At the nexus of learning and innovation

Student highlight: Elizabeth Black

I have just commenced my PhD candidature with the Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation after being completely hooked on Learning Sciences and Technology through the course of my Masters (MLS&T).


Elizabeth Black (new PhD candidate at CRLI)

How would you describe your research in three words? 

More effective collaboration

What motivates your research?

What is it with group projects? They strike fear and loathing into the hearts of students and instructors alike. And yet, most students in post-secondary courses will participate at least once in a group project that goes horribly wrong – based on anecdotal, but consistent, remarks from peers, and my own repeated experiences.

What do you hope to show? 

I want to help people understand how what they (unconsciously) bring about themselves to collaboration influences the communication intention, content and outcomes of group discussions. My Masters Dissertation indicated that the trajectory of a discussion may depend on specific features of communicative acts and framing within it.

I think my research can develop systems to help learners and instructors see and hear how modifying elements of their communication strategy makes their work in teams more productive, and get better quality decisions.

What books, articles, or people have had the greatest influence on who you are as a researcher?

The staff and students I met during my MLS&T, as well as the really diverse range of perspectives encountered during the course, have allowed me to access many more ways of seeing. The literature described and modelled many more ways of knowing. Yrjö Engeström’s Activity Theory articulates such beautiful purpose for knowledge construction. And Crina Damşa deals elegantly with the knotty problem of shared epistemic agency. Epistemic framing generally is a fascination and the Lina Markauskaite, Peter Goodyear and Robert Ellis epistemic fluency concept is a fundamental pillar in my research, with Peter Reimann’s unique blend of insight, technology and teamwork its necessary complement. I was deeply moved by the article by Hans de Zwart ‘Ai Weiwei is Living in Our Future, and Francis Heylighen’s ‘Challenge Propagation: Towards a theory of distributed intelligence and the global brain’. My coach helps me to understand the inherently constructed nature of reality, and I enjoy the debates around its manifestations in consciousness by Daniel Dennet in From bacteria to Bach and back: the evolution of minds, and Donald D. Hoffman in The Case Against Reality. I read and re-read Andy Clark’s Supersizing the mind embodiment, action, and cognitive extension on long flights and I still think my mind could do with a bit more supersizing. And I care about it all because we’re all in it together, whatever it is.

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