Thanks for your questions. They allow me to clarify my position, and as I said to my students in one of my writing classes today, “When you write, it is rare that you can express what you really mean the first time (or second time, or umpteenth time). The word writing really means practicing thinking about your thoughts”. I hope that my students understood my meaning as they have to contend with my presentation in what is a foreign language to them. Of all of the activities in this EdD course, the repeated writing is by far the best training.
I was alerted to the interdisciplinary nature of experiential learning when Carver (1996) wrote; “The interdisciplinary framework is needed because experiential education is an interdisciplinary field” (p. 149). Carver then goes on to add that “if we are to benefit from our collective wisdom, we must be able to share and integrate what has been learned both in different settings and from the perspectives of different traditions” (p. 149). I’d like to explain my position by looking at each part of Carver’s proposition separately.
The first part claims that experiential learning (or Carver calls it experiential education, are they the same?) is interdisciplinary. However, this phraseology is vague. Does she mean that EL itself draws upon methodologies, premises, theories that span disciplines, or that EL can be used in different disciplines? From the text, the latter is what she means. However, if that is so, then there must be a separate entity called EL, something that stands apart from each discipline. For example, a case study in law is very different from a case study in medicine. What is the same, and what is different in each? In this simplified example, we can see that the notion of using real-life data as a pedagogic tool is the common ingredient. Yet the actual experiences, modes of learning and content will be very different. If my argument is accurate, EL cannot be said to be interdisciplinary. Rather it is a set of standalone pedagogies that can be used with different disciplines. In this regard, however, what can a single framework that attempts to cover such a wide range of potential practices look like? Coffield, Moseley, Hall and Ecclestone’s (2004) analyse Kolb’s Learning Styles Inventory, and although they point out that Kolb’s work forms the basis of many educational practices, empirical studies have not yet shown sufficient validation in Kolb’s theory.
Carver’s second claim is more interesting. Her is an attempt to place those common elements from disparate disciplines into a standardised framework which she labels EL. I fully agree with her until this point. But from here on is where matters become tricky. (I am making the assumption that doctoral level research is evidence based and is founded in a deliberate and relevant epistemology.) If a base framework is to be created, what kind of questions may form it? Unfortunately, Carver is silent on this matter, but it seems that more than anything else, she relies on educational psychology, which in turn is a branch of psychology. However, her involvement of the environment indicates, at least to some degree, a social psychological aspect. Yet, much of Carver’s framework is presented as vague, catch-all sentiments (such as ‘competence’ ‘agency’ and ‘belonging’) that are not defined and argued a-priori to be important without making the case for their importance. I do not mean this response to be a critique only of Carver’s paper, but rather, I want to emphasise the difficulty in generating solid frameworks from data drawn from disparate disciplines whose primary methods of investigation are so different. This is what hampers Kolb and many unification theories.
My point about experimental methodology relates precisely to this. Both psychology and social psychology use the experimental method (i.e. controlled, lab-based, control-group/ experimental group, etc.)(Moses & Knutsen, 2012) and have built up a body of knowledge over the past 100 years. Without a rigorous epistemological framework, it is difficult to convince researchers of a study’s internal validity, and that is before attempting to generalise any results. Carver’s paper will speak to the converted, but it will leave many unconvinced.
My final point is that it behoves all of us in this forum to avoid motivated reasoning. This is the cognitive bias that happens when we select from a large range of potential evidence only that which supports our position. In other words, we see only what we want to see and ignore the rest. In many ways, the set-up of this EdDprogramme promotes this bias because we need to respond to deadlines and produce so much writing that we do not have time to critically evaluate counterfactuals. This is a pity.
Carver, R. (1996). Theory for practice: A framework for thinking about experiential education. Journal of Experiential Education, 19(1), 8–13.
Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning A systematic and critical review This report critically reviews the literature on learning styles and examines in detail 13 of the most influential models . The report concludes that it matters fundamentall.
Moses, J. W., & Knutsen, T. L. (2012). Ways of knowing: Competing methodologies in social and political research (2nd ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.