant environmental context” (Jonassen & Rohrer-Murphy, 1999, p. 62). Since I will be examining how the practice and context of a CoP might impact learning and knowledge transfer in the workplace, AT might help in analyzing the relationships between the community, domain and practice that make up a CoP. From what I have learned in preliminary research around AT, activity comes before learning and that it is the activity of doing that provides this learning (Jonassen & Rohrer-Murphy, 1999). At this point, I have only touched on the tip of Activity Theory, so I am uncertain of its fit with my research topic. I would welcome any insights you might share on your familiarity with Activity Theory, and if you see its usefulness in supporting my examination of the Community of Practice model. Any suggestions, and questions are most welcome. Thank you!


Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2014). Teaching crowds: Learning and social media. Edmonton, AB: AU Press, Athabasca University. Retrieved from http://klangable.com/uploads/books/99Z_Dron_Anderson-Teaching_Crowds.pdf

Jonassen, D., & Rohrer-Murphy, L. (1999). Activity theory as a framework for designing constructivist learning environments. Educational Technology Research and Development47(1), 61-79. Retrieved from https://link-springer-com.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/content/pdf/10.1007%2FBF02299477.pdf

Kim, B. (2001). Social constructivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://www.fp.utm.my/websim/doct/Social%20constructivism.pdf

Northern Illinois University, (n.d.). Situated learning. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/facdev/_pdf/guide/strategies/situated_learning.pdf

Smith, S. U., Hayes, S., & Shea, P. (2017). A critical review of the use of Wenger’s community of practice (CoP) theoretical framework in online and blended learning research, 2000-2014. Online Learning, (21)1, 209-237. doi: 10.24059/olj.v21i1.963

Woo, Y., & Reeves, T. C. (2007). Meaningful interaction in web-based learning: A social constructivist interpretation. Internet and Higher Education10(1), 15–25. doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2006.10.005

U1: A2 Thinking Ahead to Sharing my Research

I am still trying to hone in on my research topic, so thinking about how I might disseminate this research when it is completed is somewhat of a stretch, but a good way to get me in the zone. Since I am leaning toward creating an artefact that supports the work I am currently doing in my professional context, I would most likely present my research findings at a conference or in a professional development workshop.

The University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), for which I am a member, is comprised of continuing education professionals from across the U.S. and Canada. Although the idea of presenting a conference paper on my research mortifies me, I can see the value in eliciting feedback to improve upon the research I would have started in the MALAT program through the Applied Research Project (ARP). The eDesign Collaborative is an interest group and networking space I belong to through UPCEA and it could be a good fit for dissemination of my research, also serving as a resource to draw from as I work through my project.

Another alternative in distributing my research would be in a professional development workshop. My institution is part of a state-wide system in which there are 23 campuses. Each year, a CSU Counterparts meeting is hosted by one of the campuses that brings together Professional and Continuing Education (PaCE) colleagues to share best practices, troubleshoot, and tap into available resources specific to our university system. Since the sessions are more practically oriented, a professional development workshop that draws from my potential topic, fostering a blended/online Community of Practice (CoP), could be relevant in the need to develop more informal avenues for PaCE employee development and growth in the CSU system.

Either channel, conference or workshop, would afford the opportunity to disseminate my research in a way that I hope could be practical and meaningful to continuing education professionals from a variety of contexts. As I begin to develop my research topic and question, keeping in mind these two channels will help me to consider the needs of my audience.