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The process of designing for learning: understanding university teachers’ design work

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Abstract

Interest in how to support the design work of university teachers has led to research and development initiatives that include technology-based design-support tools, online repositories, and technical specifications. Despite these initiatives, remarkably little is known about the design work that university teachers actually do. This paper presents findings from a qualitative study that investigated the design processes of 30 teachers from 16 Australian universities. The results show design as a top-down iterative process, beginning with a broad framework to which detail is added through cycles of elaboration. Design extends over the period before, while, and after a unit is taught, demonstrating the dynamic nature of design and highlighting the importance of reflection in teachers’ design practice. We present a descriptive model of the design process, which we relate to conceptualizations of higher education teaching and learning, and compare with the characteristics of general design and instructional design. We also suggest directions for future research and development.

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Notes

  1. The generic term “unit” is used throughout this paper to refer to a component of a program of study (e.g. a degree) that a teacher designs for students. Depending on the institutional and national context, this may be variously termed unit, course, subject, or module.

  2. We have subsequently begun to replicate the study internationally in collaboration with local partner investigators to assist with recruitment and interpretation. These studies are underway and will generate comparative datasets.

  3. The number of universities in Australia has increased since this research was completed.

  4. The generic term “session” is used here to refer to the time period over which a unit is offered to students. Depending on the context, this may be variously termed session, semester, or term. It is distinct from “class”, which refers to a lecture, tutorial, workshop, or practice class, usually face-to-face, scheduled during a teaching session.

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Bennett, S., Agostinho, S. & Lockyer, L. The process of designing for learning: understanding university teachers’ design work. Education Tech Research Dev 65, 125–145 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-016-9469-y

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