Theories of Learning

Notes on Susan Orr, ‘Making Teaching, Teaching Making’:

  • Signature pedagogies
  • Media makers – part of identity, informs assessment practice (provides framework)
  • Practitioner is key (artist first, lecturer last)
  • Media (practice) v pedagogy
  • Interest in pedagogy might dilute identity as practitioner
  • Creative/educational synergy
  • Elkins – ‘Why Art Cannot be Taught’
  • Creation pedagogy
  • Design sensory experience – art of teaching practice
  • Commitment to process – a truth of the discipline
  • As it unfolds (action research?)
  • Documenting process of teaching – reflexive process notes
  • Commitment to creativity – but not in education benchmark
  • Intellectual bricolage
  • Practice, making, process, reflexivity, creativity
  • Is media a ‘practical’ subject?
  • Academic/practical dichotomy
  • NSS for A&D – what does intellectually stimulating mean for media teaching?
  • Are we selling ourselves short with emphasis on practical over academy?
  • Prefer practice (part of the academy)
  • Hickman (2008) ‘art is a vehicle for educational research’
  • Mash-up cultures – visual ethnographies
  • Art/research – research through creative practice
  • Interdisciplinary spaces
  • New technologies
  • Making/enquiry
  • Visual outputs of research – challenge norm (hegenomy?) of the book/journal as a ‘standard unit’ of research
  • Marcalo – ‘Why write a commentary on the performance?’
  • Schulmann – preparing students for the career ahead (proto-artist – field habitus?)
  • Group work – mimics industry, interdisciplinary, critique, maturation, open to ideas
  • Learner makers and creative makers

Action Learning

  1. There is value in university-led business development programmes recognized by the non-university sector.
  2. An intermediary who has knowledge of the sector involved in a programme is an important component in the process.
  3. Peer to peer or action learning is effective in developing skills when working with businesses from the creative and cultural sector.
  4. More time does need to be scheduled in the programme to embed trust and deepen the learning experience.
  5. Whilst not explored in this article in great depth, identifying appropriate facilitators is necessary to ensure awareness of the sector – as with the intermediary in point 2.
  6. Recognition of the value of relationship building prior to, during and after the programme are all vital aspects in generating an effective and impactful experience between two very different sectors.

Calver, J., Gold, J., & Stewart, J. (2013)

Action Research

“The research needed for social practice can best be characterized as research for social management or social engineering. It is a type of action-research, a comparative research on the conditions and effects of various forms of social action, and research leading to social action. Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.” (Lewin 1946, reproduced in Lewin 1948: 202-3)

Action Research v Social Science

Whitehead and McNiff (2006, pp.12-13) maintain that a social science approach ‘aims to generate new knowledge (theory) about what other people are doing’ . Therefore maintaining an outsider perspective – the researcher’s theory about other people. By contrast, they state that in action research ‘the focus swings away from the spectator researcher and onto the practitioner researcher’. They see social sciences as continuing the dominance of interpretive approaches and that action research is in danger of being considered a form of performance control – with associated targets and outcomes. Further, they are concerned that in interpretive action research, the researcher is separarated from the practitioners and may be further separated by the resulting action plans (pp.24) prepared for other practitioners to implement. In holding these views it should be borne in mind that they are referring to a US model for government funding. They contrast this with living action research approaches built on values of care, compassion and individual autonomy. An interesting conundrum of this is that in observing his own teaching of this approach – the creative process of independent investigation – Whithehead realised he was in danger of imposing his own ideas through the ‘domination and control’ and that was also a factor in practitioners being ‘bullied by dominant forms of research and theory’. Therefore, an emerging theme in their research is to encourage educators to participate in debates about the future of educational research.

Habermas’ Interests of Action Research

  1. Technical interests
  2. Practical interests – gaining understanding through interpretation, illumination through understanding of participants. The researcher engaged in the pursuit of practical interest employs interpretative methodologies – primarily hermeneutic interpretation [understanding of social events through analysis of meanings for the participants] – in an effort to provide understanding of a given situation.
  3. Emancipatory interests

Insider/researcher in collaboration with other insiders
Contributes to knowledge base, improved/critiqued practice, professional/organisational transformation
Validity criteria: Heron (1996), Saavedra (1996)

Herr and Anderson (p.27 & p.31, 2005)

Experiential Learning

  • concrete experience (or “DO”)
  • reflective observation (or “OBSERVE”)
  • abstract conceptualization (or “THINK”)
  • active experimentation (or “PLAN”)

Kolb (1984)

Experiential Learning Theory

  1. Learning is best conceived as a process, not in terms of outcomes. To improve learning in higher education, the primary focus should be on engaging students in a process that best enhances their learning—a process that includes feedback on the effectiveness of their learning efforts. As Dewey notes, “[E]ducation must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of experience: the process and goal of education are one and the same thing” (Dewey 1897: 79).
  2. All learning is relearning. Learning is best facilitated by a process that draws out the students’ beliefs and ideas about a topic so that they can be examined, tested, and integrated with new, more refined ideas.
  3. Learning requires the resolution of conflicts between dialectically opposed modes of adaptation to the world. Conflict, differences, and disagreement are what drive the learning process. In the process of learning one is called upon to move back and forth between opposing modes of reflection and action and feeling and thinking.
  4. Learning is a holistic process of adaptation to the world. Not just the result of cognition, learning involves the integrated functioning of the total person— thinking, feeling, perceiving, and behaving.
  5. Learning results from synergetic transactions between the person and the environment. In Piaget’s terms, learning occurs through equilibration of the dialectic processes of assimilating new experiences into existing concepts and accommodating existing concepts to new experience.
  6. Learning is the process of creating knowledge. ELT proposes a constructivist theory of learning whereby social knowledge is created and recreated in the personal knowledge of the learner. This stands in contrast to the “transmission” model on which much current educational practice is based, where preexisting fixed ideas are transmitted to the learner.

Kolb and Kolb (2005)


Calver, J., Gold, J., & Stewart, J. (2013). Action Learning and the Creative Industries: The Efficacy of an Action Learning Set in Building Collaboration between a University and Creative Industries. Action Learning: Research And Practice10(1), 25-38.

Collis, C, Foth, M, & Schroeter, R 2009, ‘The Brisbane Media Map: Participatory design and authentic learning to link students and industry’, Learning Inquiry, 3, 3, p. 143-155, Scopus®, EBSCOhost, viewed 1 November 2013.

Habermas, J. (1971) Knowledge and Human Interests. Boston, Beacon Press.

Heron, J. (1996) Co-operative inquiry: Research into the human condition. London, Sage.

Herr, K. and Anderson, G.L. (2005) The Action Research Dissertation. London, Sage.

Lewin, K. (1948) Resolving social conflicts; selected papers on group dynamics. Gertrude W. Lewin (ed.). New York: Harper & Row, 1948.

Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs N.J., Prentice Hall.

Kolb, A.Y. and Kolb D.A. (2005) Learning Styles and Learning Spaces: Enhancing Experiential Learning in Higher Education. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 2005, Vol. 4, No. 2, 193–212.

McLeod, C, O’Donohoe, S, & Townley, B (2011). ‘Pot Noodles, Placements and Peer Regard: Creative Career Trajectories and Communities of Practice in the British Advertising Industry’, British Journal Of Management, 22, 1, pp. 114-131, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 1 November 2013.

Saavedra, E. (1996) Teacher study groups: Contexts for transformative learning and action. Theory into Practice, 35(4), 271-277.

Thurgate, C., & MacGregor, J. (2009). Students’ perceptions of undertaking workplace tasks within a foundation degree – health and social care. Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education34(2), 149-157. doi:10.1080/02602930801956893

Turnbull, M, Littlejohn, A, & Allan, M 2012, ‘Preparing Graduates for Work in the Creative Industries: A Collaborative Learning Approach for Design Students’, Industry And Higher Education, 26, 4, pp. 291-300, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 1 November 2013.

Whitehead, J. and McNiff, J. (2006) Action Research: Living Theory. London, Sage.


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