Keynote Presentations

Learning and hybrid minds: Units of analysis in the study of human development
Roger Säljö
University of Gothenburg

All research presupposes some kind of reductionism. The world and the phenomena scholars study cannot be captured in their complexity. Important elements in scholarly reductionism concern the adoption of a theoretical perspective and the choice of method(s). Through such transformations phenomena such as learning, cognition, teaching etc. are converted from their everyday interpretations to more specified conceptual constructions that coincide with the presuppositions of analytical frameworks adopted. A consequence of such reductionism is that the findings have to be re-translated, as it were, to their more everyday interpretations for the results to be meaningful, for instance to users of research results and the contexts in which they operate.

In the behavioural sciences, and very much in the study of cognition, there is strong tradition of limiting the inquiries to what is construed as a fixed cognitive apparatus or a given set of capacities of the individual. This implies that the unit of analysis refers to phenomena that allegedly take place in the mind/brain of a person, and/or that form part her/his personality. In recent decades, there has been an increasing interest in studying learning and cognition as they form part of everyday practices in a diverse range of settings (the workplace, at home, in classrooms, during leisure activities etc.). In such situated interpretations of learning and cognition, the idea of a mind that may be separated from the practice, and its affordances such as other people and technologies, is difficult – even impossible – to uphold. An alternative is to construe human mindful practices in relational terms and as accomplished through interaction with other people and with the environment. In such research approaches, thus, the unit of analysis, and the research methods used, has to reflect the hybrid nature of the human mind.

About Roger Säljö: Roger is professor of education and educational psychology at the Department of Education, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Between 1983 and 1997 he served as professor of the behavioural sciences at the Department (Graduate school) of Communication Studies, Linköping University, Sweden. Roger is Director of LinCS, The Linnaeus Centre for Research on Learning, Interaction and Mediated Communication in Contemporary Society. Roger was President of the European Association of Research on Learning and Instruction and now serves as Co-Editor of Learning, Culture and Social Interaction. Website at the University of Gothenburg


The power of learning analytics: a need to move towards new methodologies in education?
Bart Rienties
Open University

Across the globe many institutions and organisations have high hopes that learning analytics can play a major role in helping their organisations remain fit-for-purpose, flexible, and innovative. According to Tempelaar, Rienties, and Giesbers (2015, p. 158) “a broad goal of learning analytics is to apply the outcomes of analysing data gathered by monitoring and measuring the learning process”. Learning analytics applications in education are expected to provide institutions with opportunities to support learner progression, but more importantly in the near future provide personalised, rich learning on a large scale (Rienties, Cross, & Zdrahal, 2016; Tempelaar et al., 2015; Tobarra, Robles-Gómez, Ros, Hernández, & Caminero, 2014).

Increased availability of large datasets (Arbaugh, 2014), powerful analytics engines (Tobarra et al., 2014), and skilfully designed visualisations of analytics results (González-Torres, García-Peñalvo, & Therón, 2013) mean that institutions may now be able to use the experience of the past to create supportive, insightful models of primary (and even real-time) learning processes (Arnold & Pistilli, 2012; Ferguson & Buckingham Shum, 2012; Papamitsiou & Economides, 2014). Substantial progress in learning analytics research relating to identifying at-risk students has been made in the last few years using a range of advanced computational techniques (e.g., Bayesian modelling, cluster analysis, natural language processing, machine learning, predictive modelling, social network analysis).

In this EARLI SIG17 keynote, I will argue that one of the largest challenges for learning analytics and wider educational research still lies ahead of us, and that one substantial and immediate challenge is how to put the power of learning analytics into the hands of researchers, teachers and administrators. While an increasing body of literature has become available regarding how institutions have experimented with small-scale interventions (Papamitsiou & Economides, 2014), to the best of our knowledge no comprehensive conceptual model, nested within a strong evidence-base, is available that describes how researchers, teachers and administrators can use learning analytics to make successful interventions in their own practice. In this keynote, I will use the development of a foundation of an Analytics4Action Evaluation Framework (A4AEF) that is being currently tested and validated at the largest university in Europe (in terms of enrolled learners), namely the UK Open University (OU, Calvert, 2014), as an example of the complexity of different, interlinked methodological and conceptual approaches.

About Bart Rienties: Bart is a Reader in Learning Analytics at the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University UK. He is programme director Learning Analytics within IET and Chair of Analytics4Action project, which focuses on evidence-based research on interventions on OU modules to enhance student experience. As educational psychologist, he conducts multi-disciplinary research on work-based and collaborative learning environments and focuses on the role of social interaction in learning, which is published in leading academic journals and books. His primary research interests are focussed on Learning Analytics, Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, and the role of motivation in learning. Furthermore, Bart is interested in broader internationalisation aspects of higher education. He successfully led a range of institutional/national/European projects and received several awards for his educational innovation projects. Website at the Open University

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