Models for Learning (Mod4L) Final Report: Representing Learning Designs

Falconer, Isobel; Beetham, Helen; Oliver, Ron; Lockyer, Lori and Littlejohn, Allison (2007). Models for Learning (Mod4L) Final Report: Representing Learning Designs. Jisc.


The Mod4L Models of Practice project is part of the JISC-funded Design for Learning Programme. It ran from 1 May – 31 December 2006. The philosophy underlying the project was that a general split is evident in the e-learning community between development of e-learning tools, services and standards, and research into how teachers can use these most effectively, and is impeding uptake of new tools and methods by teachers. To help overcome this barrier and bridge the gap, a need is felt for practitioner-focused resources which describe a range of learning designs and offer guidance on how these may be chosen and applied, how they can support effective practice in design for learning, and how they can support the development of effective tools, standards and systems with a learning design capability (see, for example, Griffiths and Blat 2005, JISC 2006). Practice models, it was suggested, were such a resource.

The aim of the project was to: develop a range of practice models that could be used by practitioners in real life contexts and have a high impact on improving teaching and learning practice.

We worked with two definitions of practice models. Practice models are:

1. generic approaches to the structuring and orchestration of learning activities. They express elements of pedagogic principle and allow practitioners to make informed choices (JISC 2006)

However, however effective a learning design may be, it can only be shared with others through a representation. The issue of representation of learning designs is, then, central to the concept of sharing and reuse at the heart of JISC’s Design for Learning programme. Thus practice models should be both representations of effective practice, and effective representations of practice. Hence we arrived at the project working definition of practice models as:

2. Common, but decontextualised, learning designs that are represented in a way that is usable by practitioners (teachers, managers, etc).(Mod4L working definition, Falconer & Littlejohn 2006).

A learning design is defined as the outcome of the process of designing, planning and orchestrating learning activities as part of a learning session or programme (JISC 2006).

Practice models have many potential uses: they describe a range of learning designs that are found to be effective, and offer guidance on their use; they support sharing, reuse and adaptation of learning designs by teachers, and also the development of tools, standards and systems for planning, editing and running the designs.

The project took a practitioner-centred approach, working in close collaboration with a focus group of 12 teachers recruited across a range of disciplines and from both FE and HE. Focus group members are listed in Appendix 1. Information was gathered from the focus group through two face to face workshops, and through their contributions to discussions on the project wiki. This was supplemented by an activity at a JISC pedagogy experts meeting in October 2006, and a part workshop at ALT-C in September 2006. The project interim report of August 2006 contained the outcomes of the first workshop (Falconer and Littlejohn, 2006).

The current report refines the discussion of issues of representing learning designs for sharing and reuse evidenced in the interim report and highlights problems with the concept of practice models (section 2), characterises the requirements teachers have of effective representations (section 3), evaluates a number of types of representation against these requirements (section 4), explores the more technically focused role of sequencing representations and controlled vocabularies (sections 5 & 6), documents some generic learning designs (section 8.2) and suggests ways forward for bridging the gap between teachers and developers (section 2.6).

All quotations are taken from the Mod4L wiki unless otherwise stated.

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