RAT online : design, delivery and evaluation of constructivist computer supported martial arts learning environments.
This thesis describes the evaluation of several computer supported martial arts learning environments. These learning environments were designed, developed and implemented for practitioners of Rough and Tumble (RAT), a South African martial art, originally as a result of an increasing number of RAT practitioners relocating to other countries and yet wishing to continue their learning and practise of RAT. This project revolves mainly around the effectiveness evaluation of whether RAT martial arts knowledge, skills and attitudes can be learned in computer supported learning environments. The research is situated within design research and has pragmatic goals to provide a computer supported learning environment for the learning of RAT. Furthermore the design research was conducted to derive design principles for future design and development efforts. A brief account of the literature is provided, covering three main learning paradigms, with a focus on behaviourism and constructivism, followed by a description of issues in the computer supported learning field, an explanation of various definitions of martial arts and how the term is delimited in this study, and an overview of various evaluation paradigms. This account revealed inadequacies of the theories and terminology described pertaining to this study, resulting in the combined use of various underlying theoretical approaches to guide this research. These approaches include the eclectic-mixed methods-pragmatic paradigm as the overarching framework, a social constructivist learning approach, cognitive flexibility theory, Bloom’s Taxonomy, the RAT approach to martial arts learning and teaching, and a mixed methods research design. Two main components were developed as solutions, which included the development of a computer martial arts resource, the RAT CD-ROM, and four online courses, the RAT Online courses. Data were collected using a number of research instruments, such as questionnaires, interviews, observations, records, expert reviews and learner artefacts in an attempt to understand the data from multiple viewpoints and develop a more reliable depiction of evaluation events. The data were analysed using mainly qualitative coding in software, expert rating diagrams, basic frequency statistics, and martial arts assessments of physical performances. These analyses revealed that although there is significant work involved in mixed methods research and there are issues such as participants not meeting task deadlines, technology failures, software usability issues, and small participant numbers, the research approach has contributed to the pragmatic goal of providing computer supported learning environments to RAT practitioners, who otherwise would not have been able to participate in RAT. In addition a number of design principles for the creation of RAT computer supported learning environments were derived from this research, including the use of social constructivism, cognitive flexibility theory, Bloom’s Taxonomy, multiple contextual training, and using computers as learning and knowledge construction tools. These underlying theoretical principles translate to more practical procedural principles, such as amongst others, to design computer supported learning environments incorporating tools to enable knowledge construction and collaboration, provide learning designs that are complex and authentic, encourage multiple representations of learner knowledge, take on a mentor role as online course facilitator, and to build problem solving activities into the learning design.
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