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The concept of design employed in the author's practice extended from the imaginative formation of learning resources, environments and systems to their development and evaluation and culminated in the innovation of courses and organisations for education.


Design as a verb entails the process of imaginative formation of an entity. In the context of education and this dissertation, the entity, which may be  as simple as a text or as complex as an organisation, may be a response to some or all of the key questions to progress learning, from motivation to recognition as set out in my analysis The Learner at the Centre [A3].

Design as a noun is concerned with the specification of such an entity. A more formal, nuanced and rich discussion can be found in Ralph and Wand ( 2009 , 118), where they define Weltanschauung (worldviews) of design thus:

Table 4: Worldviews of design

Weltanschauung (Worldview)


Problem Solving

Design can be seen as an attempt to solve a known problem, a view characterized by the beliefs that a problem exists and is identifiable and that the success of a design is related to how well it solves the problem.

Problem Finding 

Design can be seen as an attempt to solve an unknown problem, implying that understanding the problem is part of the design process.


Design can be seen as a learning process where actions that can lead to improvements to the current situation (in the eyes of stakeholders) are discovered.


Design can be seen as a result of inspiration, i.e., in- stead of beginning with a problem, design begins with an inspiration of the form ‘wouldn’t it be great if....’


Design can be seen as growing an object, progressively improving its fit with its environment and purpose.

In their terms, my practice has been informed by each of these views, as appropriate to different stages of the developmental process, but in particular by  Inspiration , deriving from the new opportunities that technology provided, tempered with Epistemic and Growing through engagement with teachers and learners.

The verb design in my practice is an iterative process of development, accompanied by trialling, feedback and evaluation to determine the focus for further improvement. The mutability of designs may be promoted by their expression in computer formats, which offer ready correction and change. With the advent of computer programs, many designs can be expressed in the computer language or information system directly, although not all such languages make such designs accessible. This is the domain of Learning Design ( Koper 2006 ), where one possible benefit is that the design may become enacted through the computer to guide a student on a learning trajectory.

Britain, in his Review of Learning Design , states that the central ideas behind learning design:

represent new possibilities for increasing the quality and variety of teaching and learning within an e-learning context:
  • The first general idea behind learning design is that people learn better when actively involved in doing something (i.e. are engaged in a learning activity.
  • The second idea is that learning activities may be sequenced or otherwise structured carefully and deliberately in a learning workflowto promote more effective learning.
  • The third idea is that it would be useful to be able to record ‘learning designs’ for sharing and re-use in the future.
(Britain 2004, 2)

Britain goes on to state in his conclusions:

The main conclusion to be drawn from this review is that software development in this field is still at an immature stage although there are several exciting strands of development in progress. This means that whilst some software has been completed and other products are soon to be completed, few of the systems reviewed here have been widely used in practice as yet.
(Britain 2004, 24)

This immaturity means that Learning Design is not territory which I have explored in any detail in my practice, preferring designs to provide infrastructure and tools for human decision making in a freer sense. I regard learning as less likely to succeed when too tightly prescribed and in its nature, a creative activity which benefits from openness in outcome rather than to be restricted to such sequences with too closely focussed learning outcomes. Re-use is rarely possible as the context, conditions and preferences of teachers and learners are so varied.

Nevertheless, in my practice the designed entities have all employed some element of computer technology to enhance learning. In my conception of design as a noun, it is a mutable specification:

a representation of teaching and learning practice documented in some notational format so that it can serve as a model or template adaptable by a teacher to suit his/her context
Agostinho ( 2006 )

I would extend this definition so that a design may be that of an information resource, tool, activity, environment or educational organisation. In my practice, I have learned and employed a wide range skills including composition of words, graphic design, desktop publishing, video editing and computer programming. I have also tackled the design and making of computer programs, web sites, films, furniture, office spaces, online spaces and rooms to support education.

Design Science

Defined by Buckminster Fuller ( 1963 ), Design Science brought systematisation to the design process, and became understood as the scientific study of design ( Gregory, 1966 ).

In the context of education, Mor explains it well:

A design science of education should be based on a linguistic framework which offers an intermediate level of systematisation, rising above anecdotes but remaining grounded in reality. Such a framework would allow us to capture the structure of educational situations, the challenges they engender, as well as the means of addressing them, in forms which should empower learners and teachers to control their practice as much as it allows researchers to inspect it scientifically.

( Mor 2010, 14 )

I would extend this view and suggest that a design science of education might also encourage creativity in the attempt to transform education for the better, and argue that the analytical perspectives [ A1 , A2 , A3 ] I present in the section Claim  form part of a 'linguistic framework' to support such creativity.

Complexity and iteration in design

Educational designs I have engaged with have been complex and iterative, and in a research context could be considered as design studies as described by Shavelson et al:

Design studies have been characterized, with varying emphasis depending on the study, as iterative, process focused, interventionist, collaborative, multileveled, utility oriented, and theory driven.
( Shavelson et al. 2003 , 26)

The iterative view of design (the verb) is not opposed to a design process base on architectural/engineering specification, where well known and predictive calculations can be made to find the exact dimensions and materials to create a building or bridge. Instead, the iterative view recognises the unpredictability of the design of education where people, their diversity, complexity and culture are part of the design space, not simply users of an end product. It is not enough to design a computer program which performs to specification, tests correctly and is viewed as satisfactory - in education such software is subject to the richness of human discourse, re-interpretation and creativity. In the process of iterative design, such issues can be explored and the design improved with the evidence gathered to make the most effective educational outcome in a dynamic context. When designing in collaboration, designs require shared meaning in the form of agreed theories amongst the collaborators, in order to evaluate designs and identify room for improvement - my thesis in the form of three analyses [ A1 A2 A3 ]  is intended to be a basis for this kind of practice.

(Words: 1456 )

“Thus, the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer