Re-use library archives: Educational design pattern

Highlight the essentials

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The Educational Problem

This pattern concerns problems related to learners who are overwhelmed in a new domain and in need of structure that makes explicit the most important concepts of a domain as a start for developing new knowledge practices. This pattern was originally developed in the context of simulation-based training of teams in healthcare but can probably be useful in many contexts where a group of learners are introduced to a new conceptual framework.

  • Learners may be overwhelmed by the complexity of a new domain.
  • Course participants may lack knowledge about and fail to see the importance of essential activities like making analyses.
  • Course participants do not expect to learn to make such analyses.
  • Participants may have wrong expectations about expertise; a common misconception is that experienced practitioners master teamwork and leadership skills, and that skills are implicitly picked up through experience.
  • Other problems concern the design or presentation of the essential concepts; if a model is too complex it risks not being learned, used and remembered.

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First individually, then as a group

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The Educational Problem

The educational problem concerns the phenomenon of individuals being influenced by their peers at the expense of individual views and the risk for uncritical agreement in groups.

This pattern was originally developed in the context of courses involving simulation-based training of teams in healthcare but can probably be useful in many contexts where a group of learners analyze something such as an activity that they have just taken part in.

  • Immediate group discussions following on simulations may influence perceptions of the preceding activity and thereby hinder the creation of personal analyses by each individual.
  • The team does not utilize its potential capacity of learning from each of its members. There may be uncritical agreement among team members. Members may not be aware of other members’ views. Some students may be quiet while others dominate and not get the chance to speak their voice.

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Analyse and score performance continuously

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The Educational Problem

This pattern concerns the lack of awareness and a shared understanding among learners. This pattern was originally developed in the context of simulation-based training of teams in healthcare but can probably be useful in many contexts where a group of learners analyze something such as an activity that they have just taken part in.

  • Lack of awareness of own and other’s performance during simulations.
  • Learners lack a common, shared understanding.
  • Weak connection between theory and practice: a need for conceptualizing practices.
  • During (resuscitation) work there is usually very limited or no time for learners to reflect on their behaviour.
  • Learners tend to overly agree with each other.
  • Learners tend to overly focus on their own performance, often in critical ways.
  • Theoretical concepts can be considered self-evident on an abstract level but learners may fail to see their relevance to actual practice.
  • Conflicts between different goals risk going unnoticed.

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Use an explicit protocol to assess individual and group activity

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The Educational Problem

Courses based on a complex educational organization, structured around individual and group activities and aimed at the construction of knowledge and of many concrete artifacts, requires to overcome the classical evaluation mode in the direction of one able to account for actions, interactions, products and processes. In addition, the evaluation - like the entire educational setting - should encourage accountability and the active role of students, becoming an integral part of the learning process, and moving from a learning evaluation to an assessment for learning.

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Add small-scale collaborative knowledge creation activities in a course emphasizing individual work

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The Educational Problem

Many university courses are conducted as conventional lecture-based courses and tasks emphasizing individual work because of practical reasons. For example, courses might be short and there is not enough time to organize proper collaborative processes which would be interesting for students, there are too many participants to effectively organize group work, or the teachers feel that they do not manage more challenging collaborative working methods well enough in order to implement them in their own courses.

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Synchronisation of course activities with many teachers and students

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The Educational Problem

When a course is a basic compulsory course for several faculties, many teachers and huge amount of students are involved in course activities. If a course comprises of several scheduled activities, it need to be carried out within a pre-defined period. If some of the group supervisors are not regularly teachers, but external experts, they are not always well-informed about the different phases and activities of a course. This creates difficulties in shared tasks distribution between students, monitoring and students’ work feedback and evaluation.  It the supervision  is not adapted  to course activities including the timing of tasks distribution and feedback, this may disturb and delay the students’ work. The same problem arises if some students do not follow scheduled tasks on time. This could spoil the quality of the team work.

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Promoting shared responsibility to work in teams

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The Educational Problem

When a course has an authentic customer, there is a motivation to work on the shared objects for being able to provide something worth while for the customer. However, it still has been a problem for students to work as a team. The “team” may share tasks and work separately - as a group, not as a team. Student teams often have communication problems, despite agreeing on the communication channels and tools, or some members are not present enough. The shared objects that come from the project itself by the customer help but are not enough.

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Student-teacher communication embedded in a developed document

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The Educational Problem

Suppose that we have a project based learning class, with students divided in multiple teams. As part of the deliverables, each team is required to submit a report with summary of the design steps, the decisions made and the outcomes.

Students are encouraged to seek advice, related to projects, by email. Most questions concern a specific design step and specific part of the project report. Usually, the email itself do not contain sufficient context for the teacher to provide an adequate answer, without looking at the project report first. When such mail arrives, the professor’s has to:

  1. Identify the team
  2. Find the related report document (on some document sharing platform)
  3. Find the particular place in the document
  4. Answer the question.

In cases where professors have to supervise dozens of project teams, the overhead of steps 1 to 3 becomes significant.

Another kind of problem is the decoupling of the email based questions/answers from the project artifacts. It makes both analyzing the project evolution and archiving all artifacts more complicated than necessary.

Description of the resource

Therefore, we are proposing a workflow, based on questions and answers embedded in the project report and automatically generated email notifications.

Prerequisites

  • The professors and students have Google accounts
  • Google Docs is used for collaborative project report authoring

Project initiation

  • For each team, create a Google document. Initially the document contains the subject of the project and the team members’ contact details.
  • Share the documents with the team members. Give them “Can edit” rights and select the “Notify people” check-box.
  • Google docs automatically sends emails to each student
  • The students can open the document by clicking on the "Open in Docs" link in the email. Later, they can find the document in the “Shared with me” folder of their Google Drive.

It’s important to note that the professor should remain the owner of the shared document. Also, in order to guarantee reasonable access control, the document should be shared with gmail accounts only.

Questions and answers

  • When a student need, he/she opens the shared document and adds a comment. The comment should be attached to some text in the area to which the question is related.
  • The owner of the document (i.e. the teacher) receives an email containing the text of the comment and a hyperlink to the comment itself.
  • By clicking on the hyperlink, the teacher gets to the exact place in the Google document where the comment is located, thus the context of the question is established.
  • The teacher review the text and answer the question by adding a "Reply" to the comment.

The proposed design patterns allows for more focused, context aware student to teacher communication. All questions and answers remain in the shared document. They might be hidden or even deleted, but still will be available in the documents history.

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Weekly exams

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The Educational Problem

On a 15 ECTS course where students are studying only the single course, the exam at the end covering the full content of the course may become really wide. Having a single exam at the end of the course also puts heavy requirements for students skills in concentrating on studies while the course is running as it may prove out to be impossible to learn everything the night before the final exam.

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Course feedback workshop

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The Educational Problem

Continuous development of courses would require comprehensive feedback from the participants of the course. The most widely used form of feedback is a questionnaire that is filled in after the course is completed. This approach has two main problems: timing of the feedback and one-way nature of the feedback. Furthermore, it is fairly challenging to get students answer open questions and therefore questionnaires quite often use mostly closed questions. Many times the answers to closed questions like “How would you rate the content of the course on scale 1...5?” provide very little help in developing the course further as it is not possible to know what the respondent thought was the problem with the course content.

For the trialogical approach, timing of the traditional feedback collection is the most important problem: it does not provide information for developing the course content during the course. It is like looking at a car’s back mirror.

One-way nature of the feedback diminishes possibilities of gaining comprehensive understanding of concerns of students as it is often impossible to ask clarifying questions about the feedback given by the students.

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Students learn new content by summarising topics on white boards in teams and teaching fellow students

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The Educational Problem

During the past few years it seems that students’ willingness to concentrate on lecture type of content has been decreasing. Furthermore, the trialogical approach on learning puts the project on “center stage” and leaves little energy for more boring, but still important means of learning like lectures. In our university, classrooms have been modified to facilitate trialogical learning. We have changed the traditional computer classrooms into team workspaces with tables organized in teams of six students and got rid of teacher’s table in the front . While new classroom setup enhances team work at the same time it makes harder to concentrate on long lectures.

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Share solutions of individual tasks to inspire others

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The Educational Problem

Course participants may feel that it is difficult to carry out a degree project and to write a report about it. They may occasionally experience “writer’s block” or simply not see viable ways to proceed and report work. Sometimes course participants may get stuck on rather simple issues about reporting, e.g., how something is typically presented or formulated. Furthermore, there are many different ways of carrying out a project and writing reports; being able to see how others solve similar problems can be inspiring and eye-opening and spur ideas.

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Plan supervision collaboratively and schedule it in relation to course activities

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The Educational Problem

Taking part in a course such as a degree course, requires project planning, e.g. having a schedule for when different activities need to be carried out.

The view of collaboration and supervision can be very different among people.

Supervisors are not always fully prepared for or have experiences of the supervisor task. Moreover, supervisors are not always aware of all course activities which will to a high degree affect the work of course participants. Especially supervisors who are not teachers of a course and recruited from other contexts may not be as engaged and well-informed about the different modules and activities of a course. Not adapting supervision to course activities including the timing of feedback may disturb and delay the students’ work. For instance, receiving feedback too late or even after required submission dates will not be helpful for course participants.

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Give recommendations about how to form groups

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The Educational Problem

Course participants may feel that it is challenging to change the composition of the groups that they have become used to working in. Teachers, on the other hand, may not be aware of how groups have been composed in earlier courses or modules and also intentionally encourage course participants to getting used to forming and establishing work practices in new groups. And in general, the view of collaboration and group work can be very different among people.

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External experts in schools

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The Educational Problem

For understanding the phenomena of various subjects more in depth and from several points of view, it would often be useful to invite external experts in schools or organize external visits outside of school for students. There are, however, several problems at school level in using external expertise. Problems are, e.g., how to get in touch with external experts, how to fit visits with the tight time schedule in schools, and how to link the visits meaningfully into the pedagogical curriculum so that the visits are useful, not only an additional or external activity.

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Promoting Collaboration Skills through Challenging Group Tasks

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The Educational Problem

Teacher exchange in engineering education is typically conducted in one week long intensive courses. While engineering is transferring more and more to pair-work or small group work, it is a real challenge to simulate this environment in short term intensive courses. However, it is worth of doing, since the tasks and projects are getting more intense also in the industry. Students need to learn collaboration skills and learning critical thinking in their professional engineering context.

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Una strategia per organizzare il lavoro nei gruppi – il Jigsaw [A strategy to support group-work – the Jigsaw / in Italian]

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Il problema pedagogico

Le attività trialogiche sono fondamentalmente basate sul lavoro di gruppo finalizzato alla creazione di conoscenza e oggetti concreti. Organizzare il lavoro nei gruppi e far sì che ciascuno contribuisca, si prenda carico della sua parte e si senta responsabile del gruppo, non è facile. E’ anzitutto necessario prevedere una strutturazione del compito che permetta di dividerlo in più parti connesse tra di loro in modo interdipendente e facendo sì che il livello di agency e creatività individuale siano valorizzati allo stesso modo del lavoro di gruppo.

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Practices for cross fertilization during the practical training in workplaces

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The Educational Problem

Work-based learning is an important part of any vocational training. Realization requires commitment and resources from the employer, the organizer of education as well as from the  student. On-the-job-learning period ensures that students' skills meet the requirements of the labor market. Practical work encourages students to learn and carry out studies till the end. During the-job-learning period student can make not only professional studies, but also general studies such as chemistry and mathematics.

There are a few problems related to the training period:

  • In vocational education, it is difficult to keep a contact with students while they are practicing. For students, practicing period is a good possibility to apply what they have learnt in school, but it easily remains somewhat separated from the school learning.
  • Because students work in different places, they cannot share their experiences and learn from each other. Students usually keep various types of diaries during their practicing period, but these are mainly shared afterwards, often only to the teacher, and the issues and ideas during the practicing period have already become outdated.
  • Many workplaces do not give permission to use mobile phones or tablets at the workplace, and this creates problems in keeping contact with the students or to ask students to report their learning experiences. A good example is that college students work in customer service or as practical nurses, and mobiles are not allowed in restaurants or hospitals. In some workplaces, it is possible to write about your job during the day but even then, pictures and videos might not be allowed. In addition, all students do not want to write in public, or the workplaces do not want that students publish their daily routines in the Internet. It is a problem if students cannot share what they have learnt while on the-job-learning period.
  • One more problem is how students can/will do collaborative work if they do not know each other well. They have to have something in common before the collaboration period.

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Repeated practice of critical skills for collaborative knowledge creation

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The Educational Problem

The reason for implementing group work, project work and collaborative writing task in educational settings are twofold. First, such ways of working are proven to be more effective for learning the content under study than students’ passive knowledge acquisition from books or lectures. Second, through participating in such practices, students are expected to learn skills and competencies required in these ways of working, such as social and collaboration skills, critical thinking, knowledge management and production skills. However, many students do not succeed very well in group work or progress expectedly in finalizing their products, and teachers lose their faith in the power and benefits of these working methods. The reason usually is that students are left too much alone in managing the new ways of working; they have to learn the critical skills spontaneously or through trial and error.

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Support for teacher collaboration

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The Educational Problem

Many teachers are not familiar with collaborative planning and managing an integrated large course. For this reason, planning and managing a new innovative course is often conducted only partially, the course activities remain less integrated and students’ learning activities do not succeed as well as they could.

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Teach concrete collaboration skills

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The Educational Problem

Because students are not used to collaboration for creating something new in longitudinal processes they lack concrete skills for such collaboration. School group work assignments are typically (often) voluntary, students’ assignments do not require several versions and iterations and they do not require students’ knowledge creation. As a consequence, students do not know how to engage in more demanding collaborative activities, such as inquiry or knowledge creation. Students have difficulties in making plans about how to work collaboratively, reflect on their process and outcomes, improve versions, and give feedback and utilise it. In addition, they are not used to collaborating with all students and some students prefer working alone.

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Justify course assignments to students as practice for work-related competences

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The Educational Problem

Students do not necessarily understand the reason for the working methods in a course, e.g. why they have to work in groups or collaborate with each other even if they would prefer studying alone, or why they have to seek for information and produce reports themselves, when the teacher could give expert lectures for them about the same issues

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Teach how to make concise but informative presentations

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The Educational Problem

In addition to writing long essays or reports, students need to learn to present knowledge and get their message through in a concise but informative way. Students need models and examples about how to make good presentation, and they need opportunities to practice such skills. Making typical slide presentations (e.g. multiple PowerPoint slides with bullet points) is a convention that is not always the most useful.

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Learning the tools

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The Educational Problem

Students have different experiences of and skills in using specific tools. When introducing new tools to a course some students may already be skilled in using the tools while other students may be unfamiliar with the tools. There is a risk that tools which are suddenly introduced disrupt more than they support individual learning and collaboration among students.

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Tools for student collaboration

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The Educational Problem

In some university courses, students may have many deadlines throughout the course and time and group management among the students may be crucial for passing the courses.

Students may need help in coping with the group work, the submission of assignments, and, with the workload in general both on an individual level as well as in the teams that they are engaged in.

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Establish rules for student collaboration 1

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The Educational Problem

Not all students are equally active in student groups which may cause friction and conflict. Some students may be more inclined to or used to engaging in collaborative work. Tight schedules and absences may add to friction and meeting virtually may make it more difficult than when meeting face to face to handle issues about when collaboration is not satisfactory.

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