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Educational Technology Research and Development






Understanding theory is essential to instructional design (ID) research and practice; however, novice designers struggle to make sense of instructional design theory due to its abstract and complex nature, the inconsistent use of theoretical terms and concepts within literature, and the dissociation of theory from practice. While these challenges are generally understood, little is known about the sensemaking process of learners as they encounter these challenges in pursuit of deeper theoretical understanding. Using a collaborative autoethnographic approach, six ID learners investigated their sensemaking experience within an advanced ID theory course. Autoethnography, a form of qualitative research, focuses on self-reflection “to gain an understanding of society through the unique sense of self” (Chang et al., 2013, p. 18). Collaborative autoethnography, a type of autoethnography, explores anecdotal and personal experiences “collectively and cooperatively within a team of researchers” (p. 21). Using individual and collective reflexive and analytic activities, this inquiry illuminates the numerous sensemaking approaches ID learners commonly used to move beyond their initial, basic theoretical understanding, including deconstructing theory, distinguishing terminology, integrating concepts with previous knowledge, and maintaining an openness to multiple perspectives. Additionally, ID learners experienced significant struggles in this process but viewed these struggles as significant and motivating elements of their sensemaking process. Finally, this study offers implications for learners, instructors, and course designers.


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Original Publication Citation

Fiock, H., Meech, S., Yang, M., Long, Y., Farmer, T., Hilliard, N., Koehler, A. A., & Cheng, Z. (2022). Instructional design learners make sense of theory: A collaborative autoethnography. Educational Technology Research and Development, 70(1), 31-57.


0000-0003-0856-0814 (Yang)