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In most design disciplines there is usually a clear division of labour between designers, developers and evaluators. An architect designs a building, which a contractor builds. An inspector verifies that it meets all the required standards. (p. 1)

In Schön’s view, this is the antidote for what he calls the dilemma of abandonment: practitioners may feel, in relation to the academy, a sense of having been seduced and abandoned. [. . .] an erosion of practitioners’ faith in the ability of academic research to deliver knowledge usable for solving social problems. [. . .] On the other hand, when practitioners accept and try to use the academy’s esoteric knowledge they are apt to discover that its appropriation alienates then from their own understandings, engendering a loss of their sense of competence and control. He concludes that “nowhere are these dilemmas more apparent than in the field of education” (Schön, 1992b, p. 120). (p. 2)

Teacher inquiry, which emerged in the late 1980s (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999), can be seen both as a way to improve day-to-day teaching in the classroom and as professional development for teachers. Clarke and Erickson (2003) define teacher inquiry as a set of research practices by which teachers examine their practice and its effects on students’ learning, in order to enhance their professional knowledge and improve their practice (p. 2)

In their extensive survey of the literature, Clark et al identified that: key characteristics that may contribute to a broadly conceptualised definition of teacher inquiry include the notion that it is: systematic, intentional, contextual, self-critical, practical, action oriented, planned, evidence-based, evaluative, and shared, and the main challenge lies in transforming teachers’ personal skills, knowledge, and expertise into professional skills, knowledge and expertise. (Clark, Luckin & Jewitt, 2011, p. 8) (p. 2)

Taking this a step further, teacher inquiry into student learning (TISL) focuses on the evidence base of student learning data that is available in technology-rich environments and its role in improving practice. TISL is a systematic, intentional, design-oriented approach to teachers’ technology-supported inquiry into students’ learning. It focuses on the development and use of formative e-assessment methods using advanced learning technologies (digital tools) to capture, analyse, interpret, share and evaluate student data. In so doing, it aims to contribute to the development of teacher professionalism and school improve- ment through a focus on teacher-centred, practice-based, evidence-oriented research activity. (Clark et al, 2011, p. 13) (p. 3)

The data-informed approach to teacher inquiry, a key quality of TISL, is part of a wider trend in education, towards the use of data and analytics to inform educational practice. (p. 3)

Dietz-Uhler and Hurn (2013) review eight institutions that have incorporated learning analytics into their teaching and learning systems and list a variety of uses they observed. (p. 4)

A current problem is that the information provided by learning analytics tools is not generally aligned with teachers’ needs for the management of learning activities. We need to be aware that the pedagogical decisions embedded in learning designs affect both the learning analytics process and its outcomes. We also need to take into account that mixed approaches will be necessary to represent and understand the complex dynamics of groups of students in online learning envi- ronments. (p. 4)

Arguably, most of the work in the field of learning design has focused on the creative processe (p. 4)

Very little has been done in terms of the practices, tools and representations used for evaluating the effects of the designs. (p. 4)

Several approaches emphasise top-down quality enhancement, which help designers to base their work on sound pedagogical principles. What is missing is the trajectory that would complete the feedback loop: the built-in evaluation of designs to see whether they achieved the expected outcomes. (p. 4)

TISL also stands to benefit from a dialogue with learning design. Inquiry, as proposed by Dewey, is a learning process modelled on the practices of scientific work. Teachers frame conjectures, identify the suitable methods for testing these conjectures, conduct empirical work to implement these test, and share and reflect on the outcomes. Indeed, teacher inquiry has also been referred to as teacher research or classroom action research.Yet, when we say “scientific work,” what do we mean?The dominant interpretation in this context would be based on the paradigms of social sciences. By contrast, Laurillard (2013) and Mor and Winters (2007) propose Simon’s notion of design science as a valuable alternative (Simon, 1996). (p. 5)

Combining learning design andTISL can thus give birth to a “citizen design science of learning.” What this combination still lacks is its scientific instruments: how can we actually measure the effects of a design? Learning analytics offer an answer to this question. (p. 5)

The field of learning analytics faces considerable challenges, some of which could be addressed by a closer dialogue with learning design and TISL. Some of these are technical, some political, cultural or administrative, some ethical (Dietz-Uhler & Hurn, 2013; Ferguson, 2012). (p. 5)

The linking of learning design and teacher inquiry is aligned both with Schön’s conception of design as inquiry and with Simon’s model of design science. Learning analytics provide the instrument for making this design inquiry of learning truly powerful. (p. 6)

Emin-Martínez et al (2014) take a first step towards this integration and propose a teacher-led design inquiry of learning as a new model of educational practice and professional development. The model is designed to capture the essence of the synergy of learning design,TISL and learning analytics. (p. 6)

Sharing analytics with students enhances their opportunities for self- assessment, whereas opening up design for learning provides a way to share the quality principles that govern education. This can have positive impact on understanding, negotiating and inno- vating for educational quality. (p. 7)

Beetham, H. & Sharpe, R. (2013). Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: designing for 21st-century learning. London: Routledge. (p. 7)

Clarke, A. & Erickson, G. L. (2003). Teacher inquiry: a defining feature of professional practice. In A. Clarke & G. Erickson (Eds), Teacher inquiry: living the research in everyday practice (pp. 1–6). London: Psychology Press. (p. 8)

Craft, B. & Mor, Y. (2012). Learning Design: mapping the landscape. Research in Learning Technology, 20, 85–94. (p. 8)

Cross, N. (2001). Designerly ways of knowing: design discipline versus design science. Design Issues, 17,3, 49–55. (p. 8)

Kali, Y., McKenney, S. & Sagy, O. (2012). Teachers as designers of technology enhanced learning. Instruc- tional Science, 1–7. (p. 8)

McKenney, S. & Mor, Y. (2015). Supporting teachers in data-informed educational design. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46, 2, 265–279. (p. 8)

Persico, D. & Pozzi, F. (2014). Informing learning design with learning analytics to improve teacher inquiry. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46, 2, 230–248. (p. 9)

Schön, D. A. (1992a). Designing as reflective conversation with the materials of a design situation. Research in Engineering Design, 3, 3, 131–147. (p. 9)

Schön, D. A. (1992b). The theory of inquiry: Dewey’s legacy to education. Curriculum Inquiry, 22,2, 119–139. (p. 9)

Simon, H. A. (1996). The sciences of the artificial Vol. 136. Boston: MIT Press. (p. 9)

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Bodong Chen



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Bodong Chen, University of Minnesota

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