Gutiérrez, Kris D. & Jurow, A. Susan (2016): Social design experiments: Toward equity by design, Journal of the Learning Sciences, DOI: 10.1080/10508406.2016.1204548

Under consult of design research traditions in iterating educational inventions that ground theory in practice within particular contexts, Gutiérrez and Jurow put forward social design experimentation (SDE) as an additional but needed methodological commitment to non-dominant learner communities (immigrant learners, dual language learners, under-resourced learners, etc.). Where traditional design-based research (DBR) aims to craft novel observations, understandings, and technologies in the contexts of transforming existing institutions, SDE seeks social transformation and equity by reorganizing educational systems so that learners may actively engineer their own fates. The goal for SDE is the empowerment of a learner to consciously and intentionally situate action within his or her own sense of identity. Doing so–critically analyzing and comprehending the orientations behind one’s own practices–defines potential new agency for any individual. The development of this sort of opportunity is the goal of SDE and a means by which equity may be found by all learners as their varied knowledge, expertise, and experiences are celebrated–upending more traditional and institutional power structures by creating new, diverse communities of practice.

Gutiérrez and Jurow offer examples of social design works to illustrate how the foregrounding of equity as a design consideration is not just socially ideal but also pragmatic. Fairness is generally a valuable pursuit and access to equity is a byproduct of one’s consciously situating his or her identity among larger historical and institutionalized practices so as to problematize these structures. The difficulty, for researchers and students alike, may very well be the complexity and variety of new learning practices and identities that result from SDE. The cultivation of communities for teacher and learner alike is an active, taxing process of reorientation around other individuals. That said, careful implementation of SDE may certainly expand DBR beyond the scope of learning contexts. Also, the authors’ discussion of syncretic texts–reconciling historical and cultural oppositions within a new communicative gesture–seems apt for consideration when developing content for open educational resources.

Fishman, B. J., Davis, E. A., & Chan, C. K. K. (2014). A learning sciences perspective on teacher learning research. In R. K. Sawyer, (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (2nd ed., pp. 707-725). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Fishman, Davis, and Chan focus on the importance of teacher learning to the cultivation of cognitive, sociocultural, and systems-oriented learning innovation. The suggestions seems a valid one, that the beliefs and knowledge of faculty change and grow under professional teacher development. Naturally, communities of practice and knowledge building as means of further situating and contextualizing their learning in more local, practical contexts. Ultimately, they recommend that teacher learning is crucial to learning in general. As someone who oversees faculty development with academic technology, I don’t disagree.

Nathan, M. J., & Sawyer, R. K. (2014). Foundations of the learning sciences. In R. K. Sawyer, (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (2nd ed., pp. 21-43). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Nathan and Sawyer base the foundations of Learning Sciences (LS) in a joint preoccupation with research and practice. The “ideal progress” for LS projects, they recommend, is the iterative design and redesign of interventions based on real-world implementation and evaluation. Doing so should produce broader theories and more reliable models for explaining human learning. The authors proceed to contextualize LS in the traditions of scientific, constructivist, sociocultural, pragmatic, elemental, and systemic approaches to research and analysis. Conclusively, the schools of thought that fund LS come together to regard learning as most effective when learners find the agency to ground novel experiences or ideas in practical, collaborative, and reflective applications.

Sawyer, K. (2014). Introduction: The new science of learning. In R. K. Sawyer, (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (2nd ed., pp. 1-18). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Sawyer introduces Learning Sciences (LS) as an interdisciplinary field that acknowledges the ways in which learning takes place in a variety of settings and contexts that may or may not be connected with traditional classrooms. Under this gaze, the cognitive and social factors at play in one’s learning may be better understood and applied to the redesign of more conventional learning environments. Sawyer documents the origin and history of the field and situates the chapters of the Cambridge Handbook in support of a still emergent field of study at the intersection of education as art and education as a science.

Valiente, M.-C., Sicilia, M.-A., Garcia-Barriocanal, E., & Rajabi, E. (2015). Adopting the metadata approach to improve the search and analysis of educational resources for online learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 51, 1134–1141.


This study seeks insight as to how the emergence of learning resource collections being created primarily by way of metadata–data about data–harvesting and aggregation might be improved to further empower the searches of students and teachers alike. As it stands, descriptive programming of metadata is often inconsistent among platforms.

Looking at keywords authored under the Learning Object Metadata (LOM) standard, researchers tracked the frequency of use and categorized the keywords under four different classifications: general keywords, classification keywords, entries, and coverage. Ideally, the sample learning objects would fit all four classifications yet none did.

Though their findings were not as successful as they had hoped, there is promise in English being well represented in metadata similarities. This enforces the idea that universal implementation of a meta data standard like LOM could greatly increase the breadth and accuracy of searches for educational resources online.

Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (2015). Qwerty and the international knowledge building design community. Qwerty, 10(1), 29–36.

This article analyzes the role of Qwerty–an open and interdisciplinary journal of technology, culture, and education–in establishing a knowledge building community. By looking critically at the trends in work published as well the publication’s editorial mission, certain inferences emerge about the Learning Sciences as a discipline.

The observation driving the authors’ reflection is that learning scientists necessarily aim to operate as a design community. Their work this will be measured for its successfully solving problems and challenging assumptions, not by the quality of their research and empirical explanation of phenomena. Citing other academic disciplines, the authors claim that design communities must innovate and do so collaboratively if they wish to thrive.

By way of further reflection and discussion, the authors position Qwerty as a valuable alternative to other learning sciences journals where submissions adhere to a traditional model of “research reports plus reflection/argumentation.” For this reason, Qwerty considers design-relevant issues, criticism, and ideas that seem more at home in less scientific venues. If anything, a piece like this further solidifies the Learning Sciences as a comprehensive discipline because it is capable of acknowledging and empowering any variety of research practice.