Matthew Stevens Research

Dissolving the Walls Overview

Wed, August 5, 2015 in

‘Dissolving the Walls’ is a doctoral research project investigating the possibilities for learning within creative technology domains in an open and connected world. In particular, it will take a ‘Pragmatic’ position in an attempt to reinterpret and apply John Dewey’s “theory of experimental learning” (Biesta & Burbules, 2003, p.37) to contemporary creative technology domains. Central to Dewey’s philosophy of Pragmatism is the idea that learning emerges from the interaction, or ‘transaction’, between the human organism and its environment (both material and social). This ‘learning by doing’ approach emphasizes the primacy of practice, where thinking (abstracting and reflecting) emerges from practice (Biesta & Burbules, 2003).

At a general level, this research will follow Dewey’s “model of reflective thought and action” (Miettinen, 2000, p.65). This process of inquiry begins with the encountering of an uncertain situation and leads to defining the problematic situation, developing a working hypothesis (through studying the conditions of the problem), refining the hypothesis through reasoning, and then finally testing the hypothesis in practice to see if it works (Miettinen, 2000). This is an iterative process where resulting concepts are viewed as contingent tools to achieve a particular outcome in a particular context at a particular time, rather than as absolute or fixed knowledge. As such, knowledge is viewed as dynamic and always open to be improved upon (Biesta & Burbules, 2003).

The starting point for this research is the uncertainty encountered in my own teaching practice. From this, an attempt will be made to define the problem situation in relation to current teaching and learning practices, qualification frameworks, educational institutions, the rapidly evolving nature and fracturing of creative technology domains, and the open sharing and production of knowledge enabled through connecting technologies and attitudes of openness. The research follows on from my previous research on agile learning, ‘A Proposal for an Agile Approach to the Teaching and Learning of Creative Technologies’ (Stevens, 2013).

The next stage involves studying the conditions of the problem situation and the development of a working hypothesis. This will involve discussions, interviews and surveys of teaching colleagues, learners, and domain practitioners, as well reviewing the relevant literature. From this, a working hypothesis will be formulated around the possibilities of learning outside existing educational institutions, qualification frameworks, and learning approaches, as well as connecting to open learning resources and the community of domain practitioners. This hypothesis will be iteratively refined through further discussions, feedback and reflection to determine what is feasible to implement in practice.

The final stage will involve testing the hypothesis in practice through the implementation of the proposed learning approach within the web domain of practice.


Biesta, G. J. J. & Burbules, N. C. (2003). Pragmatism and educational research. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Miettinen, R. (2000). The concept of experiential learning and John Dewey’s theory of reflective thought and action Julkaisu: International Journal of Lifelong Education, 19(1), 54-72. Retrieved from

Stevens, M. S. (2013). A proposal for an agile approach to the teaching and learning of creative technologies (Honors dissertation). Retrieved from

One Response to “Dissolving the Walls Overview”

  1. Jennie Swann says:

    I’m wondering about the testing of a hypothesis. Given that your research is practice-based, perhaps the thing you’re testing should be your practice, your teaching approach. This takes your work more in the direction of design research. This site has a diagram which illustrates the difference. What do you think?

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