Participatory Design and the Learning Sciences

Authored by: Kimberley Gomez , Eleni A. Kyza , Nicole Mancevice

International Handbook of the Learning Sciences

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138670594
eBook ISBN: 9781315617572
Adobe ISBN:


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Learning scientists seek to study learning in context, often by immersing themselves in research within schools and classrooms, in collaboration with practitioners and other stakeholders. As they inquire into how learning happens, and how it can be improved, learning scientists frequently engage in the design and study of learning environments—an approach which affords opportunities for deep learning. Researcher–practitioner collaborations are essential vehicles to facilitate this process, as teachers and researchers each bring diverse perspectives to the joint effort. In this chapter, we use the terms “participatory”, “collaboration” and “co-design” to refer to educational curricular, software, programmatic, or other design efforts involving researchers and practitioners (e.g., teachers, administrators) working together to address an identified problem of practice. These collaborations frequently involve designing an instructional tool that not only considers the needs of the students, but also addresses the needs of the teachers who are ultimately responsible for using these tools in the classroom (Edelson, Gordin, & Pea, 1999). Initially, the contributions of teachers and researchers to the design process may be distinct: researchers pay particular attention to theory-driven decisions, and teachers bring their pragmatic views on how learning is realized in practice. Over time, however, these roles may mesh and broaden, and all contributors develop deeper knowledge and expertise (Herrenkohl, Kawasaki, & Dewater, 2010).

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