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Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology

reviewed by Mary Lynn Collins - March 08, 2013

coverTitle: Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology
Author(s): Diana Laurillard
Publisher: Routledge, New York
ISBN: 041580387X, Pages: 272, Year: 2012
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All the national and international accolades that appear in the book and on the back cover of Teaching as a Design Science are justly deserved; this is an innovative endeavor by a visionary author, Diana Laurillard. This review provides a different direction from the accolades. Based on the subtitle, Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology, this reviewer observed that the book should be a required text in graduate teacher education courses.  At the time the book was read this reviewer was simultaneously teaching graduate students content found in many sections of the book in a course entitled Advanced Human Growth and Development.  This text is rich in research studies and the use of digital technologies to enhance learning. This review will be more aligned with a consideration of the book as a potential education text. In this review the use of the word book and the word text will be used interchangeably.

The author accurately discusses how the profession overall is sadly lacking in effective use of digital technology. (To demonstrate this point, many teachers and teacher educators feel using power point underscores their use of technology.) This is understandable as the American people have expected the education community to maintain traditions and this has worked for many years. Today that is neither feasible nor desirable. The world of work that the students enter is high tech and they need to be well prepared.  

Dr. Laurillard provides teacher educators with a practical, scholarly text that demonstrates how teaching can be a design science similar to engineering, architecture, computer science and medicine.  Design science stresses principles over theories, is pragmatic in its approach and aptly uses digital technologies.  As she stated:

Precisely because of their potential to change education unbidden, it is imperative that teachers and lecturers place themselves in a position where they are able to master the use of digital technologies, to harness their power, and put them to the proper service of education. (p. 2).

In this text the author clearly demonstrates how educators are able to assume leadership roles in designing and promoting the use of digital technology that enhances instruction.  Leading educators are noted for researching and developing innovative models to improve practice but with the onset of digital technology educators have relinquished this leadership role to others.  Dr. Laurillard has emphatically stated that this must change and she has provided chapters that integrate digital technology within the teaching and learning process.

The author begins the journey to understand design science and the role of digital technologies by analyzing the present state of formal learning. The discussion centers around the stake holders from the academicians seeking to preserve the uniqueness of their subjects, to the business world seeking employees with more general ability such as abstract and logical thinking, to the classroom teacher who seeks outcomes across disciplines that will increase the students’ ability to think critically by analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating and being creative. These needs and wants of the different stakeholders provide an uncomfortable tension when addressing formal education. With this background the author begins to explore the role of each stakeholder.

Dr. Laurillard starts with the most important stakeholder, the students.  She discusses their growth, from cognitive to affective development, as they proceed through their formal education. She also provides an important comparison between formal and informal learning that reminds educators that students come with many life experiences outside of the classroom. The important role of the teacher in their interactions in the classroom significantly determines much of students’ academic success and confidence in themselves and the figure on page 38, Conceptual framework showing influence on student learning, is an excellent visual that ties the students’ characteristics with the teaching-learning environment. The only missing element is the teacher characteristics that affect student learning. This chapter has a number of research studies that illustrate the many supported ways to improve the teaching/learning process.

Chapter Four, What it takes to Learn, is a recap of topics found in any Educational Psychology course with a discussion of the major studies and theories on learning. Each theory and study provides a unique perspective and contributes to understanding the learning process. This is an important review in order to put into context the plans teachers implement to improve achievement in the classroom.  This connecting chapter leads appropriately into Chapter Five-What it Takes to Teach. The author makes a distinction and rationale for using the title “Designing for Learning” rather than the typical title instructional design. She supports this by indicating that all that happens in a classroom has to do with the learning that takes or does not take place. Again an excellent figure, on page 65, The principal context factors influencing the design of teaching and learning, provides a visual that connects the interactions between the students and the teachers.  Feedback, reflection and evaluation are intertwined among all the elements identified in the figure for both students and teachers.  Dr. Laurillard encourages teachers to question whether their strategies and activities are adequate.  This is an excellent chapter on planning for effective instruction and reinforces the author’s belief that teaching is a design science.

The next chapter delves more deeply into studying the use of digital technologies through a comparison of conventional technology with digital technology. This comparison is based on learning from the perspective of acquisition, inquiry, practice, production, discussion and collaboration. The table on page 96 provides examples from each of these identified perspectives.  However, the education community is still not willing to view digital technologies as an integral part of the learning process, either in curriculum plans or in assessments. As the author emphasizes, there is a great need for the formal education establishment to get control of the technologies and use them effectively because the technological world continues to expand, students’ use of technology outside of education continues to increase ,and formal education needs to be a willing partner in the equation.

The ensuing informative chapters cover more in depth learning through acquisition, inquiry, discussion, practice and collaboration. Based on solid research described in each chapter, the reader will find effective strategies to improve learning and the effective use of digital technologies where appropriate.  The final chapter is a plea for educators to view education as a design science by considering the following actions:


keep improving their practice,


have a principled way of designing and testing improvements in practice,


build on the work of others,


represent and share their pedagogic practice, the outcomes they achieved, and how these relate to the elements of their design (p.211)

All four of these statements indicate sound practices that are important to consider regardless of whether one is working with curriculum, instruction, assessments or digital technologies. Based on this view Dr. Laurillard has provided a way for educators to be inclusive in their planning and instruction and true believers of education as a design science.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: March 08, 2013
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17048, Date Accessed: 12/6/2021 4:01:12 PM

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About the Author
  • Mary Collins
    Nova Southeastern University
    E-mail Author
    MARY LYNN COLLINS is a Professor in the Fischler Graduate School of Education, Nova Southeastern University. Her research interests include teacher behaviors that influence student learning particularly teacher enthusiasm.
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