The CILT Design Principles Database: A New Form of Synthesis for Technology-based Curriculum Design


Designing effective curricula is a complicated task, usually involving longitudinal iterative processes of research, implementation and redesign cycles (Linn & Hsi, 2000). The body of scientific knowledge that can significantly inform the design of technology-based curricula exists between designers, and needs to be generated as principles in order to be publicly accessible (diSessa, 2000). However, it takes large-scale collaborative efforts, in which teams of researchers share their design experiments to provide meaningful guidelines for design (Collins et al, 2001). Such guidelines are currently missing, and the community of technology-based curriculum designers is faced with a lack of direction about how to translate existing knowledge in the learning sciences into effective software features (Kali, 2002).

Traditional reports about design efforts usually focus on successful artifacts rather than on lessons learned throughout the process including the less successful iterations. Several attempts have been made to abstract design processes and provide guidelines that can apply to other contexts (e.g. Edelson et al, 1999), yet there lacks a common vocabulary or agreement regarding the relevant forms of evidence necessary for designers to build on each other's experiences.

In the past two years the Center for Innovative Learning Technologies (CILT) has attempted to meet this challenge by bringing together designers from diverse projects and institutions to come up with a mutual framework for communicating and synthesizing design practices. The framework consists of three grain-size levels of design principles. Meta-principles offer abstract ideas about instruction and curriculum design. Examples include make student thinking visible, help students learn from each other, and promote student autonomy (Linn & Hsi, 2000). These principles are often used to categorize the next level of design principles, pragmatic principles. Pragmatic principles emerge from synthesis of design research and experiments. These principles summarize lessons learned from diverse contexts into useful design guidelines. Examples include provide a model of the inquiry process, and provide multiple linked-representation for viewing data. Finally, specific principles are the finest grain and capture the results from one study or the character of one technology feature. Examples include provide students with text boxes to define elements in a model, and enable students to rotate the geological structures and view various cross-sections of the structure. In order for these principles to be useful, the framework anchors each principle to several example software features.

The next step after defining the framework was constructing an online database of principles and features, in order to provide an infrastructure for the broad community of educational designers to browse, publish, connect and discuss their design principles with peer designers. The database interface encourages authors to make connections between design principles and features from one project to another.

The contributors to this structured poster session, represent five cross-institutional collaborative projects. Each project used several sets of research outcomes to abstract design principles from a specific domain including: virtual learning environments, ubiquitous computers in education, online math environments, online community tools in education, and project-based inquiry learning environments. These projects focused on different levels of generalization of design principles from specific design principles to meta-principles. In the session we will discuss how different grain-size levels of principles from each of the projects relate to each other.

The main purpose of the session is to share, critique and find connections between the sets of design principles discussed by each of the projects. We are also seeking to discuss the framework and the general infrastructure with the audience as means for synthesizing knowledge in the field of educational design. The audience for the session includes curriculum designers, and researchers who are looking for innovative forms of synthesis in the educational design field. Full Proposal

Format of the Structured Poster Session

Organizers: Yael Kali and Michele Spitulnik, CILT/U.C. Berkeley
Chairs: Marcia Linn and Yael Kali, CILT/U.C. Berkeley
Discussant: Nora Sabelli, SRI International

Total Time: 2 hours