But in the arts anything goes; the imperative is to create a powerful experience for the audience. That is not true for teaching; it must do more than that. It also has a formally defined goal. The imperative for teaching is that learners develop their personal knowledge and capabilities.
– Diana Laurillard
Diana Laurillard in her book Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology explores the way the principles coming out of design science are relevant and applicable to teaching, students, and schools.
In her introduction Laurillard develops a thesis that there is an art to teaching, but there is also a science. That is, teaching involves not just artistry but also method, research, and outcome. Teaching, she argues, “is closer to the kind of science, like engineering, computer science, or architecture, whose imperative it is to make the world a better place: a design science” (1). She explores how, if we take teaching as a design science and approach teaching and learning through this lens, we can build better learning communities.
The book moves on to emphasize the role technology in particular can play in changing the educational landscape. She writes that technology is a “flawed and misunderstood anti-hero who ought to come to good in the end” (2). She explains that historically education has not driven technological innovation, but most recently it has been greatly affecting the educational world. Laurillard argues that instead of passively receiving, the field of education must shape, design, and drive technological innovation. “To do that,” she writes, “we have to be clear about where education is driving itself—what is its role and purpose in twenty-first century society?” (2) Here is where education vision and overarching philosophy become central. As we design the educational technology we must do so in light in of shared educational aims. As Laurillard points out, with technology, “what is learned by changing how it is learned” (3).
With the influx of technology, she sees the teacher’s position as becoming more valued. She sees the importance of teaching the process of learning, questioning, and exploration as heightened with technology. This is opposite to the encouraging results coming out of the One Laptop Per Child movement bringing tablets to students in Ethiopia which have shown that students can learn effectively without teachers and learn to manipulate technology to their needs. I would argue that teachers also hold a crucial position as role model in teaching character, social norms, culture and customs–something technology cannot do. In any case, for Laurillard, the heightened importance of the teacher in this new landscape means there is a need to focus on how teachers learn. There is a very delicate and intricate relationship between the student and teacher. Laurillard, saying the relationship between student and teacher is more complex than rocket science, writes “rocket science is about moving atoms from a to b, teaching is about moving minds. And the whole point is to change those minds into independent thinkers who will not necessarily bend to the will of the teacher” (5). Laurillard cites a lofty “whole point,” which most certainly seems an educational goal worth holding onto in the process of building future citizens. The point of education should be not just to teach what to think, but how to think, and to think critically and self-reflectively.
Laurillard argues that in order for the shift to occur and for teachers to use design science in their work, teachers need to be empowered to do the research, and their own experience as teachers must be validated as an expertise. She writes that teachers must “be able to articulate and share their pedagogic practice, the outcomes they achieved and how those outcomes related to the elements of their design” (9). As teachers design their curriculum, she writes, it is important for teachers to keep the balance between learning outcomes specific to the discipline and outcomes shared across disciplines: “specific knowledge will be peculiar to the discipline, but the generic skills needed for twenty-first century employment and citizenship are widely applicable across the disciplines”(18). In summary, learning to be thinkers as well as knowledgeable about the specifics of disciplines is a calling both for teachers and students.
Laurillard brings an important perspective to the way we think about teaching and learning. The bulk of the book goes into detailed ideas for how to incorporate technology and design science into teaching and student learning. She illuminates ways design science can have application for the education community, even if the book as whole gives the impression that technology is the chief and central way all education should be administered when in fact it seems a healthy mix of different types of educational experiences, some outdoors, more classical expository types, would also be good as well. That is to say, obviously education is an important tool that can be leveraged in learning experiences, but it is also important to highlight when a tech free experience, such as in outdoor education or perhaps some (not all) art and music education experiences. Put another way, a learning experienced could be greatly improved both with the addition of technology and also with the removal of it and having the option of both is essential to keep in mind. She is on point when she says that education needs to drive the development of technology used in classrooms. And her strong push for teacher’s autonomy in classroom lesson planning and cross-disciplinary collaboration moves the educational conversation in the right direction. Education Takes a Stand: Teaching and Learning Driving Technology Innovation