New Challenges for Educational Research: Studying the individual within learning environments

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Human behavior cannot and should not be studied independently of the social and cultural context in which it occurs. This is particularly true when it comes to the study of classroom projects or to the implementation of new technologies, since their true target is the whole classroom—the cloud of interrelated activities, curricula, social interactions, teacher's actions, learning tasks and more. To understand learning in innovative classrooms one needs to study the whole classroom learning environment and the way it and the individuals in it interactively change. Unfortunately, due to tradition, to the absence of a coherent theory of classrooms as units of analysis, and the absence of a rigorous methodology, the target of research is still the individual. I present here a systemic view of classrooms and a tentative list of its seven generic components. The emphasis, though, is on their interrelations, that is on their configuration. The approach proposed here complements the one commonly employed. Whereas research is usually concerned with patterns of differences among group means or individuals, I propose to examine differences in patterns, whereby interventions affect the configuration of components, not just their isolated contents. To do that, I propose the employment of Guttman's Small Space Analysis, and illustrate the case with a science teaching project and some of its ‘systemic’ data. The challenge I present is to shift our foci from the sole study of the individual to the rigorous study of individuals in interaction with whole learning environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-182
Number of pages16
JournalScandinavian Journal of Educational Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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