The purpose of this paper is to address the methodological issue of working with complex (composite) learning objects in a Learning study. More specifically, the paper offers a discussion of challenges that teachers and researchers face when taking on the activity of historical reasoning in a study, which consists of several interrelated learning objects.
The activity of historical reasoning, as defined by van Drie and van Boxtel (2008), consists of six specific abilities, which could be treated as separate learning objects; the ability to ask historical questions, use sources, contextualize, argue a position, use substantive concepts, and use meta-concepts. Although it is possible to separate the learning objects in a theoretical model, the study shows that they are deeply integrated into each other. Each time a pupil is engaged in historical reasoning several of the abilities, or even all, are in use. Thus, I refer to them as complex learning objects. In the Learning study two of these learning objects were focused; asking historical questions in order to engage in historical inquiry, and interpreting historical primary sources. Both learning objects depend on adequate contextual knowledge, and building this knowledge base can be a lengthy process. Therefore, a sequence of lessons was needed for the pupils to gain enough referential knowledge, and practise their interpretative skills. In addition, the sequence of lessons is as much a matter of engaging the pupils in prosperous classroom practice, as it is about identifying and discerning specific aspects of the learning objects.
As iteration, testing and revision in the traditional sense may not be possible with complex learning objects, how do we design a Learning study to include one, or more, complex learning objects, and what challenges do we face doing it? In this paper I will give examples from one Learning study that was designed to include two learning objects, and discuss the benefits and problems of the chosen design, from the researcher’s perspective as well as from the teachers’ perspective.
van Drie, J., & van Boxtel, C. (2008). Historical Reasoning: Towards a Framework for Analyzing Students’ Reasoning about the Past . Educ Psychol Rev , 20, ss. 87-110.