Book Chapter

Matters of Learning and Education: Sociomaterial approaches in ethnographic research



Fenwick T, Doyle S, Michael MK & Scoles J (2015) Matters of Learning and Education: Sociomaterial approaches in ethnographic research. In: Bollig S, Honig M, Neumann S & Seele C (eds.) MultiPluriTrans in Educational Ethnography: Approaching the Multimodality, Plurality and Translocality of Educational Realities. Bielefeld, Germany: Transcript Verlag/Columbia University Press, pp. 141-162.

In this chapter we outline a “sociomaterial” configuration that has been circulating in the broader social sciences with useful potential for understanding dynamics of learning, pedagogy, curriculum, policy, and so forth. This approach seeks to examine critically how the social and material not only are entangled in what some call “assemblages” of the human and nonhuman, but also constitute the practices and knowings that comprise education. The chapter focuses in particular on methodologies for researching professional learning and knowing as sociomaterial practice. We draw examples from three doctoral studies-in-progress of learning in different settings: engineers in project teams developing environmental technologies, artists learning to balance multiple activities of art, market and bureaucracy, and health-care workers learning to implement a new technology in a paediatric diabetes clinic. These examples illustrate the insights as well as the dilemmas in working with sociomaterial approaches to make visible the materialities of learning. One key contribution here is the first hand voices of new researchers experimenting with these approaches. The methods and theories are difficult to apply, and the stories here help to reveal the strategies that student researchers adopted to work through the challenges of sociomaterial approaches.

ethnograpy; sociomaterial; arts-based; materiality; professional practices

Publication date31/12/2015
PublisherTranscript Verlag/Columbia University Press
Publisher URL…hy/9783837627725
Place of publicationBielefeld, Germany

People (2)


Professor Tara Fenwick

Professor Tara Fenwick

Emeritus Professor, Education

Dr Maureen Michael

Dr Maureen Michael

Senior Lecturer, Education