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Inquiry for Learning Design

Project website/blog


What research questions the project addresses, aims & themes

The overarching aim of the research is to solidify the theoretical foundations of the field of Learning Design, construct a comprehensive methodological framework on these foundations, and develop a set of tools to support this framework.

Learning Design is the act of devising new practices, plans of activity, resources and tools aimed at achieving educational aims. Concepts central to the discussion are context, practice, and change. The context of learning design encompasses the material, social and intentional factors which define the space in which learners and educators operate. Practice includes both epistemic practice (“How we learn”) and pedagogical practice (“how we teach”). Finally, design always aims to change existing situations into desired ones. There is a need for formalisms and methodologies that allow a scientific and operational articulation of these elements.

The objectives of this research include:

  • Articulating conceptual and operational formalisms for capturing context, epistemic and pedagogical practice, and models of change.
  • Exploring methodologies, situated in defined domains of practice, for eliciting such representations and utilising them effectively in supporting educational innovation.
  • Enhancing existing software tools to support these methodologies and facilitate the activity of a vibrant researcher and practitioner community committed to them.
  • Establishing a culture of practitioner design inquiry in TEL, in which educators use the representations, methodologies and tools above to sustain scientifically informed creative practices in their professional context. 

How the research questions are addressed by the project (methodology and activity/environment)

The research will integrate three existing constructs - design narratives, design principles and design patterns, and propose a fourth form – design scenarios. Design narratives describe a concrete practical challenge in a defined domain, the actions taken to resolve it and their unfolding effects. Design principles are imperative statements which synthesize the findings of scientific research in a manner accessible for practitioners and summarise insights from practical experience to inform scientific discourse. Patterns are generalised narratives, offering a canonical description of a common challenge, the characteristics of the context in which it occurs, and a possible method of solution. Scenarios complete the picture by projecting design claims into the future as hypothesized narratives. 

Findings and outputs

Initial draft of major research proposal, including review of state of the art, identification of grand challenges, definition of detailed research agenda and consideration of potential sources of funding.  High intensity collaborative bid writing. 

Project impact

Conducted a workshop at the Alpine Rendez Vous, which produced a paper submission to EC TEL and a call for a special issue of BJET (pending publication).

Produced a paper for ALT C and the conference issue of RLT.

Conducted meetings with potential partners from Aarhus university, CAMFED and STIR education.

Surveyed potential funding sources, results shared with IET research admin.

Proposal for EPSRC base funding conceptualised. 


Learning design, design inquiry of learning, teacher training, design research  

People involved

Yishay Mor (IET)

Mike Sharples (IET)

Patrick McAndrew (IET)

Peter Twining (FELS)

Project partners and links



The Open University 

Start Data and Duration

April 2012 - July 2013 


Research & Innovation