Crossing the Theory-Practice Divide

Crossing the Theory-Practice Divide

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Case Study


The four projects researched and their taglines were:

  • Detective Brouwer and the Death in Dreamscape: Help the detective find out who killed Victor van Straaten.
  • EDMOP: A day as an intern at the production company ‘Ohelo Papa.1
  • Top of Nederhop: An analysis of Dutch Hip Hop video clips from start to present.
  • Ned Doc Style: Learn all about Dutch documentary makers and their way of working at NED Doc Style!2


The data include three writing assignments, a presentation, two feedback conversations, and two auto-ethnographic accounts. 3 Assignments documented students’ work and progress and substantiated their choices and decisions. They were aimed at facilitating reflexivity, including self-reflexivity, as reflexivity is an important aspect of learning. (See the Appendix for a description of the assignments in this course.)

During seminars as well as outside of the classroom, and often spontaneously, the teacher and students met to discuss the progress of students’ work, the challenges they faced, and to give feedback where needed and/or desired. For each team, two of these conversations were audio recorded: one on 29 November 2017 and the other on 10 (1 group) and 12 (3 groups) January 2018.

As a form of auto-ethnography, the two student-authors, involved with different teams, reflected on their experiences and learning throughout the process. They created testimonies through photos and audio clips detailing their project activities and voicing what they learned. This way, we tried to create a deeper insight into individual learning.

Thematic Analysis

To analyse the wide variety of data, we relied on thematic analysis, as described by Braun and Clarke.4 This method is flexible and allows for the inclusion of a variety of data. Considering the research question, the analysis focused on students’ reasoning about their experiences and learning: their arguments for preferring one thing over another, for what does and does not work, and for the choices they made for their own productions. We avoided including merely descriptive remarks.

The analysis started with open coding of the data by the lecturer-author. She started with data gathered early in the process. Later on, the two student-authors became involved as well. The coding system used at that moment was shared to give them a kick-start and promote cohesion. The main researcher synthesized the various analyses.

For most students, this was their first extensive encounter with interactive narratives. Their learning process was based on what they had read and experienced through existing projects and their own work. It is hard to actually pin down what students learn. For this research, we assume that, apart from what students mentioned explicitly, what they deemed important and what they appreciated or disliked is also understood as part of the learning output. Students’ identities have been anonymised for the purpose of confidentiality.5

  • 1 EDMOP is an acronym for Een Dag Met ‘Ohelo Papa (A Day With ‘Ohelo Papa). ‘Ohelo Papa is Hawaiian for strawberry and the name of the students’ production company.
  • 2 Some of these projects include materials subject to copyrights. Because students did not have enough time to clear those rights, not all projects are publicly accessible. In another course at Utrecht University, the problem of copyrights in relation to online archives is addressed. See Van Gorp and Kiewik for this special issue.
  • 3 To familiarize students with interactive narratives, the lecturer-author gave a guest lecture in the preceding practical course in which she discussed two topics: defining interactive narratives and forms and functions of interactivity. In this practicum, students collaborated with the Amsterdam-based children’s Film, Television, and Digital Media festival Cinekid. Their final assignment consisted of creating a portrait of an (international) filmmaker or actor involved in one of the festival’s premiering films. As a preparation for the practical course, students were also assigned to visit Cinekid’s MediaLab, its ‘interactive, digital playground,’ and to devise an alternative narrative for their final assignment, asking themselves how they might design their final assignment with the MediaLab as the exhibition space. Both the guest lecture and this assignment were intended to get them thinking about non-linear, interactive media narratives. These data did not become part of the research data because they were not part of the current course and because we had limited time to analyse and, hence, needed to make a selection.
  • 4 Virginia Braun and Victoria Clarke, ‘Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology,’ Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 2, July 2006, 77–101.
  • 5 We refer to sources, as follows: S=student, T=team, followed by A=assignment, FB=feedback conversation, AE=auto-ethnography.


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