Constructing networks of action-relevant episodes: An in situ research methodology

Sasha A. Barab, Kenneth E. Hay, Lisa C. Yamagata-Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


In this article, we advance a methodology for capturing and tracing the emergence, evolution, and diffusion of a practice, conceptual understanding, resource, or student-constructed artifact. The Constructing Networks of Action-Relevant Episodes (CN-ARE) methodology allows researchers to identify relevant data from a complex, evolving environment, and then to organize it into a web of action that can illuminate the historical development (evolving trajectory) of the phenomenon of interest (e.g., conception of an eclipse, applications of a mathematical formula, an evolving student-constructed Website). To accomplish this end, experiences are (a) sectioned into action-relevant episodes (AREs), (b) parsed down to codes in a database, and (c) then represented as nodes in a network so that the historical development of the particular phenomenon of interest can be traced. The CN-ARE methodology is especially useful for researchers interested in carrying out design experiments in which research findings with respect to one iteration of a course are cycled into the design of future course instantiations. In addition to setting the context and providing a theoretical rationale for the CN-ARE methodology, this discussion includes an in-depth description of the methodology along with its application to data sets. Following these examples, we close with a discussion of the scope and limitations of this methodology, touching on issues of trustworthiness, credibility, and usefulness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-112
Number of pages50
JournalJournal of the Learning Sciences
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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