Crossing the Theory-Practice Divide

Crossing the Theory-Practice Divide

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4.6 Theme 6. Academic Skills

In the audio clip above, one of the student-authors reflected on how to deal with research questions. She and her Ned Doc Style partner focused on watching a number of documentaries and formulating a research question before starting their analysis.

In their enthusiasm, the EDMOP team worked the other way around and jumped right into the making process. Peer feedback told them that they were well on their way to finding literature, but the team found they postponed studying it. They concluded that if they had started reading literature earlier on, then they would have been able to work more accurately, and elaborate the research question and visualize the elements they chose to focus on better.

The EDMOP team, from the outset, aimed to share knowledge with users about how film techniques work to create suspense. According to one member, this related to the goal of interactive documentaries: ‘An i-doc or interactive narrative, in my opinion, should be designed so that the user can pick up something and can leave the narrative with more knowledge…’2 The team decided to share knowledge by providing background information about different professional roles, such as the producer and director, and making the theory about the techniques, themselves, available, the latter optional, not required. They aimed to playfully inform the audience, considering ‘that we would achieve our goal most effectively when we would give them a say and show them the effect of this immediately.’3

For the Detective Brouwer team, the goal of the project was teaching the user to consider the relationship between information received and subsequent inferences. The team was more interested in having the users (re)consider their choices than in finding out who the alleged murderer was.4 In their reflection report, they argued: ‘By generating doubt in the very last scene about whether they chose the right culprit, we want to explain that choices are affected by perception…’5

The Nederhop team argued otherwise, even though they also explicitly wanted to convey knowledge to a broader audience, including a less-educated audience. The team considered putting theory about the research in their project irrelevant for most users and a ‘threat’ to their interest. When the lecturer suggested the option to crowd source the analysis, the team argued that they were wary of letting lay people add information because they might not take it seriously enough.6 Instead, the team decided to safeguard academic quality but visualise research results to address specifically a broad audience. One team member also related the chronological ordering to a target audience, whom he thought would appreciate the overview and feeling that an exploration was completed.7

A number of students practiced their analytical skills. One student mentioned that ‘Thanks to this project, I can now execute a semiotic analysis. Now I will be able to critically analyse visual content.’8 As this method was the team’s choice, self-directed learning brought her to this point.

Through their Practice as Research projects, students developed a number of academic skills, including developing a research question, the use of theory, and the analysis and dissemination of academic knowledge. This makes Practice as Research useful specifically for academic students.

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