Mar 262012
 

Teaching as a design science
Do you see yourself as a designer?  According to Diana Laurillard, that’s exactly how teachers should be seeing themselves and she had a proposal for systemizing the process of engineering learning experiences. Diana Laurillard’s IATEFL 2012 plenary was making the case for the collation of proven pedagogical patterns across all disciplines in a standardised way. These patterns could then be used and adapted by teachers of all disciplines. The standardization requires that the subject specific elements of any pedagogical pattern are separated from the pedagogical process in a transparent way and it is this which makes the patterns transferable across disciplines. Laurillard likened these pedagogical patterns to architects’ blueprints which can be understood and applied among trained architects.
Case study: from drilling teeth to drilling pron
The example Laurillard used was to start with a lesson plan about teaching dental students about drilling teeth. By replacing the dental content with pronunciation content but leaving the process descriptions intact, Laurillard was able to show that an effective pedagogical approach to both skills could be described in the same way. While the dental students had their virtual reality teeth to work on, the language students had a pronunciation tool to practice with. The support tool used to help the learning is different but the facilitation process around the use of the tool is the same. Maybe this was a jump too far, but the point was made by colour coding the process and content parts of the lesson plan and making direct substitutions of only the content part of the lesson plan text. (Click on images to enlarge).

Learning model
A pre-requisite for compiling these pedagogical patterns is an understanding of the learning process for which Laurillard presented a very complex animated diagram. The diagram showed that the process of learning is much more than the transmission of content. This transmission assumption is implicit for example in the Rupert Murdoch  model which proposes  the News International repository of recorded lectures, content and images ‘being beamed to pupils’ terminals’.  The model shows that ‘doing’ rather than content is critical for learning and that there are many opportunities for ‘doing’ apart from in the classroom, for example with peer learning and collaboration. Lest the model appear too mechanistic, it does reflect all the popular isms in education at the moment such as constructivism and experiential learning.

 

The place of ICT in learning
The complex learning model makes a case for taking advantage of the affordances of ICT by recognizing the importance of discussion, practice, collaboration and production as effective vehicles for learning and all of which can be enhanced by ICT. Laurillard showed an interesting comparison between how a teacher spent their time in a twentieth century classroom and how they could be sending their time in a 21st century classroom by taking advantage of ICT tools. These would enable the teacher to spend less time on administration (automated), presentation (using Murdoch’s content?)  and preparation (by using and adapting proven pedagogical patterns) and more time in small group work guidance which facilitates the ‘doing’ which is so important to learning.

ICT is a game changer
Laurillard argues that the affordances provided by ICT are as rule-changing as the arrival of writing and that we have therefore only had a very short time up to now to adapt to its possibilities. And since most of the technology used by teachers was not originally designed for an educational context, this means that the job of teachers includes working out how best to integrate this largely business-oriented toolbox for the classroom. And this brings us back full circle to the idea of pedagogical patterns and how much more efficient this could make our teaching. Possibilities were overlaid onto the previously shown learning cycle diagram.


Teaching as design science
This requires teachers to take on a design approach, a mixture of science and art. According to Laurillard the idea of being a learning designer is not proving to be as inspiring a concept as she had hoped but nevertheless she retains the phrase in the title of her new book ‘Teaching as a Design Science’ which has just come out. If you want to see what a pedagogical pattern looks like you can see the prototype collection of them at http://tinyurl.com/ppcollector3 where you can add your own or use existing ones and then propose adaptations. An example of the layout of the pattern collector is below:

Reactions
Discussing this with delegates after the plenary I found that some disagreed that the learning process was so complex while others were sceptical about the teaching profession’s willingness to add to the pedagogical pattern collection when so much is already freely available on the Internet to help EFL teachers in particular. It did seem to me that many delegates’ eyes began to glaze over once they were introduced to the pattern collector software. Looking at the input screen can certainly make it seem as though there is little room for that human interaction which was said to be so important to the learning process in the dynamic learning model. There seems to be a contradiction here between the oft-noted desire by teachers to be creative and the wish to work more effectively and stop re-inventing the wheel every Monday morning. But perhaps there is no contradiction and perhaps using pedagogical patterns enables you to increase your efficiency in the classroom to the extent that this frees up time to be creative at other times.

See the whole session and access the full set of slides here.