Digital support for teaching as a design science

By Diana Laurillard
Apr 17, 2012


Teaching is changing. It is no longer simply about passing on knowledge to the next generation. Teachers in the 21st century, in all educational sectors, have to cope with an ever-changing cultural and technological environment. Teaching is now a design science. Like other design professionals - architects, engineers, town planners, programmers – teachers have to work out creative and evidence-based ways of improving what they do. But teaching is not treated as a design profession.

Every day, teachers design and test new ways of teaching, using learning technology to help their learners. But their discoveries remain local. By representing and communicating their best ideas as structured pedagogical patterns, teachers could develop this vital professional knowledge collectively.

Teacher professional development has not embedded in the teacher’s everyday role the idea that they could discover something worth communicating to other teachers, or build on each others’ ideas. Could the culture change?

In this MOOC week I'd like to debate and explore this issue with you. A 21st century education system needs teachers who work collaboratively to design effective and innovative teaching. Can digital technologies help teachers design effective 'pedagogical patterns' (or 'learning designs', or 'lesson plans', or 'teaching -learning activity sequences')?

Technology can certainly provide several useful tools that would help teachers to collaborate on pedagogic innovation:

An ontology for describing a pedagogical pattern in a way that captures the effectiveness of the pedagogy and distinguishes it from similar, but less effective ones

Open educational resources that can be linked into many different kinds of student activity, online, or in class

A repository of pedagogical patterns, linked to teachers' own learning outcomes, that can be bowsed, downloaded, customised, tested, improved, and re-published

Some strongly worded propositions

We don't have long, so I'll begin by putting my cards on the table, and offering some statements, pulling no punches, that build up the overall case:

that teachers need and deserve better digital support to help them take learning technologies into more interesting terrain than has been explored so far

Here are four propositions that I'd like to cover over the course of the week, with the relevant resources and links that elaborate each one.

1. The fundamental nature of the learning process in formal education is not likely to change much, but the means by which we do it will

• Powerpoint slides to animate the Conversational Framework as an account of the learning process

2. Digital technologies have much to offer formal education, but have been badly under-exploited so far, so we must look to teachers to drive more interesting forms of pedagogy using technology

• Apps for numeracy compared with other web resources

3. Teachers, like other design professionals, need to build on each others' best ideas for how to teach to intended learning outcomes

• Collecting Pedagogical Patterns – a website for exchanging, designing and sharing your best ideas of ways of helping learners achieve a given learning outcome

• Video on how to use the Pedagogical Patterns Collector

4. The digital support teachers need includes (i) an ontology for pedagogical patterns; (ii) a user-oriented interface for expressing pedagogic ideas; (iii) a common repository where pedagogical patterns can be published, organised, and accessed; (iv) a knowledge base that is capable of responding to the community of users; (v) an advice and guidance wiki that the teaching community can develop, and the design tool can draw upon for advice on designs.

• Links to the url for downloading the Learning Designer (or should that be the 'Teaching Designer'.

Suggested readings

- Laurillard et al - JCAL paper
- Morris and Hiebert paper – Ed Reseacher
- Laurillard book (just published) – Ch 1

Suggested activities

For each statement, read through the introduction, try working with the resources suggested, then contribute to the wikispace to challenge the statement, ask questions, offer further arguments, and suggest other relevant resources.

At the end of the week I will attempt to summarise the degree of overall agreement/disagreement with the four statements above, and any other key issues raised.


Your Comment

You can preview your comment and continue editing until you are satisfied with it. Comment will not be posted on the until you have clicked

Enter email to receive replies: