Monash University
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Collective inquiry: using cultural-historical theory as a methodology for educational reform

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posted on 2017-02-23, 02:25 authored by Capp, Esme
This thesis has analysed how a community of learners in an educational institution enacted a contextual, participative model of pedagogical reform within a government primary school in Melbourne, Australia. I examined how participants developed a community of pedagogical practice, considering the elements of this practice and the ideal conditions that created and sustained the practice. I theorised the practice through analysing the working conditions and the interaction of the pedagogical practices including: the relationships of the participants; the participation structures within the school; the purpose and intent of the programs and organisation of the school; the relationship between the children’s lives and the school curriculum; the motives of the children to engage in the school culture, and the development of the children within the social context of their peers. The findings identified the dialectical relations between the theoretical beliefs and pedagogical practices and also how the children, parents and teachers were ‘transformed through participation’ at the school. The objectives and research questions of the study were underpinned by cultural-historical theory. The study’s interpretive research paradigm was centred on relativist ontology, a socio-cultural epistemology and a participative and collaborative methodology involving full participation of myself the researcher in the activities of the researched community. Qualitative research methods included, case study and practice developing research. The research was situated in the context of the activity that facilitated development of representations of that world and an interpretation of the findings in terms of the actions enacted by the participants, using a perspective based on cultural-historical theory. The data analysis process involved use of Rogoff’s (2003) socio-cultural analysis of human xx activity with its three foci of analysis, the personal (participation), interpersonal (collaboration) and institutional (community, context). The essence of the findings was that the whole is not a matter of the sum of its parts, rather the elements of the community of practice and an interplay of concepts together create their own properties and functions that I have termed, ‘Collective inquiry’. Through analysis, the model developed outlined the theoretical understandings of the interactions of the participants, organisational structures of the institution and the dialectic of transformational learning and development of the individual and the culture. The model of inquiry acts as a research approach enabling agency for all participants within the wholistic dialectical system of ‘Collective Inquiry’ resulting in the growth of knowledge and the person. This research also involved the description of other integrated newly identified elements within “Collective Inquiry’ defined as: ‘co creating curriculum’, ‘contextual cultural research’, ‘imitation through teachers and children engaging with experts’, ‘mental construct of learning to learn’, ‘motives – play, learning and social (Years Prep -Six)’,‘reciprocal positioning (Kravtsova 2008a)- above, below and beside by both student and teacher’ and ‘theoretical knowledge built from narrative and empirical knowledge within inquiry’. These findings together have developed a cultural historical methodology for educational reform.


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Principal supervisor

Marilyn Fleer

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Monash University. Faculty of Education. Education


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Education

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