Evaluating Learning Designs through the Formal Representation of Pedagogical Patterns

Evaluating Learning Designs through the Formal Representation of Pedagogical Patterns

Diana Laurillard (London Knowledge Lab, UK) and Dejan Ljubojevic (London Knowledge Lab, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-144-7.ch006
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To test the approach, in this chapter, we present the way in which several learning theories can be mapped onto the Conversational Framework, and use this to provide the means by which instances of learning design practice can be pedagogically evaluated in a systematic and computationally interpretable way. The chapter concludes with the early findings from the thinking-prototype tests of evaluative capability of the framework.
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Evaluating Learning Designs Through The Formal Representation Of Pedagogical Patterns

This chapter describes the work in progress of the three-year research project titled Learning Design Support Environment (LDSE – www.ldse.org.uk), which began in October 2008. The aim of the LDSE project is to develop the means for helping teachers to get to grip with learning design, both, conceptually and technologically. The problem is that the teachers have been neglected in terms of developing the kinds of digital online tools that would help them to benefit from what technology now offers, and what is demanded of them in terms of how they make use of technology (HEFCE, 2005; HEFCE, 2006).

Over the years there has been a lot of focus on developing technologies to address student needs, so the LDSE project is setting out to develop support for educators, as they are critical to mediating between what students want and how they actually get what they want out of higher education. As part of the LDSE project, we are trying to figure out what would make it as easy as possible for teachers to discover how best to use the technology. In this sense the LDSE is aimed at enabling the teaching community to act rather like the research community (Laurillard 2008): to build on colleagues’ work, to discover new things for themselves, to share learning designs with the community, to collaborate, and, essentially, to problematise teaching. Building the support environment that would instigate, nourish, promote, and, ultimately achieve this transformation is the ambition of the LDSE project. The research character of the LDSE project limits the amount of actual development towards that goal; however, we are hoping to make research inroads into the complexity that such ambition entails.

The particular problem we are focused on in this regard is how to enable teachers to engage with what counts as a good piece of learning design, in other words, where is the pedagogy in the learning design that really makes the difference. To emphasize this focus, we adopt the term ‘pedagogical pattern’, or ‘pedagogical design pattern’, instead of learning pattern, to refer to the core design property of a teaching-learning design instance. At present we can offer planning support, advice, guidance, and, exemplars, in the form of open educational resources that provide ‘something you can make use of’; but can we do more than that? Can we give teachers something back for the work they put into searching and using these toolkits and resource? Can we envisage providing a tool that would make the design process easier by, for example, analysing and giving feedback on the pedagogy in the learning design they develop?

To make this evaluation support possible we need to build on the design principles in the literature (Biggs, 2003; Bransford et al., 2006; Chickering & Gamson, 1987; Jonassen & Land, 2000; Nicol & MacFarlane-Dick, 2006; Reigeluth, 1999), and make use of the pedagogical patterns projects (Agostinho, 2006; Bergin, 2002; Eckstein, Bergin, & Sharp, 2002; Goodyear & Yang, 2009; Hernández-Leo et al., 2006; McAndrew, Goodyear, & Dalziel, 2006; Mor & Winters, 2007; Oliver, Harper, Hedberg, Wills, & Agostinho, 2002; Sharp, Manns, & Eckstein, 2003). The latter is of special importance for our research; the pedagogical patterns projects collections can be used to offer educators the patterns, adaptable across instructional contexts and disciplinary fields, that serve as a starting point for the teacher to adopt, further develop, and offer back into the community. But if we are going to use the available patterns inside the evaluative process we need something to evaluate these patterns against – the learning theories. This foregrounds the essence of what we are after in our research, the framework for describing learning theories that can supply this evaluative utility to the design support process: an evaluative framework of the kind that would enable evaluation in terms of how does the current pedagogical design measure up to the learning theory.

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