A shared lens around sensemaking in learning analytics

Making sense of sensemaking

Reda SadkiTheory

In her article “A Shared Lens for Sensemaking in Learning Analytics”, Sasha Poquet argues that the field of learning analytics lacks a shared conceptual language to describe the process of sensemaking around educational data. She reviews prominent theories of sensemaking, delineating tensions between assumptions in dominant paradigms. Poquet then demonstrates the eclectic use of sensemaking frameworks across empirical learning analytics research. For instance, studies frequently conflate noticing dashboard information with interpreting its significance. To advance systematic inquiry, she calls for revisiting epistemic assumptions to reconcile tensions between cognitive and sociocultural traditions. Adopting a transactional perspective, Poquet suggests activity theory, conceptualizations of perceived situational definitions, and ecological affordance perception can jointly illuminate subjective and objective facets of sensemaking. This preliminary framework spotlights the interplay of internal worldviews, external systemic contexts, and emergent perceptual processes in appropriating analytics.

The implications span research and practice. The proposed constructs enable precise characterization of variability in stakeholder sensemaking to inform dashboard design. They also facilitate aggregating insights across implementations. Moreover, explicitly mapping situational landscapes and tracking affording relations between users and tools reveals rapid shifts in adoption phenomena frequently obscured in learning analytics. Capturing sensemaking dynamics through this multidimensional lens promises more agile, context-sensitive interventions. It compels a human-centered orientation to analytics aligned with longstanding calls to catalyze latent systemic wisdom rather than control complex educational processes.

The Geneva Learning Foundation’s mission centers on fostering embedded peer learning networks scaling across boundaries. This vision resonates deeply with calls to transition from fragmented insights towards fostering collective coherence. The Foundation already employs a complexity meta-theory treating learning as an emergent phenomenon arising from cross-level interactions between minds and cultures. Adopting Poquet’s shared vocabulary for examining sensemaking processes driving appropriation of insights can help, as we continue to explore how to describe, explain, and understand our own work, large parts of which remain emergent. For instance, analysis could trace how contextual definitions interact with perceived affordances and activity systems to propagate innovative practices during Teach to Reach events spanning thousands worldwide. More broadly, the lens proposed mobilizes analytics to illuminate rather than dictate stakeholder wayfinding through complex challenges.

Poquet, O. (2024). A shared lens around sensemaking in learning analytics: What activity theory, definition of a situation and affordances can offer. British Journal of Educational Technology, 00, 1–21.

Illustration: The Geneva Learning Foundation Collection © 2024