Epistemologies, Theoretical Perspectives, and Frameworks

Week 2 of Problems, Theories, and Literature: Making a Contribution to the Field asked us to look deeper at Crotty’s concept of the four elements of social research: epistemology, theoretical perspective, methodology, and methods. Our blog posts from Week 1 discussed epistemologies with which we identified, but I struggled with differentiating my epistemology and theoretical perspective. This week provided much more clarity from our discussions and kicked off the reading a great deal of scholarly literature related to our phenomena of interest.

Week 2 Study Guide.png

Live Classroom

I realized that in my previous post, I did not do a good job of explaining Crotty’s four elements of social research: epistemology, theoretical perspective, methodology, and methods. This was partially out of my own confusion around the topic. Luckily for you and for me, our Live Classroom this week helped to clarify how each of these pieces fit together. Dr. Hendricks began our time with a presentation on these different elements. Here is a bullet point summary of definitions:

  • Ontology: study of reality (“what is”)

  • Epistemology: study of knowledge

    • Objectivism: Meaning exists apart from consciousness. There is an absolute truth that can be discovered through careful processes.

    • Constructionism: Meaning is constructed, not discovered. Meaning differs by culture, human interactions, era of time, etc. Subject and object interact to create meaning.

    • Subjectivism: Meaning is not constructed through interactions, nor is there an objective truth. Meaning of an object is imposed upon it by a subject. The only meaning is the one in our own mind.

  • Theoretical Perspective / Theory / Conceptual Framework: stance or lens to provide context for the study

  • Methodology: general strategy or process for doing research

  • Methods: specific techniques/procedures

Included in the presentation was also the statement, “Our beliefs about the nature of knowledge and reality shape what we see and how we see it.” Dr. Hendricks used the examples of a tomato and a cat to demonstrate how different epistemologies might view the tomato. To answer the question, is tomato a fruit or a vegetable?, an objectivist would know from scientific characteristics that tomato is a fruit. A constructionist would answer the question depending on how the particular culture uses tomatoes in their cuisine. A subjectivist would impose their own meaning on the tomato. For example, an unripe tomato might be classified by a subjectivist as a “tomato-shaped object.” A better example is how each epistemology views a cat. An objectivist sees a cat as feelis catus, the scientific classification for a cat that has specific characteristics. To a constructionist, a cat could be a cat, gato, katze, etc. Chip is Dr. Hendricks’ nephew’s cat. The objectivist and constructionist views do not matter to her nephew. To her subjectivist nephew, a cat is Chip. Chip is a cat.

Clear as mud? You can see from where some of my confusion stems. The other confusing piece for me was I chose Papert’s theory of constructionism as the theoretical framework for my research proposal in Introduction to Music Education Research. For that particular assignment, we were asked to choose a theoretical framework for our proposal, but I don’t think we really understood why or how to do so. I selected Papert’s theory of constructionism because it appeared as a theoretical framework in many of the studies I used in my literature review. Now, with a better understanding of Crotty’s four elements, I think I can better justify my choices. For that research proposal, I (consciously and subconsciously) chose:

  • Epistemology: Constructionism (Crotty). I have believed for quite some time that individuals construct meaning through experience.

  • Theoretical Perspective: Constructionism (Papert). Constructionism as a theory builds on the theory of constructivism—people construct knowledge through experience and learning is the ongoing construction and revision of these mental representations. Specifically, constructionism focuses on the creation of an external artifact to support the mental representations (Sheridan et. al, 2014, p. 507).

  • Methodology: Case study. For the research proposal, I chose to analyze makerspace classrooms in Albemarle county by collecting data over a period of time.

  • Methods: Field observations and Interviews. Specifically, I would collect data by observing classrooms and interviewing students and teachers.


What do you know thus far about your research interest? My research interest lies at the intersection of the maker movement and music education. As I wrote in my research proposal for ME 740, “The maker movement—characterized by creatively producing artifacts and finding digital or physical forums to share the products and processes—is playing a larger and larger role in education (Halverson & Sheridan, 2014, pp. 495–496).” Unbeknownst to me when we moved to Charlottesville, Virginia a little over a year ago, I live in a hotbed of progressive education practices with several leaders in public school maker education. Maker education seems to be heavily involved in STEM subjects, leaving a gap in scholarly literature for arts education and makerspaces (Halverson & Sheridan, 2014b; Peppler, 2010; Clapp & Jimenez, 2016; May & Clapp, 2017)

What are some of the interesting things that you have learned from specific articles you have read? When first hearing about the maker movement, many people correctly assume that most projects are STEM-based. Certainly, technology plays a major role within makerspaces, but makers have incorporated other fields like sewing (Kafai, Fields, & Searle, 2014) or art (Sheridan et al., 2014). From personal observations, students at a local makerspace made their own guitar, bass, and ukulele. Current students are working on animating and orchestrating a short film.

From what theoretical perspective(s) have other scholars (in and out of music) studied some aspect of this phenomenon, and why have they justified that stance? Scholars have studied makerspaces through the lens of Papert’s (1991) theory of constructionism (Martinez & Stager, 2013; Halverson & Sheridan, 2014b; Peppler, 2010). Constructionism as an epistemology posits that humans construct meaning through interaction with the world. Dewey’s constructivism is informed by this epistemology, viewing learning as building structures of knowledge regardless of circumstance (Papert, 1991). Harel and Papert’s constructionism takes this a step further, saying learning—or building knowledge structures, or making meaning—happens best when humans are making something to share (Papert, 1991; Martinez & Stager, 2013). Papert (1991) notes, “it would be particularly oxymoronic to convey the idea of constructionism through a definition since, after all, constructionism boils down to demanding that everything be understood by being constructed” (p. 2). The theory of constructionism ties in with maker education in that makers are creating artifacts to represent and share knowledge.

Clapp, E. P., & Jimenez, R. L. (2016). Implementing STEAM in maker-centered learning. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 10(4), 481-491. https://doi.org/10.1037/aca0000066

Halverson, E. R., & Sheridan, K. M. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495-504, 563, 565. https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.84.4.34j1g68140382063

Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. S. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Constructing modern knowledge press.

May, S., & Clapp, E. P. (2017). Considering the role of the arts and aesthetics within maker-centered learning. Studies in Art Education, 58(4), 335-350. https://doi.org/10.1080/00393541.2017.1368287

Papert, S. (1991). Situating constructionism. In I. Harel & S. Papert (Eds.), Constructionism (pp. 1–12). Norwood, NJ: Ablex. Retrieved from http://www.papert.org/articles/SituatingConstructionism.html

Sheridan, K. M., Halverson, E. R., Litts, B. K., Brahms, L., Jacobs-Priebe, L., & Owens, T.  (2014). Learning in the making: A comparative case study of three makerspaces. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 505–531. https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.84.4.brr34733723j648u

Peppler, K. (2010). Media arts: Arts education for the digital age. Teachers College Record, 112(8), 2118-2153. Retrieved from http://kpeppler.com/Docs/2010_Peppler_Media_Arts.pdf


In response to my post, several of my classmates mentioned project-based learning and 3D printing. I have several new articles to check out!

One of my classmates compiled a shortened version of everyone’s research interest. I’ve included it below (with the names removed to protect the innocent):

  • Conducting and its various effects on student performance.

  • Culturally responsive teaching e.g., culturally proficient teaching, culturally responsive pedagogy, Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP).

  • Body Mapping and its physical benefits, along with the staggering reports of pain from musicians

  • The culture of a chorus class; music, language, and social interactions can help an English Language Learner (ELL) student acclimate to the school and thus be more successful. (ethnographic study?)

  • How violence in the Caribbean coast of Colombia (i.e., northern region) has affected the transfer of musical and cultural knowledge in the eleven indigenous groups in the territory (i.e., 10 are at risk)

  • Historical uses of music with at-risk, behavioral disabled, and juvenile offenders.

  • Music Performance Anxiety MPA, how it is defined and measured in diverse ways.

  • PL 94-142, Education of All Handicapped Children Act, every child has the right to an education

  • The correlation between socio-economic status and the quality of music education

  • Autoethnographic examination of self

  • Being unaware of one’s own stereotyping and bias has been termed implicit prejudice (van den Bergh et al. 2010). What type of self-examination guidance is actually taking place? What language is being used during discussions on race, racism, and bias? Revise the protocols for which prejudiced attitudes are measured. Those that don’t speak of race are applauded and even considered polite. Critical Race Theory (CRT)

  • The impostor phenomenon among high school choral directors

  • An intersection of the theoretical concept of flow/optimal experience with the pedagogy of jazz improvisation.

  • The effects of socioeconomic status on the field of competitive marching band.

  • Examination of instrumental lesson pullout programs to discover if there is an impact on students’ academic achievement.

  • Music study as a means for improving student academic success (measured in course and program completion; perhaps GPA) and retention at the community college.

  • Research about the experience of transgender and non-binary students and choral teachers in secondary choral classrooms.

  • Research interest in traditional teacher-led vs. non-traditional student-centered learning.

  • Social justice in music education. My specific area of interest for research will likely focus on the effects of poverty on music education.

  • Exploring uses of collective free improvisation with secondary school students. How will high school students respond to collective free improvisation activities? Can these kinds of activities foster musical growth and commitment? Will a free improvisation classroom be a place of equality and community for students and teachers? What strategies are needed to facilitate collective free improvisation at the secondary level?

  • Growth mindset

  • Critical Rural Theory

  • Job-related factors among musicians impact the physical health of musicians in a number of negative ways with a higher rate of playing-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMD) than the general population (Voltmer, et al., 2012).

  • Researching the discriminations confronted by women in the music industry and specifically, Jazz.

Annotated Bibliography

Sheridan, K. M., Halverson, E. R., Litts, B. K., Brahsm, L. Jacobs-Priebe, L., & Owens, T. (2014). Learning in the making: A comparative case study of three makerspaces. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 505–531. https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.84.4.brr34733723j648u

Phenomenon of Interest: Makerspaces as learning environments

Theoretical Frameworks:

  • Constructionism (Papert),

  • Studio Learning Environments (Hetland, Winner, Veenema, & Sheridan)

  • Community of Practice (Lave & Wenger)

Research Problem: While there is a growing interest in designing and creating makerspaces, there is little empirical research on the content and processes of learning occurring in makerspaces.

Research Purpose: “to understand how different makerspaces function as learning environments” (p. 506)

Research Questions: Explicitly stated and quoted verbatim:

  1. Who participates in these makerspaces?

  2. How and to what ends are tools, materials, and processes used in each makerspace?

  3. What are the arrangements for learning, teaching, and collaborating in each space? (p. 507)

Rationale: There is a lack of empirical research on makerspaces as a whole with studies instead focusing on specific maker activities. By analyzing three different makerspaces, this study can aid those interested in designing and creating makerspaces for specific communities or types of learning. This comparative case study can also serve as a model for looking at different types of makerspaces and the communities they create.

Method: Comparative Case Study

The researchers used purposive sampling to select sites that self-identified as makerspaces, supported self-directed and open-ended projects, and reflected diversity in the types of participants and the nature of their participation. As part of data collection and analysis, the researchers transcribed over 150 hours of field observations and interviews, created case summary sheets, wrote analytic memos, regularly discussed findings, periodically presented findings to an external research advisory board for feedback, and conducted member checks.


  • Participants are engaged by the multi-disciplinarity of makerspaces.

  • Makerspaces have a wide variety of learning arrangements, functioning as both communities of practice and studio-based environments.

  • Participants learn by making but also in order to make. The experience is both process- and product-oriented. 


  • There is a wide range of practices within makerspaces as well as a wide variety of types of learning that makerspaces support.

  • These case studies will hopefully begin and add to the conversation for researchers and practitioners designing and studying makerspaces.

How this relates to my study: While not specifically occurring in schools, this study provides a framework for looking at the learning occurring within makerspaces. Constructionism, studio learning environments, communities of practice, design process, and metarepresentational competence can provide lenses through which to view my research into makerspaces and music education.


Burton Hable

Burton Hable is an instrumental music educator from Central Iowa. In 2013 he helped open Centennial High School in Ankeny, the first time in forty years that a school district in Iowa expanded to two high schools. He served there through 2018 as Assistant Director of Bands: conducting the 10th Grade Symphonic Band, directing the varsity Jazz Collective, co-directing the Centennial Marching and Pep Bands, teaching music theory, and providing individual and small group lessons to brass students in grades 6-12 at Prairie Ridge Middle School, Northview Middle School, and Centennial High School. During his tenure in Ankeny, enrollment in band grew from 450 to nearly 700, the jazz program expanded from four to seven ensembles, and ensembles under his direction were invited to perform at Iowa State University, Harper College, and the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.