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March 10, 2018

Update Early March 2018 Part B: Differences between Form and Type of Phenomena

Learning phenomena comes in all different forms and types. The key categorical forms relevant to my research are social and cognitive. There are, for example, various types of cognitive forms of learning, including thinking, reasoning, arguing, critiquing, recollecting, perceiving, and believing, among others. Social types of learning phenomena mostly relate to the social form of ‘interaction’ and these include collaboration and negotiation; essentially, social types and forms of learning refer to some sort of construction or engagement with a social learning culture or social world.


A specific example from the cognitive dimension, thinking is a type of cognitive engagement that possesses a rationalistic approach to learning. Cognitive engagement, therefore, is characterised by a continuous, careful consideration of the issue at hand, leading to a well thought out proposition grounded in sense based data (empirical) or appropriately applied reason, beliefs, understanding and meaning (rationalism). Here we have in this definition an obvious relationship between thinking and reasoning; between thinking and belief formation; and between thinking and the construction of our understanding and meaning about the world. What I have just outlined here are simplistic relationships between different forms of cognitive based learning: the characteristics, philosophical and theoretical basis, practicalities and forms of relationships are extremely nuanced. The nuanced existence of both social and cognitive learning therefore suggests the existence of many factors that can make one’s thinking or thought production fallible, but that’s for another time.


The problem I was experiencing was attempting to conflate form and type of a particular phenomenon, and hence I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the middle of the week. It was initially, therefore, a challenge to deepen understanding of the nuances and different forms and types of a the phenomenon of interest, which is a continuous and ongoing process. Once I managed to understand the difference between forms and types of learning phenomenon I did begin to feel much clearer about what forms and types I should be addressing in the literature review chapter. A further assistance has been the collected data, as I have been able to identify different forms and types of the phenomenon of research interest; therefore, it was deemed impossible to reduce discussions of a learning phenomenon to just a single type or, perhaps, a single form. I have to, and willing to, discuss all types and forms relevant to observations in the data, and relevant to the research context.


In summary, there are different forms and types of learning phenomena and it’s difficult to reduce discussions down to particular forms and types unless you have some sort of prior knowledge of what forms and types are going to be most appropriate, such as information from your research questions and research context. Always go back to your questions and your context, as these will provide you with the information you need to guide or frame most of your literature review directions and discussions. Where there is an exception is with qualitative research projects based on grounded theory: sometimes, it’s the theory as it emerges from the data that best helps with the guiding and structuring of your literature reviews. Remember though, as has been mentioned previously and shall be mentioned again in future posts, literature reviews carry a different function in grounded theory projects than other types of research projects.


This, conveniently, now brings us to the third blog post of this series: my thoughts about the theoretical perspective of grounded theory.


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