Holiploigy – an initial outline

As I stated in my last post, the idea sitting behind holiploigy (and hence its name) is the notion of the inherent complexity of the processes involved in helping students learn and become expert in their chosen fields of study. This involves a need to engage with, understand, apply and relate an ever larger body of concepts, knowledge, skills and competences, through a wealth of different media (the ‘holi’ – or holistic/complex). Working with students to enable this holistic understanding requires a wide range of approaches, some of which are more lecturer-led, others leading to independent and discovery-driven experiences; this wide spectrum of lecturer activity can be described as being analogous to navigation (ploigos).

Any attempt to capture the complexity of holiploigy in its entirety will fail, as will hopefully become clear as I consider some of its possible dimensions. This is because it is context driven, and will involve almost limitless combinations of activities. Different disciplines, under- and post-graduate, face-to-face, blended, or distance learning, will all lead to different practice. What appears below is an attempt to capture some of the possible central elements which act as fundamental features and processes. Such complexity reduction is bound to occur as any exhaustive model of a complex system would need to be as complete as the system itself which is not possible. However,

‘Just because a complex system is incompressible it does not follow that there are (incomplete) representations of the system that cannot be useful – otherwise how would we have knowledge of anything, however limited? Incompressibility is not an excuse for not bothering.’

Richardson and Tait (2010: 92-93)

An initial representative schematic of holiploigy is given below


At the centre of this conceptual framework is the interplay of a number of elements (1) which take into account assessment (2),  curriculum (3) (4), learning (5) (6) and teaching (7). These elements are experienced and shaped by the actions of tutors and students, and evolve over time, both in relation to each other, but also as a consequence of their interactions with the processes and characteristics which are positioned around this central field. Having discussed some ideas concerning learning, teaching, curriculum and assessment and their interaction in past posts, in this series I will focus on the sectors which lie around the periphery of the diagram above, and will also consider how all the elements of the holiploigic framework might play out in different practical contexts.


Richardson, K.A. & Tait, A. (2010) ‘The Death of the Expert?’ E:CO, 12:2, 87-97.



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