Visual Data Collection Workshop

I had the pleasure of working with 9 heritage professionals on Wednesday 7th September at thestudio in Birmingham on a research workshop exploring both a novel data collection methodology and the relevance of a particular educational model to the heritage sector. I have to say that thestudio is a great venue. Accessible, well equipped, well-lit and easy to book and use. It’s a commercial venue so not inexpensive but I figured that since all my participants were doing so for free, the least I could do was to ensure they were provided with a hot lunch and ample supplies of muffins, teas and coffees.

Workshop Photo
thestudio-Birmingham Visual Data Workshop

As a research method it also had the advantage of me not requiring to organize one-on-one interview-style meetings with each individual, paying to travel (and possibly stay over) to wherever they were based. It also ensured that individuals were away from their institutions, working with others, engaged in a professional dialogue as they annotated a large version of learning model. Working in three groups of three, each table annotated a single diagram, recording their existing institutional practices against the elements of the learning model. After lunch, the same teams did the same exercise with the focus of future activity. I borrowed a technique from World-Café workshops I’ve run before where between sessions the teams rotate and can see how other teams have responded.

There is a lot of data to go through, as I plan to convert people’s handwritten annotations into ‘type’. I’m looking forward to going through the responses and looking for any emergent patterns.

POISE Project: an institutional response to epistemological beliefs

(Extracted from a Draft Working Paper)

In the belief that student success in learning requires an awareness of one’s own epistemological belief structures one recent project, the POISE project, sought to acknowledge and reinforce the diverse cultural contexts in which learning occurs. It aimed to provide a toolkit to enable a consistent, supportive and transformative orientation to study, as a core provision for ALL students across ALL programmes of study. POISE was an institutional-wide change initiative, in partnership with the Higher Education Academy Change Initiative that reflects the global nature of the professional education BPP University offers to its undergraduate and postgraduate students in Business, Law and Health.

The original aim of POISE was to facilitate engagement with a POISE ‘toolkit’ by each student, and each member of faculty, in order that they “hear their own voice”. In doing so they become aware of their own unique epistemological belief structure and therefore of the uniqueness of others’ equally valid perspectives. This is vital for a higher education institution to actively demonstrate interest in individuals as learners and that such interest is fundamental to facilitating successful educational experiences. Each individual voice is as valid as anybody else’s and when heard students will be able to shape the delivery of teaching and learning activities. This happens because faculty become increasingly aware of diverse perspectives and students ability and willingness for greater engagement with fellow students’ unique frameworks. Given this loftly ambition the project team, a mixture of faculty and students, began identifying the themes in the epistemological literature and linking these to those areas of student ‘need’ of which we were already aware. We felt it was essential to develop a framework for student and faculty engagement based on the literature in order that future materials or issues would be contextualised. We were seeking to avoid the development of diverse and disconnected resources. The aim was to produce a ‘framework’ that would allow opportunities to engage in a ‘dialogue about beliefs’.

The notion of binaries presents an opportunity to engage in a ‘dialogue about beliefs’. We suggest that it is appropriate to establish the beliefs about learning that underpin a student’s (or faculty member’s) approach to learning and teaching, rather than to identify a ‘problem’ and tackle it with an intervention in isolation. For example, if it is believed that a student is not fully aware, or in tune with, the institutions guidance on plagiarism, it would be useful to introduce this dimension of academic practice by first exploring the question of whether knowledge is based on authority or reason. Without a fundamental understanding that the western academic tradition expects students to develop their own reasoning skills and to acknowledge pre-existing authority in a particular way, one cannot effectively explore the detailed nature of academic referencing, citations and intellectual ownership. Based around five dominant themes in the epistemological literature it was decided that we would use POISE (as an aide memoir or pneumonic) and follow a similar pattern, this resulted in the following matrix:

Binary concept Belief statements (after (Schommer, 1990)) Scholarship roots Pneumonic
Quick or not at all Learning is quick or not all (Quick Learning) (Schoenfeld, 1983) Pace
Authority or Reason Knowledge is handed down by authority (Omniscient Authority) (Perry, 1968) Ownership
Innate or Acquired The ability to learn is innate rather than acquired (Innate Ability) (Dweck & Leggett, 1988) Innateness
Simple or Complex Knowledge is simple rather than complex (Simple Knowledge) (Perry, 1968) Simplicity
Certain or Tentative Knowledge is certain rather than tentative (Certain Knowledge) (Perry, 1968) Exactness

After a sequence of internal workshops, complemented by thought-provoking events arranged by the Higher Education Academy as part of the HEA Internationalisation Change Programme, the team began to generate an expansive and highly ambitious ‘cradle to grave’ approach which required production of comprehensive learning support resources. However at an internal design workshop in January 2013 we determined that our enthusiasm to support the student experience in every way possible, although laudable, had created unrealistic expectations for our initiative. We determined that we needed to regain our focus on the original project aims concentrating on creating a solid foundation from which to build effective resources which relate to specific parts of the student experience (i.e. those concerning learning transitions, successful integration into learning communities and improvement of the effectiveness of student learning environments). Through further staff and student focus groups these ideas were developed and refined. It was determined that the original framework grounded in the literature was inaccessible to students, and perhaps the majority of faculty, and so the five dimensions of epistemological belief were re-cast as ‘open questions’

Pneumonic Binary concept POISE Questions Scholarship roots
Pace Quick or not at all Is hard work enough? (Schoenfeld, 1983)
Ownership Authority or Reason Who has the answers? (Perry, 1968)
Innateness Innate or Acquired Who is responsible for my learning? (Dweck & Leggett, 1988)
Simplicity Simple or Complex Is there a simple answer? (Perry, 1968)
Exactness Certain or Tentative Is there always a right answer? (Perry, 1968)


The project also benefited from external feedback given by other higher education institutions during the HEA Internationalisation Change Programme and at the HEA sponsored workshop held by Newman University College in February 2013 entitled “Developing Culturally Capable Staff”. This feedback related to the foundation, but also the proposed framework, and delivery of POISE. We concluded that pneumonic designed to recall Pace, Ownership, Innateness, Simplicity and Exactness also served as a project title making POISE about producing effective resources built on the following foundation:

  • PERSONAL – focussed on the individual;
  • ORIENTATION – not ‘cradle to grave’ solutions;
  • To the INTERNATIONAL – we define this as everyone’s context rather than a question of nationality;
  • STUDENT EXPERIENCE – focussed primarily on their learning and awareness of the self as learner.

The original concept had aimed at facilitation of the dialogue between the individual personal student and student. That these questions should frame staff development effort for all tutors in order that they would benefit from a greater personal insight into their own epistemological belief and be better to support the transition from naïve to sophisticated belief systems held by students. The internal School structure of the institution prevented against such an approach and the project resorted to developing a standalone web-based resource. The five themes have emerged as a series of five web pages, each containing a dialogue between two different perspectives, which explore each of the binary opposites outlined above. Each short video (less than three minutes) introduces the broad concept through opposing dialogue.

Screen capture of
Screen capture of

As part of the project many excellent ‘talking heads’ resources were considered and indeed a search on YouTube reveals dozens of international students talking about their experiences. Our original intention had been to add to this body of shareable testimonies and commentaries with similar live videos of individuals talking. However as the project developed it became clear that the most powerful evidence was not an individuals statements but what emerged in dialogue with others, and so a series of short vignettes of two or more students discussing their learning was deemed more appropriate. Understandably some of the participants in our developmental workshops were concerned that their honest declarations would be judged by others negatively and early attempts to have individuals act out previously heard dialogues were unconvincing. We also identified that all of us, every one of us, will make a ‘judgement’ on seeing and hearing someone speak. We bring all our own personal histories and assumptions to bear. So we wanted to find a way of sharing these valuable insights, short snippets of students’ conversations about the POISE questions, without the person watching ‘jumping to conclusions’. We sought to avoid a tendency to say “ah, yes, Japanese students would say that“, or “thats what British students always say about maths.“ So we decided to use cartoons. The voices are not as natural as one would like, but they are ‘neutral’. It is obvious that they are not ‘real people’, but the dialogue is. The words spoken are students words. In our workshops we have found that students and faculty watching the videos laugh a little at the ‘digital;’ voices on the first clip but soon acclimatize and start to listen to the actual dialogue. The dialogue between students has been only lightly edited and a transcript is therefore available for each video. This also means that as the technology improves we can always redo the cartoons for more and more natural voices.

It was anticipated that this would illuminate some well-documented (but evolving) cultural differences in expectations of study at higher levels and provide the student with a comprehensive personal ‘audit’ which they would use as the basis for discussion with their tutorial support. Faculty, having also engaged with the resource would be enabled with a common frame of reference and be encouraged to explore the similarities and differences in epistemological approaches of their approach with students, highlighting the impact this might have on learning practices. Faculty, the majority of whom are also Personal Tutors, would consequently be exposed to a greater range of supported and documented perspectives, moving beyond the anecdotal ‘challenges posed by International Students’ to a greater, and transparent, acknowledgement of the richness of learning and teaching opportunities contained within these different epistemological perspectives. It was also intended that existing institutional coaching and mentoring skills development for faculty would be used to support staff engagement with the POISE change initiative.



Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95(2), 256–273. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.95.2.256

Perry, W. G. (1968). Patterns of Development in Thought and Values of Students in a Liberal Arts College: A Validation of a Scheme. Final Report. Office of Education (DHEW), Washington, DC. Bureau of Research.

Schoenfeld, A. H. (1983). Beyond the Purely Cognitive: Belief Systems, Social Cognitions, and Metacognitions As Driving Forces in Intellectual Performance*. Cognitive Science, 7(4), 329–363. doi:10.1207/s15516709cog0704_3

Schommer, M. (1990). Effects of beliefs about the nature of knowledge on comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(3), 498–504. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.82.3.498


Updated: Taxonomy Circles – Visualisations of Educational Domains

Since October 17th when I shared the most recent work on visualising taxonomies in a circular form, and aligning these active verb patterns to particular assessment forms, I have had some great feedback – for which thank you. As a consequence I have made a few clarifications which I hope will help those of you of who want to use these visualisations in your conversations with peers or in academic educational development sessions. The biggest change has been to ‘turn’ the circles through 72′ clockwise so that the vertical denotes a “12 noon” start. I hesitate about this because it perhaps over stresses our obsession which mechanical process which isn;t my intention, but many said they would prefer this and so here it is. The second change has been to review, in the light of my own use, and some literature sources (noted on the images themselves) some of the active verbs and  evidence.

I am very grateful for the feedback and hope to receive more. In answer to the question about citing this work; there is a journal article and a book chapter in the works, in the meantime please feel free to cite the blog posts. Or indeed personal correspondance at if you would like to share how these may be working for you in practice.

Click on the images to get a decent quality print version – please email if you would like the original PowerPoint slide to amend and modify.

Cognitive Domain – Circle – Taxonomy – Version 4 – November 2012 (Intellectual Skills)

Cognitive Domain – Taxonomy Circle

Affective  Domain – Circle – Taxonomy – Version 4 – November 2012 (Professional and Personal Skills)

Affective Domain – Taxonomy Circle

Psychomotor Domain – Circle – Taxonomy – Version 4 – November 2012 (Transferable Skills)

Psychomotor Domain – Taxonomy Circle – after Dave (1969/71)

Knowledge Domain – Circle – Taxonomy – Version 2 – November 2012 (Subject/Discipline Skills)

This representation is perhaps the most ‘controversial’ as it represents the ‘knowledge dimension’ articulated by Anderson and colleagues as a separate domain. For the purposes of working with subject-centric academics within their disciplines as they write intended learning outcomes and assessment, I have found this a useful and sensible thing to do. I have separated out the notion of ‘contextual knowledge’ which is also not going to please everyone.

Knowledge Domain – Taxonomy Circle

I hope these representations are of some use to you in your practice. Simon (13 Nov 2012)

Sharing Perspectives on Internationalisation

We really need to know what we each believe about learning, our personal epistemologies, before we start learning and teaching.  Do we really change the way we see, feel, and hear international voices, or do we just make structural adjustments around the edges of our programmes, curricula and induction processes. We build prayer rooms, but do we build bridges? We introduce new cuisine into our refectories, but how often do we break bread together?

There are many excellent projects and studies across higher education that are informing change. Beyond international exchange schemes and recruiting foreign students, I’m keen to see how transformational they really are, or could be. Next week a colleague and I join representatives from nine other institutions for the kick-off meeting in York for the UK’s Higher Education Academy (HEA) 2012 Internationalisation Change Academy.  We have proposed something we hope will be supported and encouraged that does not have direct structural change as one of its objectives. Rather we want to invite our colleagues, faculty and students, to pause and reflect on what they believe about themselves with respect to learning, to be aware of their own epistemological beliefs.

Statistics at LSE Workshop May 2011

We start from the premise that all our students at BPP University College are ‘international students’. Everyone now operates within a global context regardless of his or her subject discipline, his or her nationality, status or mode of study. Our project, entitled Personal Orientation to the International Student Experience (POISE), builds on this intrinsic international context by providing a consistent, supportive and, we suggest, transformative, orientation to study. But this is not something we ‘do‘ to, or for, international students, it is something the whole institution, faculty and students regardless of programmes of study will be encouraged to engage in.

Aims of the POISE project

Taking a toolkit approach, we aim to provide students and faculty, notably but not exclusively those with Personal Tutor duties, with a single instrument that will guide the individual through a reflective self-evaluation of their epistemological perspectives and attitudes and approaches to higher study. Implemented within the provision of student support across the University, and building on a comprehensive system of pastoral care, the intention is to offer a shared language enabling an exchange of perspectives, expectations and frustrations with respect to university study.

Using Marlene Schommer’s Epistemological Questionnaire (SEQ) as a basis (Schommer, 1990, 1993) or an alternative, and conscious of their critics (Clarebout, Elen, Luyten, & Bamps, 2001), as well as with reference to Bennett’s important work on inter-cultural sensitivities (Hammer, Bennett, & Wiseman, 2003) we hope to develop an appropriate instrument. We hope also to borrow from Biggs’s Study Process Questionnaire (SPQ) instruments and design a single, or set of inter-related, instruments within a coherent toolkit (Burnett & Dart, 2000). Engagement with the toolkit, by individual faculty and student, will illuminate some well-documented (but evolving) cultural differences in expectations of study at higher levels. This comprehensive personal ‘audit’ will then form the basis for collegial discussion between students and within tutorial contexts.

We think it will prove invaluable to have faculty members also engaging with POISE, providing them with a common frame of reference, a personal stimulus for professional development and reflection, and encouragement to explore the similarities and differences in epistemological beliefs. Faculty will consequently be supported as they move beyond the anecdotal ‘challenges posed by International Students’ to a greater acknowledgement, and deeper understanding, of the richness of learning and teaching opportunities contained within these different epistemological perspectives. We want to support the idea that it is not necessary for individuals to ‘sacrifice’ their own perspectives in coming to understand an alternative. Rather, they must work towards ‘Third Place Learning’ as a shared alternative, indeed perhaps our institutions are themselves inevitable examples of Third Place Learning (Alagic, Rimmington, & Orel, 2009).

Enhancing the Student Experience

We anticipate that the POISE effect will be greatest where it forms part of an early supportive intervention for all students across a cohort and we’ll be exploring in this project how best to ‘administer’ it. But, we also anticipate that it will have value at each stage of the student experience as the individual adjusts, adapts and develops strategies and techniques for negotiating these different perspectives.

Having faculty and students develop a shared appreciation within learning communities of different approaches to study will hopefully enhance students’ experience as well as providing a common frame of reference for discussing issues arising from different expectations. This matters. It matters because like many HEI’s BPP University College is expanding the range of its provision for international students and along with this extension of provision comes a raft of additional student support services, both academic and pastoral. Increasingly diverse student populations should be seen as positive opportunities for greater international insights being shared by faculty and students and drawn in to the curriculum.

We will be developing an official POISE website as part of the HEA project I due course but I hope also to share my experiences of this project, due for completion by March 2013. I am also exploring the appropriateness of Baxter Magolda’s ‘Epistemological Reflection Model’ (Bock, 2002) and King and Kitchener’s Reflective Judgment Interview (Kitchener, Lynch, Fischer, & Wood, 1993). I would be delighted to hear from anyone with experience of administering these kinds of epistemological belief surveys with their students, and particularly, with faculty.


Alagic, M., Rimmington, G. M., & Orel, T. (2009). Third Place Learning Environments: Perspective Sharing and Perspective Taking. International Journal of Advanced Corporate Learning (iJAC), 2(4), pp. 4–8. doi:10.3991/ijac.v2i4.985

Bock, M. T. (2002). Baxter Magolda’s Epistemological Reflection Model. New Directions for Student Services, 1999(88), 29–40. doi:10.1002/ss.8803

Burnett, P. C., & Dart, B. C. (2000). The Study Process Questionnaire: A construct validation study. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 25(1), 93–99. doi:10.1080/713611415

Clarebout, G., Elen, J., Luyten, L., & Bamps, H. (2001). Assessing Epistemological Beliefs: Schommer’s Questionnaire Revisited. Educational Research and Evaluation, 7(1), 53–77. doi:10.1076/edre.

Hammer, M. R., Bennett, M. J., & Wiseman, R. (2003). Measuring intercultural sensitivity: The intercultural development inventory. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 27(4), 421–443. doi:10.1016/S0147-1767(03)00032-4

Kitchener, K. S., Lynch, C. L., Fischer, K. W., & Wood, P. K. (1993). Developmental range of reflective judgment: The effect of contextual support and practice on developmental stage. Developmental Psychology, 29(5), 893–906. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.29.5.893

Schommer, M. (1990). Effects of beliefs about the nature of knowledge on comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(3), 498–504. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.82.3.498

Schommer, M. (1993). Epistemological development and academic performance among secondary students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(3), 406–411. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.85.3.406

Journal Article Published

The first formal presentation of the SOLE model has been published by IRRODL in February 2011:

Atkinson, S. (2011). Embodied and Embedded Theory in Practice: The Student-Owned Learning-Engagement (SOLE) ModelThe International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning,  12 (2), pp 1-18

IRRODL Vol 12, issue 2


Finally, a publication date for 3V model

Looks like this book chapter with Kevin Burden on the conceptual modeling of emerging technologies is finally going to see the light of day. I note the publishers site now has chapter details, download prices and chapter ISBNs. So after a long wait it’s going to happen:

D'Agustino Book
Adaptation, Resistance and Access to Instructional Technologies: Assessing Future Trends In Education

Atkinson, S., & Burden, K. (2011). Using the 3V Model to Explore Virtuality, Veracity and Values in Liminal Spaces (Pages 199-215). In S. D’Agustino (Ed), Adaptation, Resistance and Access to Instructional Technologies: Assessing Future Trends In Education. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing.

It’s been an interesting processes this one. We had a journal article rejected and I was beginning to wonder if this was just too ‘left field’ and whether anyone would engage with it as an idea. I’m still convinced that the 3V concept has an interpretive and evaluative value but it needs a professional conversation and that means at least getting it ‘out there’ in a form that can be referenced in the hope dialogue follows. Here’s hoping.

Researching into Heritage Education

I’m embarking on a research process that will look at institutional change and personal transformation amongst heritage educators. It is likely to be a four-year process that will explore the current state of education across the heritage sector in the UK, the influences on educators in this unique and colourful sector, and the impact that digital heritage, digital technologies, and digital epistemologies are having on individuals and their practice. Identity transformation is a difficult thing to measure; there are so many variables, so many factors that can impact on individuals in so many unique and personal ways. This fascinating field, one in which only an interdisciplinary perspective, and non-judgemental and open-minded approach, and the willingness of subjects to share, is likely to yield considerable insights. The extent to which Heritage Education can be analysed through a ‘Communities of Practice’ approach, through the use of interpretive repertoires, or through the theoretical lenses of transformative learning or activity theory, is yet to be seen. I look forward to sharing this research through this online space at a hearing the views of others. As a doctoral program it will have its own pace, its own problems, challenges, obstacles, boundaries and opportunities. But it seems appropriate that work looking at how digital spaces, new epistemologies, new models of interprofessional practice and emerging expectations of our heritage institutions might be researched effectively should be shared as much as possible along the way.