“Tension, Frustration and Compromise in the Field” An Exploratory Study of the Habitus of Educational Technologists
McNutt, Larry (2010) “Tension, Frustration and Compromise in the Field” An Exploratory Study of the Habitus of Educational Technologists. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.
Information and communications technology has radically transformed many aspects of modern life. However, this is in marked contrast to its impact on education, where disappointingly educational technology has done little to transform our higher education system. This is in spite of the emergence of the formal role of educational technologist, the improved ICT infrastructure and the evolving recognition of the importance of teaching and learning within the sector. It is apparent that within a given academic community there are many individually motivated innovators i.e. those characterized by their willingness to experiment with new approaches and embrace change. Whilst there are also many who resist and avoid any possible alterations (or interference) in how they teach their subject matter. But what do we know of the characteristics and motivations of the practitioners currently operating in the field of educational technology? Indeed can we treat the domain of educational technology as a legitimate field and worthy of study in its own right? These two questions represent the main thrust of this exploratory study which demonstrates that Pierre Bourdieu’s’ concepts of habitus, field and capital provides a suitable lens with which to seek explanations and insights into these and other issues, and in particular theorise about the practice of an educational technologist. The methodology adopted was influenced by both arts based and narrative enquiry, designed to capture the voice of the practitioners using focus group discussions prompted by a range of visual media. Grounded theory guided the subsequent analysis of a rich collection of opinions, values, beliefs and motivations on a range of issues impacting on higher education. The subsequent findings describe the tensions and frustrations of practitioners functioning within existing structures and balancing the demands from learners, academics and management. The inherent characteristics of the field as described by the participants are analysed using Bourdieu’s constructs of capital, habitus, doxa and hysteresis. The explorations and explanations afforded by these constructs are the foundations on which the final arguments and conclusions are based, including a call for an alternative doxa that will redefine the role of an educational technologist and allow the field to evolve into a recognised professional discipline.
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