This feature assists students to generate and then revise design-rules-of-thumb throughout a project experience. Design rules-of-thumb are lessons that are learned from experience. The template includes constructs that help students construct a design-rule-of-thumb, in the following format: When/If (describe the action, design, or choice you are working within) use/connect/build/employ/measure (list your suggestion or method) because (list or supply the evidence or science principle or concept that backs up your suggestion) (Figure 4). Students initially attempt to generate these rules-of-thumb in small groups based on their experimental results or on cases they are reading. They discuss the rules-of-thumb as a class and revise them. Ideally, students notice ideas they cannot explain, and identify the science they need to learn. Research shows that before use of the template, students were often unable to make the appropriate connections to science. When templates were used in the context of a class, teachers were better able to introduce the appropriate scientific concepts. When the teacher helped students create rules-of-thumb as a class before using the software, students using the software created better rules-of-thumb (with a richer situation description and justification) than students who did not have the template available in the software (Kolodner et al., 2004).
The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
Design rules of thumb can help students connect their project or investigation experience with the science that explains it (Kolodner, et. al, 2003, Ryan, et. al, 2001, Ryan, in preparation). Middle-school students can have trouble with any or all of the whole combination of extracting trends from investigation results, using science to explain those results, and seeing the connections between projects they are working on and applications of the science they are learning. Design rules of thumb are for making those connections explicit. Design rule of thumb templates provide help with making those connections. They can, ideally, also work as indexes suggesting when to apply scientific principles being learned.
Context of Use:
In Learning by Design classrooms, students generate and then revise design rules of thumb throughout a project experience (Kolodner, et. al., 2003). They first attempt to generate them in their small groups based on experimental results or on cases they are reading. They discuss the rules of thumb as a class and revise them, ideally noticing those they cannot explain and the science they need to learn and noticing different experiences that generate similar rules of thumb. After learning some of that science, they attach it to their rules of thumb. Later, they apply the rules of thumb to creating their design solutions, try out their design solutions, and sometimes notice that the rule of thumb doesnt work as expected. This provides a need to revise rules of thumb and/or to learn more of the science in order to understand the context in which the rule applies. A class creates and refines rules of thumb together, and everybody has the whole set available while doing their project work. A rules of thumb template can be used with our without software.
Before use of the template, students were often unable to make connections and teachers were often unable to recognize when it was time to introduce a science concept. When templates are used in the context of a class, teachers are better able to introduce the science (Ryan, et. al., 2001). When the teacher helps students create rules of thumb as a class before using the software, students using the software create better rules of thumb (with a richer situation description and a justification) than students who dont have the template available in the software (Owensby & Kolodner, submitted). This seems to be due not only to the availability of the template, but also to other features of the software that promote gaining a good understanding of the situation surrounding a design decision that someone else made. Even when the teacher did not do a good job of modeling the use of rules of thumb, those students who had the template available in software still created rules of thumb that made the important connections (unpublished).
Kolodner, J.L., Owensby, J.N. and Guzdial, M. (2004). Case-Based Learning Aids, In D.H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of Research for Education Communications and Technology, 2nd Ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Kolodner, J.L., Crismond, D., Fasse, B., Gray, J., Holbrook, J., Puntembakar, S. (2003, in final review). Putting a Student-Centered Learning by Design™ Curriculum into Practice: Lessons learned. Journal of the Learning Sciences, Vol.12 No.3.
Ryan, M., Camp, P. and Crismond, D. (2001). Design Rules of Thumb - Connecting Science and Design.
Owensby, J. & Kolodner, J.L. (2002, in press). Case Application Suite: Promoting Collaborative Case Application in Learning By Design™ Classrooms. Proceedings of the International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning, CSCL-2002, Jan 2002, pp. 505-506.
Ryan, M. MS thesis -- in preparation
Owensby, J.N., & Kolodner, J.L. (submitted). Helping Middle Schoolers Use Case to Reason: The Case Interpretation Tool.