Divides in the Post-Print Classroom? Bringing Critical Social Research Methods to the Fore

The “post-print” classroom has gained significant momentum in the last decade, with some universities even attempting to mandate “e-text-only” curricula (Kolowich, 2010; Graydon, Urbach-Buholz and Kohen, 2011). The impact this trend has on a range of practical concerns, from literacy and comprehension to classroom and programmatic assessment, should no doubt be a key focus of pedagogical research. But so, too, should students’ and instructors’ perceptions of this shifting environment. What variations exist within groups of students engaging in digital reading practices? How do their experiences differ from those of their instructors? Critical social research methodologies can help gain necessary insight into individual perceptions of digital reading practices. Perhaps more importantly, such methods also enable us to search for the ways in which structural factors such as gender and socioeconomic status may shape variation in such perceptions - and ultimately, how to adapt our practices and tools accordingly. I argue here that phenomenographic methodologies, and in particular those drawing on what Ashwin terms the “second order perspective” (2015), are a necessary – but often overlooked – companion to assessment-based research of the e-text movement.

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