The group I work with is charged with helping CQUniversity staff make use of various innovations around educational technology. One of the difficulties if giving staff a taste of the breadth of possibilities for what a new technology might be able to do.

One tool for doing that is a taxonomy, conceptual framework or a theory for analysis and description (Gregor 2006). These essentially attempt to generate some sort of classification or mapping of a topic area into a number of distinct (and hopefully useful) components/categories.

Some examples related to our need around educational technology include (though not necessarily strictly speaking a taxonomy/framework)

What makes a good descriptive theory

Gregor 2006 offers the following suggestions about a good/useful descriptive theory

  • little is known about some phenomena,
  • descriptions should correspond as far as possible to “what is”,
  • the classification system is useful in aiding analysis in some way,
  • the category labels and groupings are meaningful and natural,
  • the hierarchies of classification are appropriate,
  • the logic for placement of phenomena into categories should be clear,
  • the logic for the characteristics that define each category should be clear,
  • the classification system should be complete and exhaustive.

A suggestion – the 7 principles

CQUniversity has adopted the 7 Principles of Good Practice in Education by Chickering and Gamson (1987) as important to its learning and teaching. One obvious suggestion would be to use those as part of a taxonomy. Especially if the 7 Principles is widely used elsewhere at CQUniversity. It should theoretically become more useful and more clear to our staff if we use this in many places.

The 7 principles, by themselves, may not be sufficient. Perhaps we need to think of supplementing it with other dimensions. Some options here might include Tony Bates’ ACTION model. Though I wonder if that might be starting to get too overwhelming.

Obviously time to be looking at some literature.