Second Look at Holmberg: Theoretical Framework

I’ve reread one of the articles by Holmberg, looking at it as an example of a theoretical framework paper. Here are essentially the steps to the structure of this article:

  • First, Holmberg defines theory and distance education, the context in which his theory will operate.
  • Then he presents his own theory of conversation and empathy, followed by the testable hypotheses which he sees as deriving from this theory.  Essentially, his argument is that the stronger the conversational style of instruction, the closer sense of relationship a student feels to the instructor and organization.  This sense of relationship gives a sense of personal relevance and involvement, leading to greater motivation and greater learning.
  • Holmberg then argues for the relevance of his theory.
  • He remarks upon the influence of social and technological developments on the theory.
  • He presents studies which are closely related to his theory.
  • He ends by presenting some epistemological reservations.

I have to say, the rereading still did not sit right with me in terms of “conversation theory.”  I still do not see a clear definition of what conversation is, and I’m still not swayed by the argument for “conversational style.”  However, it is probably less that the theory is flawed and more that it just isn’t what I am looking for — a clear argument about how instruction can be viewed as conversation (as Gibbons states).


Holmberg, B. (2005).  A theory of distance education based on Empathy.  In M.G. Moore & W.G. Anderson (Eds.).  The handbook of distance education (1st ed.), pp. 79-86.  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, NJ

* defines theory
* defines distance education
* his theory

* testable hypotheses from the theory
* relevance of theory
* influence of social & technological developments on the theory
* studies closely related
* epistemological reservations


One thought on “Second Look at Holmberg: Theoretical Framework

  1. Holmberg may also have had some misgivings. Perhaps that is why he often uses the term “conversation-like” instead of conversation.

    I would say the same argument could be used with the term “reflection” too. Is an internal “conversation” the same kind of thing as a conversation with another agent?

    I think that gibbons also considers conversation with a simulation possible.

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