Forms of the thesis
In setting out to write this thesis I am confronted with a concern around linearity. Normal practice around writing a thesis would suggest that I should do this in a highly organised linear fashion. However, my learning which I will describe in this thesis, suggests that many matters are understood better as webs of connection where one can jump in at any node and proceed by learning what is relevant to you at that node rather than proceeding linearly from the start, to the middle and on to the end.
The multimedia version of this thesis is presented as a publicly available web site. The design of the web site draws heavily on the ideas contained within the thesis. Central to these ideas is the ‘web of enablement’. The multimedia thesis forms its own web of enablement by using the web metaphor to enable others, students, colleagues and interested others, to engage with my research.
Within the thesis the video clips and computer multimedia artifacts provide the possibility of opening the window on learning undertaken and understanding gained by people that cannot readily be represented in the propositional form of words and numbers. This is not a rejection of the form of words and numbers, it is a recognition that words and numbers sometimes elucidate and sometimes obscure. In some cases the use of multimedia artifacts enable the viewer ‘to be enveloped’ after only a few seconds. The multimedia approach used within the research and the multimedia approach to producing the thesis is recognition of the variety of ways through which our experience is coded. Eisner (1997: 7) reminds us that the selection of a form of representation affects what we see.
A living theory of learning
Having identified myself as a living contradiction I set about undertaking a personal action enquiry. This follows the form set out by Whitehead (1989; 1993) which seems like a highly structured systematic process of observe, describe, plan, act, reflect evaluate, modify. I subscribe to the general idea but I find, in practice, it is a less coherent messier process. McNiff (1988: 43; 2002: 57) addressed the capacity of existing models of planning, acting, observing, reflecting, re-planning to adequate express the steps required in carrying out an action research enquiry. She suggested that the model needed to have the capacity to show multiple problems at the one time. She provided a three dimensional ‘spiral of spirals’ which suggest secondary concerns being addressed without loosing sight of the central concern (McNiff 1988: 45).
To assist the reader let me describe a portion of one of these spirals:
- I experience a concern where some of my students are not successful in the five subjects usually regarded as a minimal pass in the Leaving Certificate.
- I hear that there is a programme that these students could follow that could be more suited to their learning styles.
- I join with colleagues in evaluating the new programme.
- I work with colleagues to devise an implementation plan.
- I support colleagues in securing the agreement of school authorities in introducing the programme.
- I undertake to teach information technology on the new programme.