Learner-centered design

Summary: Learner centered design focuses on creating software for heterogeneous groups of learners who need scaffolding as they learn while completing constructivist activities.

Originators and Key Contributors: Elliot Soloway, Mark Guzdian, Kenneth E. Hay

Keywords: constructivism, learner-centered design, learners, scaffolding, software

Learner-centered Design

Learner-centered design (LCD) theory emphasizes the importance of supporting the learners’ growth and motivational needs in designing software. In addition, since learners have different learning needs and learn in different ways, the software must be designed for the specific learner-audience.

The concept of scaffolds is central to learner-centered design. In order to support learners optimally, software should be designed with scaffolds that will support the learners as they need it. Examples of scaffolds in software are hints, explanation and encouragement to help learners understand a process, and questions to help learners reflect on what they are learning.

Software scaffolds that support learners best are adaptive, meaning that they change according to what the learner needs in any learning moment. When a learner needs more support, the software provides an increase in feedback to help the learner grow, stay engaged, and progress in mastering a skill. When the learner is reaching mastery, the software will provide reduced scaffolds in response to the learner’s increased skill level.

In focusing on learner-centered design, four elements must be addressed in designing the software. They are:

Connectivism (Siemens, Downes)

Summary: Connectivism is a learning theory that explains how Internet technologies have created new opportunities for people to learn and share information across the World Wide Web and among themselves. Originators & Proponents: George Siemens, Stephen Downes Keywords: communication, connection, distributed cognition, distributed learning, information, Internet, knowledge sharing, links, massive open online course (MOOC), nodes, […]

Anchored Instruction (Bransford, Cognition & Technology Group at Vanderbilt)

Summary: Anchored Instruction involves the use of an “anchor” material or media, often a video, to create a shared experience among learners and a beginning point for further learning on a topic. Originators & Proponents: Cognition & Technology Group at Vanderbilt (CTGV), John D. Bransford Keywords: anchor, case-based learning, case study, curriculum, discussion, shared experience, […]

Semiotics (de Saussure, Barthes, Bakhtin)

Summary: Semiotics is the study of how people make meaning through both linguistic and non-linguistic ways. It is a philosophical theory concerned with understanding how people use signs and symbols in meaning-making. Originators & Proponents: Ferdinand de Saussure[1], Roland Barthes, Mikhail Bakhtin Keywords: communication, connotation, culture, denotation, icon, index, lexicon, linguistics, logic, meaning, mode, rules, […]

Social Development Theory (Vygotsky)

Summary: Social Development Theory argues that social interaction precedes development; consciousness and cognition are the end product of socialization and social behavior.

Originator: Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934).

Key terms: Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), More Knowledgeable Other (MKO)

Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory

Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory is the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), who lived during Russian Revolution. Vygotsky’s work was largely unkown to the West until it was published in 1962.

Vygotsky’s theory is one of the foundations of constructivism. It asserts three major themes:

Major themes:

Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development. In contrast to Jean Piaget’s understanding of child development (in which development necessarily precedes learning), Vygotsky felt social learning precedes development. He states: “Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological).” (Vygotsky, 1978).
The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO). The MKO refers to anyone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept. The MKO is normally thought of as being a teacher, coach, or older adult, but the MKO could also be peers, a younger person, or even computers.

Communities of Practice (Lave and Wenger)

Summary: Etienne Wenger summarizes Communities of Practice (CoP) as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” This learning that takes place is not necessarily intentional. Three components are required in order to be a CoP: (1) the domain, (2) the community, and (3) the practice.

Originators: Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in 1991 and further elaborated in 1998.

Key Terms: domain, community, practice, identity, learning

Communities of Practice

The term was first used in 1991 by theorists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger who discussed the notion of legitimate peripheral participation. In 1998, the theorist Etienne Wenger extended the concept and applied it to other domains, such as organizations. With the flourishing of online communities on the Internet, as well as the increasing need for improved knowledge management, there has been much more interest as of late in communities of practice. People see them as ways of promoting innovation, developing social capital, facilitating and spreading knowledge within a group, spreading existing tacit knowledge, etc.

Communities of Practice can be defined, in part, as a process of social learning that occurs when people who have a common interest in a subject or area collaborate over an extended period of time, sharing ideas and strategies, determine solutions, and