The role of design-principles in designing courses that promote collaborative learning in higher-education

Yael Kali, Rachel Levin-Peled, Yehudit Judy Dori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Design-patterns and design-principles represent two approaches, which elicit design knowledge from successful learning environments and formulate it as design guidelines. The two approaches are fairly similar in their strategies, but differ in their research origins. This study stems from the design-principles approach, and explores how learning is affected by curriculum-materials designed according to two main design-principles: (a) engage learners in peer instruction, and (b) reuse student artifacts as resource for further learning. These principles were employed in three higher-education courses and examined with 385 students. Data analysis was conducted in two trajectories: In the "bird's eye view" trajectory we used a "feature" unit of analysis to illustrate how learning was supported by features designed according to the two design-principles in each of the courses. In the "design-based research" trajectory we focused on one feature, a web-based Jigsaw activity, in a philosophy of education course, and demonstrated how it was refined via three design iterations. Students were required to specialize in one of three philosophical perspectives, share knowledge with peers who specialized in other perspectives, and reuse the shared knowledge in new contexts. Outcomes indicated that the design in the first iteration did not sufficiently support student ability to apply the shared knowledge. Two additional design-principles were employed in the next iterations: (c) provide knowledge representation and organization tools, and (d) employ multiple social-activity structures. The importance of combining several design-principles for designing curricular materials is discussed in terms of Alexander's design-pattern language and his notion of referencing between design-patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1067-1078
Number of pages12
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant number ESI-0334199. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are ours and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. We benefited from helpful conversations with the Technology-Enhanced Learning in Science (TELS) Group, and the Design Group at the department of Education in Technology and Science at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. We thank all those who contributed from their design knowledge and experience to the Design Principles Database.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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