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Teacher-led Inquiry and Learning Design: The Virtuous Circle

A workshop at the 2013 Alpine Rendez-Vous

28 – 30 January, 2013

Villard‐de‐Lans, Vercors, French Alps


Download the Call for Participation


This workshop is situated at the intersection of two fields of educational science, Learning Design (LD) and Teacher Inquiry into student learning (TISL). Our contention is that there is a critical need, as yet unaddressed, for synergy between these fields. LD, to be effective, should be informed and evaluated by teacher inquiry, or, indeed should ideally be a process of inquiry. TISL, to be meaningful, should support optimising the design of activities and resources. Thus, the objectives of this workshop is to establish a new strand of inquiry aimed at the synergy of LD and TISL, solidify its theoretical foundations, propose methodological instruments which build on these foundations and consider tools and representations which support these instruments. 
Learning Design is the act of devising new practices, plans of activity, resources and tools aimed at achieving particular educational aims in a given situation. It is informed by subject knowledge, pedagogical theory, technological know-how, and practical experience. At the same time, it also can engender innovation in all these areas and support learners in their efforts and aims. Teacher-led inquiry is an approach to pedagogic practice and continuing professional development, within which the teacher applies systematic and rigorous methods to the evaluation of student learning in relation to teachers’ practices in order to improve learning design (Kelly, 2003). It places the teacher at the centre of a dynamic process of goal setting, analysis planning, analysis execution, reflection and communication (Dana, N. F., & Yendol-Hoppey, D., 2003).
Research has generally construed Learning Design and Teacher Inquiry as quite different activities, and epistemic research in the domains has seen relatively little convergence. However, they can be seen as complementary endeavours, each informing and improving the other (see cover illustration). Teachers are usually involved in Learning Design activities for their students and they often, if only informally, inquire about the effects of their teaching approaches and discuss these with colleagues. Currently, teacher inquiry tends to be local and informal, drawing upon the experiences of a single practitioner. It could benefit particularly from increased rigor and prompted or scaffolded reflection brought by Learning Design, so that the insights teachers glean go beyond the specific cases and have a better chance of transfer to other cases. Conversely, common methods and representations in LD are often perceived by practitioners as too abstract. Learning Design also entails reflection about student learning, but often without an inquiry-based approach which draws upon data collection and analysis. This is a practice which does not come naturally to practitioner designers, especially when those learning design ideas are novel. Learning design can benefit from data collected through structured inquiry, and from sensitivity to practitioner realities and needs. This would render the products of this field more accessible to teachers, increasing its impact on practice. Research has taken steps in this general direction (cf. McKenney & Reeves, 2012) but there is a need for further work exploring the nexus of these two fields.
Three concepts will be at the centre of the theoretical discussion: context, practice, and change. The context of learning design encompases the material, social and intentional factors which define the space in which learners and educators operate. Practice includes both epistemic practice (“how we learn”) and pedagogical practice (“how we teach”). Finally, design is always oriented at change, in the words of Herbert Simon: devising “courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into desired ones” (Simon, 1969, p 129). These concepts are expressed through ensembles of representations, including design narratives (Mor, 2011; Barab et al, 2008; Bell, Hoadley and Linn, 2004), design principles (Kali, 2006) design patterns (Goodyear, 2005; Mor & Winters, 2007; Retalis et al, 2006), and design scenarios. Examples and use of these will be explored during the workshop along topical strands. The topics will include:
  • Articulating conceptual and operational formalisms for capturing context, epistemic and pedagogical practice, and models of change. 
  • Exploring methodologies, situated in defined domains of practice, for eliciting such representations and utilising them effectively in supporting educational innovation. 
  • Establishing a culture of practitioner design inquiry in which educators use the representations, methodologies and tools above to sustain scientifically informed creative practices in their professional context. 

Expression of Interest - Teacher-led Inquiry and Learning Design


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Brock Craft,
Aug 1, 2012, 4:05 AM
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