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Wordle as an analytic tool? June 5, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings, research, TELIC.
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Spent the last couple of weeks reflecting on the results of my research into how pupils perceive learning. Having elected to use a social constructivist grounded theory methodology (no wait, stay with me) it was important to ensure the voices of the participants (students with the cameras) carried through into the emerging theory and final report. One of the ways I hoped to do this was through the use of in vivo codes (Charmaz 2006:55) applied during the process of coding interviews.

In a previous post, I mentioned how Linoit helped me sort, classify, begin to draw out concepts and build a theory from these and other codes. Now I wanted to explore in more detail what different aspects of the theory meant and what implications it had. I thought an old friend might be able to help here, so the in vivo codes were pasted into Wordle to produce the following cloud:

Wordle: in vivo codes

If you know Wordle, you’ll be aware that the larger the phrases, the more regularly they occurred in the original text. It’s interesting to see what the participants ‘saw’ in the images they took of learning. Rather than describing the act of learning, they tend to associate it with specific activities like writing, remembering or revising. Many of the most prominent activities associated with learning appear to be lower-order activities, as described in the cognitive domain of Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) or at the unistructural (multistructural at best) level on the SOLO taxonomy (Biggs & Collis, 1982). Should we be worried about that? Are our students predominantly engaged in lower-order activities? Or is it that higher-order activities are hard to capture through the lens of the camera, so we had no images to prompt comment?

I’m also less than comfortable with the prominence of writing, making notes and revising. Is that how they predominantly see their learning? Is writing notes in order to revise for an exam all that matters to students? Or am I allowing my views about learning prejudice my interpretation?

What else does the Wordle suggest? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Biggs, J.B. & Collis, K.F., 1982. Evaluating the Quality of Learning: Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome Taxonomy, Academic Press Inc.
Bloom, B.S., 1956. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain 2nd ed., Addison Wesley Publishing Company.
Charmaz, K., 2006. Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide through Qualitative Analysis 1st ed., Sage Publications Ltd.
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