Personal Learning Environments and Psychological Ownership
When does a learning environment become a Personal Learning Environment? I think it has much to do with our perception of the learning environment and a something that is ours, an environment that belongs to us, a learing environment that we own and feel responsible for, something we can identify with. This is where I think the theory of psychological ownership can help us to understand what it means to feel an owner of a learning environment. Let me just briefly introduce the idea and the study that I presented last week at the PLE Conference in Aveiro on 12.07.12
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Last year we wrote the paper titled “Understanding Personal Learning Environments: Literature review and synthesis through the Activity Theory lens” (Buchem, Attwell & Torres, 2011). In this study based on the grounded theory analysis of over 100 publications on Personal Learning Environments it were the concepts of ownership and control that emerged as core concepts that authors related to when writing about Personal Learning Environments. It intrigued me that we know so little about what it actually means to feel an owner or be in control of a learning environment. As I searched for helpful approaches I came across a vast body of research on psychological ownership. This research, inspired by the theory of psychological ownership by Pierce et al. (2001, 2003, 2004), has been to a large extend applied to the exploration of the role of psychological ownership in organisations. A number of studies has looked into how the feeling of being an “owner” of an organisation one worked in affected work attitudes, job performance and organisational citizenship. A number of studies showed that employees who feel owners of the organisation tend to be more satisfied with their jobs, feel responsible for what is happening in the organisation and in consequence care for the organisation as it becomes part of their self-identity.
It struck my mind that we can apply the theory of psychological ownership as framework to explore the role of ownership in context of Personal Learning Environments. This is why this year we conducted the first study, which applies the theory of psychological ownership to technology-enhanced learning environments, based on the example of ePortfolios in higher education. I presented this study at the PLE Conference 2012 in Aveiro and found out that there is a lot of interest in this approach.
The study results show that the measure of psychological ownership can be applied in to research on learning environments. The measure of psychological ownership I am proposing in the paper showed to have a very good internal consistency and I am looking forward to conducting further studies to see if the results can be replicated. One of most interesting outcomes of the study was the relation between control and ownership. The results show that while perceived control of intangible aspects of a learning environment (such as being able to determine the subject matter or access rights) has a much larger impact on the feeling of ownership of a learning environment than perceived control of tangible aspects (such as being able to choose the technology). Another interesting result was to see that psychological ownership is a very good predictor of the quality of learning in terms of engagement, invested time, creativity, interest orientation and self-direction.
This very first study seems to confirm my hypothesis that the feeling of ownership of a learning environment is significant for learning and one of the key aspects of Personal Learning Environments. What I am interested in is to find out ways to promote the sense of ownership of learning environments in education.
- Buchem, Ilona, Attwell, Graham & Torres, Ricardo (2011). Understanding Personal Learning Environments:Literature review and synthesis through the Activity Theory lens. Proceedings of the The PLE Conference 2011, 10th – 12th July 2011, Southampton, UK.Sunday, July 15, 2012
- Pierce, J. L., Kostova, T., Dirks, K. (2001). Toward a theory of psychological ownership in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 26, p. 298–310. 2.
- Pierce, J. L., Kostova, T., Dirks, K. T. (2003). The state of psychological ownership: integrating and extending a century of research. Review of General Psychology, 7, p. 84– 107. 3.
- Van Dyne, L., Pierce, J.L. (2004). Psychological ownership and feelings of possession: three field studies predicting employee attitudes and organizational citizenship behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25(4), p. 439-459.