A structurational approach to the use of virtual learning environments in multicultural contexts

Swannack, KM 2018, A structurational approach to the use of virtual learning environments in multicultural contexts , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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Abstract

A gap in the E-learning literature suggests that attempts to realize research into the design of learning technologies that are conducive to user modification and that support a global set of learners, are still fraught with numerous problems directly relating to the dichotomous view of “culture”, “technology” and “pedagogy”. The dichotomies are mainly between determinism and anti-determinism.

With regard to culture, determinists believe that “national culture” acts on everyone who shares the same physical and social environment, and it ignores diversity within cultural groups. On the contrary, seeing culture in terms of context and meaning, anti-determinists argue that people develop concepts, names and shared understanding and meanings linked to their actions and behaviour. They argue that individuals can act independently of their situated cultural contexts, and this provides a basis for intracultural diversity. Concerning pedagogy, determinists believe that knowledge is transferred from teacher to students and that instructions change students’ behaviour in obvious and measurable ways. In contrast, anti-determinists believe that learning is constructed based on learners’ understanding of the world and on their reflection and experiences. As such, results of learning are not easily measured and may not be the same for each learner. As it pertains to technology, determinists believe that the technology, such as the VLE, determines how learning will take place based on a didactic approach. Conversely, an anti-deterministic view is that social actions shape the technology to construct meaning and knowledge. Altogether, dichotomies present only a partial view of reality.

Anthony Giddens’ [1984] Theory of Structuration overcomes these dichotomies. Therefore, the theory was used to develop a Structuration Conceptual and Theoretical Framework [SCTF] to guide the empirical study of VLE use in multicultural settings. The theory was adapted to reflect the duality of technological, cultural and educational models of structure and agency, as well as the resulting conflicts. An interpretive qualitative case study was conducted, involving thirty-two semi-structured interviews with students [n=23] and lecturers [n=9] who used Blackboard and CABWEB VLEs for assessed and non-assessed activities. The results drew out main issues relating to VLE-supported pedagogy in multicultural contexts for staff and students; their expectations and perceptions of VLE; their overall pedagogical activities and VLE usage; and the technological, cultural/social and pedagogical issues that arose.

Following an analysis of the results, it was discovered that the SCT framework needed to be modified to incorporate a cycle of processes and structurational transformations which occurred in the multicultural setting. This modification led to a richer model of Structuration – SCTF2 – which differs from, but enhances Giddens’ model.

Contributions of the study lie in the updated Structuration Conceptual and Theoretical Framework – SCTF2. As a contribution to theory, SCTF2 has developed a specific version of Structuration for Culture, Pedagogy and Technology, and has suggested enhancements to Giddens’ Theory of Structuration. The SCTF2 model uses a cycle of arrows to portray a chronological sequence of processes such as individual action, interaction, conflict, reflexivity and the development and transformation of new structures. SCTF2 emphasizes the crucial role which conflict and reflexivity played in the development of new structures and in the understanding of how and why such structures were produced overtime. The model also highlights that structures of signification, legitimation and domination all overlapped and that each of these structures incorporated all three phenomena of culture, technology and pedagogy. Contributions to the methodology and practice of technology-enhanced learning in multicultural contexts are also discussed. This new framework can help to understand cultural issues surrounding the use of the VLE. It could guide the application and adoption of VLEs by staff and students in multicultural settings.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Schools: Schools > Salford Business School
Depositing User: KM Swannack
Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2018 15:25
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2020 02:30
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/47256

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