Academic journal article Research in Learning Technology

The Learning Design Studio: Collaborative Design Inquiry as Teachers' Professional Development

Academic journal article Research in Learning Technology

The Learning Design Studio: Collaborative Design Inquiry as Teachers' Professional Development

Article excerpt


This article presents the Learning Design Studio (LDS), a course format aimed at enculturation of educational professionals into design inquiry of learning.

Arguably, teachers are the primary change agents in any educational system. Teachers operate in a complex and dynamic domain - the background knowledge and practices of their students constantly change, the technologies and resources at their disposal are perpetually evolving, and the guidance and directives they receive are frequently updated. Within this domain, they need to habitually devise new means for achieving educational goals - engendering change in their students' knowledge, behaviours or attitudes. This calls for a repositioning of educational professionals: from conveyors of knowledge to designers of learning (Mor et al . 2012). Here, we refer to learning design as "the act of devising new practices, plans of activity, resources and tools aimed at achieving particular educational aims in a given situation" (Mor and Craft 2012). In order to be effective learning designers, educational professionals need to assume a creative, proactive, innovative stance towards their practice - but also to base their work on solid scientific foundations. John Hattie lists 116 meta-analyses exploring the use of technology in education, covering 6545 studies and over 4 million subjects (Hattie 2009). However, if we want to mainstream this knowledge and use it to improve educational systems, we need to break out of the academic sphere and make this knowledge available, accessible and relevant to educational practitioners.

The question which follows is: how do we train educators as effective learning designers? How do we empower them to make informed innovations in their daily practice, systematically analysing the context in which they operate, articulating educational challenges, considering the relevant scientific and practical knowledge, and introducing innovations to effectively address the challenges they choose to confront?

This article argues for Design Inquiry of Learning (DIL) as an appropriate pedagogical approach for addressing this question and presents the LDS as an effective manifestation of this approach. We evaluate the LDS format by reviewing two courses that implemented it and discuss its merits and limitations.


Teacher education is dominated by the "technical-rationality" model (Korthagen et al . 2001). This model assumes that educational theory is fundamental to good teaching practice, and therefore teachers should be provided with a solid theoretical curriculum, which they will then apply in their practice. Korthagen et al . show that this approach fails consistently. Not only do teachers find themselves ill-equipped to translate the theoretical abstractions to the concrete context in which they work, their negative experience in attempting to do so results in feeling threatened by educational theory and seeing teacher education as detached and useless.

In recent years, an alternative view has emerged, positioning teachers as learning designers and focusing on the practical process of devising effective learning experiences (Beetham and Sharpe 2013). Recent studies demonstrate how training teachers as learning designers enhances not only their practical skills but also their theoretical understanding (Cross et al . 2008; Fuhrmann, Kali, and Hoadley 2008; Laurillard 2008; Voogt et al . 2011). One approach which appears to hold significant promise in training learning designers is the LDS (Cox, Harrison, and Hoadley 2008; Hoadley and Cox 2009; Kali and Ronen-Fuhrmann 2011). This approach is modelled after the tradition of studio-instruction in arts and design disciplines (such as architecture). In this model, the main activity of a course is the students' continued work on design challenges in a defined domain of practice. Students typically work in groups. They identify an educational challenge, research it and devise innovative means of addressing it. …

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