EdD Research

New horizons in physical computing:

A hermeneutic phenomenological study of teachers’ lived experiences in secondary schools.  


The goal of computing education research is to improve how the subject is taught but Denny et al. (2019) highlighted the difference in topics prioritised by teachers and researchers with “little overlap between the questions that people who conduct computing education research think are important and the questions considered important by people who teach but do not conduct research”.

My chosen theoretical framework is not constructionism, however “objects-to-think-with” are positioned as a phenomenological study of teachers’ lived experiences with physical computing, providing a creative approach to examine the phenomenon rather than a precise procedural method to follow (Polkinghorne, 1983). The strength of this approach with teachers and dialogical discourse is an opportunity for new meanings to emerge and in relation to the intention of phenomenology in education, Max Van Manen refers to:

“Its objective is to transform the lived experience into a textual expression of its essence, in such a way that the text’s effect represents a reviving reflection and a reflexive appropriation of something significant: in which the reader comes to life with strength in its own lived experience”

– Van Manen (1999, p.56)

Interpreting and illuminating teachers’ lived experiences of physical computing has the potential to lift new pedagogical insights from the classroom using the voices of teachers themselves, with an emic perspective which has the potential to inform future practice. Jenner (2000) recognised the transformative nature of this methodology in research using a waterfall metaphor to describe the potential of phenomenological attitude to show us what we did not see or understand earlier. The imagery is powerful to outline how life can be brought to a standstill, when the unforeseen happens:

“A man who lives by a waterfall does not ‘hear’ the fall; it is such a familiar sound that it goes unnoticed. Yet, he notices the cry of the wild geese in the sky above when they fly through the autumn night. But let’s say that the waterfall should freeze to ice overnight – then he notices the difference in an instant”

– Jenner (2000, p.38)

Hermeneutic phenomenology has the potential of being a “freezer of waterfalls” and it is the lived experiences of teachers that impacts on data collected, new knowledge produced and themes for future educational research emerging from this study.


Denny, P., Becker, B.A., Craig, M., Wilson, G. and Banaszkiewicz, P., 2019, July. Research this! questions that computing educators most want computing education researchers to answer. In Proceedings of the 2019 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research (pp. 259-267).

Jenner, H., 2000. Se oss i berättelsen: anteckningar och iakttagelser om hur vi skapar mening och redigerar det som sker. Bjurner och Bruno.

Polkinghorne, D. (1983). Methodology for the human sciences: Systems of inquiry. Albany: State University of New York Press.

van Manen, M., 1999. Knowledge, reflection and complexity in teacher practice. In Changing schools, changing practices: Perspectives on educational reform and teacher professionalism (pp. 65-76).

Image by Matthew Maber on Unsplash