Where does theory come from...? Contexts and practices

Perselli, Victoria (2015) Where does theory come from...? Contexts and practices. In: ECER 2015, Budapest: Education and Transition - Contributions from Educational Research; 07-11 Sep 2015, Budapest, Hungary. (Unpublished)


This paper will present the contextualising data for the symposium. It will describe an empirical study in which higher education practitioners from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, fields of professional practice and stages of professional development were invited to consider the question of ‘theory’ and its relation to their research practices. The paper will summarise how the study was constructed and developed, and will illustrate the findings of the study when comparing participants’ individual responses. These include researchers in seven different countries representing diverse disciplinary foci which range from engineering and business studies to physiotherapy education and academic development. Whilst each of these autobiographical narratives are singular and distinctive in terms of their research focus and authorial ‘voice’, particular themes emerged from the study as a totality that give strong indications of how practitioners are responding to changing needs, demands and expectations of higher education at this time. In particular, the studies illustrate the phenomenon of ‘transmigration’, that is when a subject domain or theme is held in productive tension by creatively conjoining two (or more) elements of practice in noncompromising ways, whether as curricular, disciplinary or professional knowledge, or alternatively educational knowledge, through a distinct theoretical and methodological positioning. Whilst familiar tropes of educational research (journey, transition, transformation, threshold, gateway, change) wereevidenced in the narratives, these are likewise finely differentiated and (re)problematized by the individual actors in ways that indicate the complex interior life of the researcher in the act of doing research. The ensuing papers constitute two of the narratives from the study which neatly illustrate the kinds of tensions and dilemmas that emerged and the ways and means by which their authors navigate their theoretical standpoints in these contexts.

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