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Introduction - from tacit to explicit knowledge

This section outlines the story of my developing knowledge and links it to my thesis. It explains the origins of the thesis in the development of tacit knowledge in practice and its transformation to explicit knowledge.

The eleven items of practice linked to this claim are denoted by the suffix [Px], and the three analyses which form my thesis by the suffix [Ax].


I have progressed from an individual enthusiastic and creative teacher of Mathematics and Computer Studies at Scott Lidgett School, taking part in developing educational software and practice as a member of the Microcomputers in Computer Education (MICE), to a researcher in the Computers in the Curriculum Project at Chelsea College London [P1] and leader of innovation in education as senior lecturer in Ultralab at Anglia Polytechnic University [P4], taking a full part in a developing research community.

My early work concentrated on leading the improvement of the design of individual pieces of software for addressing challenging learning in the school curriculum, expressed in a design and development tool the Procedure Library [P3].

Curiosity about learning

An interest in user-interface design and mental models through the London Mental Models Group [P2] provided a basis for analysing individual learning based on Norman's ideas (1983a, 1983b). My work on new multimodal learning based on multimedia technology in the Renaissance Project  created a foundation for an Expressive Constructivism model of learning [A1], and an account of how technology enhances such learning [A2], both created to inform design practice.

Commitment to Learner-Centred Education

In this period my increasing awareness of the wider context of education informed a holistic and systemic approach to large-scale action research addressing the development of new systems of learner-centred education online as a Senior Lecturer in Ultralab [P4], and particularly in the projects Ultraversity [P9] and Inter-Disciplinary Inquiry-Based Learning [P10]. Alongside this work, I focussed in on participation, creativity and reflection in learning through a sequence of projects. For participation I helped develop methodologies for self-translation of software to local language and culture [P5] and the development of a new toy in the Étui project [P6]. For creativity I investigated user-generated content for mainstream television in Input CBBC [P7] and advised the QCA on creativity with technology [P8] benefitting further the articulation of the Expressive Constructivism model of learning [A1]. Finally, the exposure to education as systems helped me formulate the third analysis of the learner at the centre of education design [A3].

Leadership and tacit knowledge

My increasingly responsible rôles as a teacher, software developer, media designer, team leader and director led to the development of a broad and deep, but tacit knowledge of the factors which lead to effective design methods and criteria for improving design quality in iterative design cycles. A substantial number of conference presentations, in-house workshops and teaching, at both practical and academic levels, forced me to explain this in greater detail and thus refined my tacit knowledge.

Theory and constructivism

Argyris and Schön (1978) introduced two ideas of theory of action: the concepts of theories-in-use and espoused-theory. Theories-in-use can be seen as driving actual behaviour and driven by tacit knowledge. Espoused-theory is that which is used to explain when challenged, but may not be actually followed in practice. The articulation of these design factors, criteria and models of learning & education in the three analyses  [A1], [A2] and [A3] is a development from theories-in-use. One can arguably improve effectiveness (Argyris and Schön 1978), by making a closer fit between theory-in-use and espoused-theory through reflection, and so an important facet of this thesis is that the analyses developed have been tested, reflected on and improved in practice to enhance their effectiveness and validity.

Furthermore, a recently created critical overview of learning theory for non-academic innovators in a report for the EU project Hotel  [P11], has helped to locate this thesis firmly as a constructivist approach.

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"It wasn’t so much a question of whether she had written the truth about herself, or told the truth, or believed that what she wrote and said was true, or even whether they were true things in themselves; the important thing seemed to me that the person who wrote and spoke was admirable, living and complete."  ― The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry, 2008