Theory and Methodology: The Interdisciplinary Nature of the Field

  • Gráinne Conole
Part of the Explorations in the Learning Sciences, Instructional Systems and Performance Technologies book series (LSIS, volume 4)


This chapter provides an overview of the theoretical perspectives and associated methodologies that underpin learning design. It argues that the research fields that technology-enhanced learning (TEL) researchers draw on have implications for both the methodologies used and the theoretical perspectives chosen by the researchers. This chapter locates learning design within the broader field of technology-enhanced learning (TEL)/e-learning, drawing on the findings of a study which looked at the nature of interdisciplinarity in technology-enhanced learning (TEL) and a Networked Learning conference hot seat on theory and methodology.


Theoretical Perspective Social Network Analysis Epistemological Belief Home Discipline Conversational Framework 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Agger, B. (2004). The virtual self: A contemporary sociology. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  2. Arbaugh, J. B., Cleveland-Innes, M., Diaz, S. R., Garrison, D. R., Ice, P., Richardson, J. C., et al. (2008). Developing a community of inquiry instrument: Testing a measure of the community of inquiry framework using a multi-institutional sample. The Internet and Higher Education, 11(3–4), 1330136.Google Scholar
  3. Becher, T., & Trowler, P. R. (2001). Academic tribes and territories: Intellectual enquiry and the cultures of disciplines (2nd ed.). Buckingham: Open University Press/SRHE.Google Scholar
  4. Beer, S. (1959). Cybernetics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Beissel-Durrant, G. (2004). A typology of research methods within the social sciences. ESRC NCRM commissioned paper. Available online at Accessed 11 Aug 2011.
  6. Blackwell, A. F., Wilson, L., Street, A., Boulton, C., & Knell, J. (2009). Radical innovation: Crossing knowledge boundaries within interdisciplinary teams, no. 760. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory.Google Scholar
  7. Boden, M. (1989). Artificial intelligence in psychology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  8. Breuleux, A., Laferrière, T., & Bracewell, R. J. (1998, August 18–21). Networked learning communities in teacher education. In Proceedings of SITE (Vol. 98). Ninth International Conference, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  9. Callon, M. (1999). Actor-network theory: The market test. In J. Law & J. Hassard (Eds.), Actor network and after (pp. 181–195). Oxford/Keele: Blackwell/Sociological Review.Google Scholar
  10. Callon, M., & Latour, B. (1981). Unscrewing the big Leviathan: How actors macro-structure reality and how sociologists help them to do so. In K. Knorr-Cetina & A. V. Cicourel (Eds.), Advances in social theory and methodology: Toward an integration of micro- and macro-sociologies (pp. 277–303). Boston: Routledge/Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  11. Cantoni, V., Cellario, M., & Porta, M. (2004). Perspectives and challenges in e-learning: Towards natural interaction paradigms. Journal of Visual Languages and Computing, 15(5), 333–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Capra, F. (1996). The web of life. New York: Anchor books.Google Scholar
  13. Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2007). Research methods in education. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Cole, M., & Engeström, Y. (1993). A cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition. In G. Salomon (Ed.), Distributed cognition – Psychological and educational considerations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Cole, M., Engeström, Y., & Vasquez, O. A. (1997). Mind, culture and activity: Seminal papers from the laboratory of comparative human cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Collins, A. (1992). Towards a design science of education. In E. Scanlon & T. O’Shea (Eds.), New directions in educational technology (pp. 15–22). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Conole, G. (2003). Research questions and methodological issues (HEFCE E-learning Research Centre Report). Southampton: University of Southampton.Google Scholar
  18. Conole, G. (2008). Capturing practice, the role of mediating artefacts in learning design. In L. Lockyer, S. Bennett, S. Agostinhi, & B. Harper (Eds.), Handbook of learning designs and learning objects. Hershey: IGI Global.Google Scholar
  19. Conole, G. (2010). Theory and methodology in networked learning. Paper presented at the Networked Learning Conference Hotseat. Available online at Accessed 11 Aug 2011.
  20. Conole, G., & Oliver, M. (2002). Embedding theory into learning technology practice with toolkits. Journal of Interactive Educational Media, 8, 1–28. Available online at Accessed 11 Aug 2011.
  21. Conole, G., & Oliver, M. (2007). Introduction, 1–15. In G. Conole & M. Oliver (Eds.), Contemporary perspectives in e-learning research. London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  22. Conole, G., Oliver, M., Falconer, I., Littlejohn, A., & Harvey, J. (2007). Designing for learning. In G. Conole & M. Oliver (Eds.), Contemporary perspectives in e-learning research: Themes, methods and impact on practice (Part of the F. Lockwood (ed.), Open and distance learning series). London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  23. Conole, G., Scanlon, E., Mundin, P., & Farrow, R. (2010). Technology enhanced learning as a site for interdisciplinary research. Full report available online and TLRP TEL briefing paper available online at Accessed 11 Aug 2011.
  24. Cook, J. (2002). The role of dialogue in computer-based learning and observing learning: An evolutionary approach to theory. Journal of Interactive Multimedia Education, 5. Available online at Accessed 11 Aug 2011.
  25. Cousin, G., & Deepwell, F. (2005). Designs for network learning: A communities of practice perspective. Studies in Higher Education, 30(1), 57–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Daniels, H., Cole, M., & Wertsch, J. V. (2007). The Cambridge companion to Vygotsky. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. De Laat, M. F. (2006). Networked learning. Ph.D. thesis. University of Utrecht: Apeldoorn.Google Scholar
  28. De Laat, M. F., Lally, V., Lipponen, L., & Simons, P. R. J. (2006). Analysing student engagement with learning and tutoring activities in networked learning communities: A multi-method approach. International Journal of Web-Based Communities, 2(4), 394–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. De Laat, M., Lally, V., Lipponen, L., & Simons, P. (2007). Online teaching in networked learning communities: A multi-method approach to studying the role of the teacher. Instructional Science, 35(3), 257–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Derntl, M., & Motschnig-Pitrik, R. (2004, April 5–7). A pattern approach to person-centered e-learning based on theory-guided action research. Paper presented at the Networked Learning Conference, Lancaster University.Google Scholar
  31. Dowling, P., & Brown, A. (2010). Doing research/reading research: Re-interrogating education (2nd ed.). London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Engeström, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: Toward an activity-theoretical reconceptualization. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 133–156.Google Scholar
  33. Engeström, Y., Punamäki-Gitai, R. L., & Miettinen, R. (1999). Perspectives on activity theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Friesen, N. (2004). Three objections to learning objects and e-learning standards. In R. McGreal (Ed.), Online education using learning objects (pp. 59–70). London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  35. Gannon-Leary, P., & Fontainha, E. (2007). Communities of practice and virtual learning communities: Benefits, barriers and successes. eLearning Papers, No. 5. Available online at Accessed 11 Aug 2011.
  36. Gardener, H. (1993). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences (2nd ed.). London: Fontana Press.Google Scholar
  37. Garrison, D. R. (2003). E-learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2–3), 87–105.Google Scholar
  39. Gharajedaghi, J. (1999). Systems thinking: Managing chaos and complexity: A platform for designing business architecture. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann.Google Scholar
  40. Gibbons, M., Limoges, C., Nowotny, H., Schwartzman, S., Scott, P., & Trow, M. (1994). The new production of knowledge: The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  41. Guldberg, K., & Pilkington, R. (2006). A community of practice approach to the development of non-traditional learners through networked learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 22(3), 159–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Gunawardena, C. N., Lowe, C. A., & Anderson, T. (1997). Analysis of a global online debate and the development of an interaction analysis model for examining social construction of knowledge in computer conferencing. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 17(4), 397–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hawthornthwaite, C. (2002). Building social networks via computer networks: Creating and sustaining distributed learning communities. In K. A. Renninger & W. Shumar (Eds.), Building virtual communities: Learning and change in cyberspace (pp. 159–190). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Henri, F. (1992). Computer conferencing and content analysis. In A. R. Kaye (Ed.), Collaborative learning through computer conferencing: The Najaden papers (pp. 116–136). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  45. Hine, C. (2000). Virtual ethnography. London: Sage. Available online at Accessed 11 Aug 2011
  46. Hodgson, V., & Watland, P. (2004). Researching networked management learning. Management Learning, 35(2), 99–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Howard, P. N. (2002). Network ethnography and the hypermedia organization: New media, new organizations, new methods. New Media and Society, 4(4), 550–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Hustad, E., & Bechina, A. A. (2010, December 16–17). From classroom learning to e-learning: An actor network perspective. The seventh international conference on E-learning for Knowledge-Based Society, Bangkok. Available online at Accessed 11 Aug 2011.
  49. Illich, I. (1973). Tools for conviviality. London: Calder and Boyars.Google Scholar
  50. Jones, C. R. (1999). From the sage on the stage to what exactly? Description and the place of the moderator in cooperative and collaborative learning. ALT-J, 7(2), 27–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Joyes, G. (2008). An activity theory approach to researching tutors’ perceptions of effective online pedagogy. Educational Media International, 45(3), 231–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Karasavvidis, I. (2008, May 5–6). Activity theory as a theoretical framework for the study of blended learning: A case study. In Proceedings of the Networked Learning conference, Halkidiki, Greece. Available online at Accessed 11 Aug 2011.
  53. Kay, A. C. (1972, November 23–25). A dynamic medium for creative thought. Paper presented at the The National Council of Teachers of English, Minneapolis, Minnesota.Google Scholar
  54. Kruger, S. (2006, April 10–12). Students’ experiences of e-learning: A virtual ethnography into blended online learning. In Proceedings of the Networked Learning conference, Lancaster University.Google Scholar
  55. Kutti, K. (1996). Activity theory as potential framework for human computer interaction research. In B. Nardi (Ed.), Context and consciousness: Activity and human-computer interaction. London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  56. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Laurillard, D. (2002). Rethinking university teaching: A conversational framework for the effective use of learning technologies (2nd ed.). London: RoutledgeFalmer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  60. Lawes, S. (2004). Practice makes imperfect. In D. Hayes (Ed.), The RoutledgeFalmer guide to key debates in education (pp. 197–201). London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  61. LeCompte, M. D., Preissle, J., & Tesch, R. (1993). Ethnography and qualitative design in educational research (2nd ed.). San Diego: Academic.Google Scholar
  62. Liber, O. (2004). Cybernetics, e-learning and the education system. International Journal of Learning Technology, 1(1), 127–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Limoges, C. (1996). L’université à la croisée des chemins: une mission à affirmer, une gestion à réformer. Quebec: Actes du colloque ACFAS.CSE.CST, Gouvernement du Québec Ministère de l’Éducation.Google Scholar
  64. Mason, R., & Kaye, A. (1989). Mindweave: Communication, computers and distance education. Oxford: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  65. Masterman, L., & Manton, M. (2009, March 23–25). Pedagogic theory and pedagogic planning in digital worlds. In Proceedings of the CAL Conference – Technology and Creativity, Brighton.Google Scholar
  66. Nardi, B. (1995). Context and consciousness: Activity and human-computer interaction. London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  67. Oliver, M. (2002). JISM special issue on theory for learning technologies: Editorial. Journal of Interactive Multimedia Education, 9. Available online at Accessed 11 Aug 2011.
  68. Oliver, M., Roberts, G., Beetham, H., Ingraham, B., Dyke, M., & Levy, P. (2007a). Knowledge, society and perspectives on learning technology. In G. Conole & M. Oliver (Eds.), Contemporary perspectives in e-learning research: Themes, methods and impact on practice (pp. 21–37). London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  69. Oliver, M., Harvey, J., Conole, G., & Jones, A. (2007b). Evaluation. In G. Conole & M. Oliver (Eds.), Contemporary perspectives in e-learning research: Themes, methods and impact on practice (pp. 203–216). London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  70. Patton, M. Q. (2008). Utilization focused evaluation. Saint Paul: Sage.Google Scholar
  71. Rice-Lively, M. L. (1994). Wired warp and woof: An ethnographic study of a networking class. Internet Research, 4(4), 20–35. Accessed 11 Aug 2011.Google Scholar
  72. Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Salomon, G. (Ed.). (1993). Distributed cognitions – Psychological and educational considerations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioners: Towards a new design for teaching and learning within the professions. San Francisco: Joey-Bass Inc.Google Scholar
  75. Sloman, M. (2001). The e-learning revolution: From propositions to action London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. London: CIPD.Google Scholar
  76. Stankov, S., Grubišić, A., & Žitko, B. (2004). E-learning paradigm and intelligent tutoring systems. In Annual 2004 of the Croatian Academy of Engineering (pp. 21–31).Google Scholar
  77. Strathern, M. (2004). Commons and borderlands: Working papers on interdisciplinarity, accountability and the flow of knowledge. Wantage: Sean Kingston Publishing.Google Scholar
  78. Suchman, L. A. (1987). Plans and situated actions: The problem of human-machine communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  79. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society, the development of higher psychological processes. Oxford: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Waycott, J., Jones, A., & Scanlon, E. (2005). An activity theory framework for analysing PDAs as lifelong learning tools. Special Issue of Learning Media and Technology, 30(2), 107–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice. Learning, meaning and identity (Learning in doing: Social, cognitive, and computational perspectives). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  82. Wertsch, J. V. (1991). Voices of the mind. A sociocultural approach to mediated action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  83. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods. London: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gráinne Conole
    • 1
  1. 1.Beyond Distance Research AllianceUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK

Personalised recommendations