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The thesis is a qualitative exploratory study of a rare pedagogical practice known as ‘weaving’. Coined in 2004 by Allan Luke, Peter Freebody and Courtney Cazden during the Core 1 program (Luke, Freebody, Shun & Gopinathan, 2005), the term describes a form of connected learning and exemplifies how teachers and students make connections – ‘weave’ - between different kinds and levels of knowledge, moment to moment, within lessons and less frequently, across lessons. Cazden suggests that good weaving teachers may have common practices and methods that facilitate weaving (Cazden, 2005, 2006). However, weaving as a rare practice and theoretical construct has not been examined in great detail, especially in terms of its features, mechanisms and enabling conditions which may enable weaving to occur. Luke and Cazden both hypothesise that weaving is a powerful pedagogical mechanism that may be “one ‘difference that makes a difference’ in classrooms” (Luke et al, 2005, p. 20).
The aims of the thesis are as follows: Firstly, to review the literature on connection-making in classrooms, and connected learning in particular. Secondly, to bring to bear a case study methodology that is able to examine rare classroom practices and investigate the causal mechanisms of weaving in classrooms. Thirdly, to examine the features, mechanisms and enabling conditions for weaving, rare as it is, in the data that have been collected over the past seven years. To understand the nature of weaving, a conceptual framework based on theories of concept formation, educational aims and the nature of knowledge, is presented to explain the essential question of “weaving towards what?”
Three case studies are used to investigate weaving. These cases are drawn from different projects and schools, but personally collected with a focus on the thesis investigation. The first case is classified as a typical case of the nature and problems with weaving. This case exemplifies the complications and complexities of weaving drawing from micro-level analysis using Membership Categorisation Analysis. The second case shifts the analytical level from the micro-level to meso-level, drawing on Goffman’s theories of framing. From this case, I examine the functions and mechanisms of weaving and how it helps to develop topics, knowledge and student dispositions. The third case is a comparative case of weaving by two teachers in two different school settings, but teaching the same topic. Using discourse analysis, this case shows how different weaving practices can produce different learning outcomes for students. In this case, I focus on a particular teacher in the second school which has a higher frequency of weaving occurrences than anywhere else. I describe the teacher’s beliefs and intentions and how this is linked to the school’s institutional discourse through an examination of the school reform process that created an enabling teleological ethos that encourages weaving. From these three case studies, causal mechanisms for weaving can be ascertained, along with the necessary and/or sufficient features, mechanisms and enabling conditions wherein weaving can occur.
From these cases, I generate the following definition of weaving: Weaving is the intentional, continuous, coherent, cumulative development of knowledge, values and/or dispositions, through making explicit connections between different types of knowledge, values and/or dispositions over time, drawing from the personal pedagogical aims of teachers and directed towards the enactment of specific school, curriculum and/or educational aims. I discuss the implications of this definition, bearing in mind that the theoretical construct of weaving, based on rare data, is still open to scrutiny and modification by further research. I argue that the following are original contributions of my thesis: Firstly, I develop a case study methodology approach that focuses on rare classroom practices and the causal mechanisms in such practices. While this is hardly used in educational research, it is used in other disciplines, predominantly comparative history where rare case studies of historical events (such as state revolutions) occur and historians attempt to understand the causal mechanisms that trigger such events. This thesis aims to contribute methodologically to case study research in education through a logical and rigorous methodology for understanding rare practices. Secondly, the nature of weaving as a rare practice suggests a different approach to educational research, given that the link between data, findings and arguments are even more tightly coupled than conventional educational research (such as baseline or interventions studies). This thesis presents an approach to studying rare pedagogical practices in educational research. Thirdly, this thesis proposes a logical and teleologically-driven theory of weaving as well as necessary and/or sufficient features, mechanisms and enabling conditions for weaving to occur, with the proviso that it is a theory and hence, can be improved upon. In conclusion, limitations to the study as well as how it can contribute to theory, method, policy and practice are discussed. Finally, further cases will be discussed, both collected and otherwise, that can help to develop the theory of weaving further.
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