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Combining theories to reach multi-faceted insights into learning opportunities in doctoral supervision

Publication: Research - peer-reviewConference abstract for conference


The aim of this paper is to illustrate how theories can be combined to explore opportunities for learning in doctoral supervision. While our earlier research into learning dynamics in doctoral supervision in life science research (Kobayashi, 2014) has focused on illustrating learning opportunities this paper focuses on the methodological advantages and potential criticism of combining theories. Learning in doctoral education, as in classroom learning, can be analysed from different perspectives. Zembylas (2005) suggests three perspectives with the aim of linking the cognitive and the emotional in science learning; conceptual change, socio-constructivism and post-structuralism. In the present study we employ variation theory (Marton & Tsui, 2004) to study the individual acquisition perspective, what Zembylas terms conceptual change. As for the post-structural perspective we employ positioning theory (Harré & van Langenhove, 1999) to propose storylines that draw from the cultural context in which participants position themselves and others. The third theoretical perspective is Practice Theory (Lave & Wenger, 1991). In this paper we re-examine data from earlier research to show how the use of different theories side-by-side can mutually inform each other in the interpretation of data. Hence, the theories do not undergo any changes, as when coordinating theories (Bikner-Ahsbahs & Prediger, 2010), but on the other hand the theories are not merely supplementing each other as they bestow one-another when intertwining the analyses to get a multi-faceted insight into the phenomenon of learning to be a life science researcher. The data was derived from four observations of supervision of doctoral students in life science, each with a doctoral student and two supervisors. The storylines hypothesized in this study could only be identified because we also employed an analysis of the content using variation theory and hence combining theoretical perspectives in this analysis enhances our understanding of learning opportunities in doctoral supervision.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date5 Sep 2015
StatePublished - 5 Sep 2015
Event - Helsinki, Finland


ConferenceESERA 2015

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ID: 152094631