Meeting of the Special Interest Group of the European Association of Research on Learning and Instruction on Conceptual Change edition:7 location:Leuven date:25-27 May 2010
One of the primary aims of conceptual change research is to generate and improve theories concerning the content and form of knowledge and its development. Such theories are developed through a long and complex dialogue between data analysis and theory building, a process that is usually obscured. We propose to reflect on processes of theory building in order to begin uncovering some of the complex-ities involved in this practice.
The class of analytical methods discussed in this symposium concern processes of learning and knowledge development at a fine-grained level of detail. A feature of this class of methods is that a theoretical framework is adapted and elaborated through the process of data analysis, resulting in the evolution of a new “humble theory” (diSessa & Cobb, 2004). Such methods are generally less well schematized and understood, for example, in comparison to quantitative methods. In quantitative comparative studies, researchers follow a specific set of steps that may involve sophistic-ted thought in carefully crafting the procedure and in controlling the variables, but rarely include uncertainty in the method itself. Even in other qualitative analytic methods, for example, grounded theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) prescribed guidelines are given. The class of methods we deal with does not follow a strongly delineated proce-dure, and the range of inventiveness is large.
For this reason, we propose a meta-theoretical discussion focused around examples of complex analytical processes in which theories of conceptual change and learning are developed. We will schematize the processes involved in the origination of a theory, by tracing back the innovation and evolution of theoretical constructs and the development and extension of ideas. We believe that making visible the nature of the theory-building practice can support more productive and nuanced collective understandings about theories of learning and conceptual change.