ISDDE Newsletter May 2015


  • Boulder conference – Keynotes; Working Groups; Other
  • Announcements – 2015 ISDDE Prize; Next Chair of ISDDE; Initial information about ISDDE 2016 Conference; Call for interest in hosting ISDDE 2017 Conference
  • Other news
  • About ISDDE

This edition of the ISDDE newsletter is being sent directly to the email address we have for Fellows, members and other interested parties.


A key goal of ISDDE is to create better connections between educational designers wherever they are.

Educative Design: 2015 ISDDE Conference

The 2016 ISDDE Conference was held at the University of Colorado Boulder in late September. David Webb and his team treated participants to an interesting and engaging program. And the scenery was pretty good too!

Summaries of a number of the sessions are included below, along with links for further information. But first, a testimonial. Dan Zalles from SRI International in Palo Alto California said about his first ISDDE Conference...

"I found the conference to be very stimulating in many ways. Here are a couple of highlights. First, as a participant in the small group devoted to design-based implementation research, I found the conversations to be very enriching because they enlarged my perspectives about how many different actors need to be considered when scaling up innovations. My past projects have introduced innovations that impact teachers and students so my focus has primarily been on how to address their needs. These discussions concerned in addition software engineers, content experts, learning scientists, assessment experts, and media experts. We discussed how each of these types of innovation stakeholders concern themselves with different facets of innovation such as teacher attitudes about curricula selection, school administration, how people learn, subject matter priorities, how technology can improve effectiveness, and how to generate valid and reliable desired student outcomes.
Second, the conference opened my mind to some of the exciting ways that ISDDE colleagues, particularly in the Netherlands, are using video for education. My prior familiarity with uses of video in education have been around video as a tool for didactic presentation of information, be it from a videotaped lecture or a documentary-style narrative, plus as a tool for student teachers to critically watch their own teaching performances. The conference opened me up to other compelling uses primarily as vehicles for student projects. I learned of a project where students were asked to create animated videos that express the concept of infinity. I also learned of a project where students in an urban ecology class were asked to produce videos about urban areas that they chose to research."

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Dan. There is no doubt that others had similar experiences. So sincere thanks to David Webb and his team of helpers – this sort of feedback makes the effort worthwhile.

Keynote addresses

Bill Penuel – University of Colorado, Boulder.

Infrastructuring as a practice for promoting transformation and equity in Design-Based Implementation Research

This paper develops the claim that in DBIR, central aims of collaborative design are to create conditions for social innovation within and across levels of a system and to build "working infrastructures" within which educational designs can be equitably implemented.

The slides and paper from Bill's talk are available here.

To view the full presentation, click here.

Christine Cunningham, winner of the 2014 ISDDE Prize – Engineering is Elementary (Museum of Science, Boston)

Engineering EiE ® – The development of an elementary engineering curriculum

This talk explored the development process for an elementary engineering curriculum, Engineering is Elementary®. Parallels between the engineering design process and the process of curriculum design were highlighted. Design principles for curriculum were articulated and short videos from classrooms demonstrated how these principles can be translated into experiences for students that foster engineering habits of mind. Finally, research on curriculum efficacy were presented.

The slides and notes from Christine's talk are available here.

The video clips included can all be found in the new EiE ® Snippets collection.

To view the full presentation, click here.

Krista Marks – Woot Math

Woot Math provides 'personalized instruction for Pre-Algebra readiness'. In this talk Krista outlined some of her background as an innovator to tell the story.

To view the full presentation, click here.

Christie Veitch – Modular Robotics

This talk drew a distinction between making and designing, using robots as an example of connecting design thinking to ed-tech. Children can be challenged to go beyond making simple robots to designing their own challenges and investigations using the technologies from Modular Robotics.

To view the full presentation, click here.

Danny Edelson – BSCS

GIS, education and citizen science

This talk argued that many young people are today disconnected from the natural world and that citizen science initiatives can play a strong educative role.

A previous version of the paper is published here.

Unfortunately a video of the talk is not available for technical reasons.

Working Groups

Working Groups again provided the opportunities to work together on a particular theme. Readers are encouraged to read the summaries included below; contacts for the coordinators of the groups are included for further follow up as required. Unfortunately, due to the mode of working of WG1 – Design with technology no summary is available at this time.

WG2 – Curriculum Working Group 

Co-chairs Leslie Dietiker and Susan McKenney

The curriculum working group identified two key themes to discuss, and broke out into sub-groups specialising on each theme. One theme was concerned with designs that support teachers’ use of curriculum materials. The other theme took Design-based (Implementation) Research (DB[I]R) as starting point.

The group focused on supporting the curricular use of teachers considered the questions, "How do we design so as to support teachers’ use (and knowledge) of curriculum materials?’ and, "In what ways can technology support teachers’ use of curriculum?” In so doing, they drew from Davis and Krajcik's (2005) framework of features of educative materials (Helping teachers to anticipate student thinking; Supporting teachers’ learning of subject matter; Helping teachers consider ways to relate units of content throughout the year; Making visible the curriculum developer’s pedagogical judgment; Promoting teachers’ pedagogical design capacity). The group discussed these ideas in general and shared how the different curriculum projects represented in the group designed these features (e.g., Kosima (Germany); IM (Isreal); Connected Mathematics Project (USA); College Preparatory Mathematics (USA); Cambridge Mathematics Education Project (UK); Nature Life and Technology (Netherlands); Multimedia Educative Curriculum Research Project (USA)). The result of this group time was a 10-page google doc that highlights ways in which each of these curriculum projects have designed teacher educative features based on the Davis & Krajcik (2005) framework. This document may serve as the basis for an Educational Designer article. Participants in the supporting teachers theme group: Leslie Dietiker, Phil Daro, Betty Phillips, Alex Friedlander, Sara Walkup, Lynne McClure, Berenice Michels, Raymond Johnson and Larissa Zwetzschler.

The DB(I)R group focused on the kinds of theoretical inputs sought by curriculum designers, such as implementation theories, theories about over versus under-designing, and theories about infrastructuring (What travels? What are the currents? How to they flow? For more information on infrastructuring, see the keynote by Bill Penuel. They identified a need for a curated set of theories that could inform design. They considered which kinds of curriculum designers want which kinds of theories (especially related to concerns of scale). A matrix was developed that articulated different designer types within a design-marketing-scaleup organization (content, media designers, technology, learning scientists, assessment experts). Relevant theories for each type were discussed. To learn more about the kinds of designers that might use a curated set of theories, it was proposed to start by understanding the user group. This could be done by conducting a survey and possibly some focus groups. This activity could starting with ISDDE members and classify designer types or start with an existing set of data (such as the Design Dimensions portfolio review set of designers). A subsequent step would be to identify the theories (or craft wisdom) that are already in use, as well as the kinds craved. This could be investigated by asking (e.g. questionnaire, lunch meeting @ design house, interview) or by observing (e.g. live or lab study of questions raised while tackling design challenges). These ideas may be used to inspire more formal investigation to understand and support curriculum designers. Participants in the DB(I)R strand: Susan McKenney, Max Gerick, Debra Bernstein, Maarten Pieters, Gillian Puttick, Frans van Galen, Bill Penuel and Dan Zales.

WG3 – Summative Assessment Working Group – Why do teachers fail to make productive instructional use of the outcomes of the summative assessments?

Working Group members: Jim Minstrell, Max Stephens (who kindly prepared this summary), Chris Schunn, David Webb, Rita Crust, Elizabeth Coyner, Mac Cannady, Phil Daro

The problem

There are many reasons why teachers fail to make productive use of the results of summative assessments. For outside-created tests, some reasons are: a disconnect between the design intent and what was actually delivered; not knowing how to interpret results; poorly designed items; not knowing how to process the data. Sometimes the detailed information arrives too late to be useful. In cases where teachers themselves have prepared tests, there can be other obstacles, such as: “That content is done, I have to move on to the next topic”; strict adherence to pacing guides; lack of time to process the details; not seeing conceptual connections across content areas; lack of training in assessment design; different teachers having different perspectives on teaching and learning.

Reasons to be hopeful

But are there possible cases where teachers just might be able to do something productive? Opportunities can be created for comparison of outcomes across teachers: to verify similar scoring; to discuss how teaching approaches may have affected results; to compare expectations to actual results; to set goals to consider alternative approaches; to seek help; to analyze evident weaknesses that may influence the next unit learning; to deepen understanding of former content and to link it with new content (especially with more use of peer and whole class discussion); to embark on collaborative scoring; and to engage in more detailed interpreted reporting, including that generated for other stakeholders (students, parents, administrators, other teachers(from the same and different disciplines).


Viewing students as a potential audience of teacher reports, there were some practical suggestions for engaging students in responding to and making sense of summative assessments:

  • Get students to build from feedback received; for example, a student agrees to write an evidence-based argument for the consensus understanding from the class
  • One or more student-peers then receive that written argument and give feedback on the argument and the evidence used as to whether it makes sense and convinces them.
  • The original student then fine tunes his/her argument and shares it with the teacher and the class for some sort of credit.

Viewing parents as a potential audience of teacher reports, it is helpful to move attention from scores to the content of what has been learned; and to provide links to resources that explain content and that suggest additional home learning opportunities. This helps move attention away from parents thinking first of remediation to deepening their appreciation of where a particular course is heading.

Viewing other teachers as a potential audience of teacher reports, it is helpful to report results to other teachers of same students who teach overlapping content (e.g., science->math, science->ELA); to identify common difficulties on shared skills, with examples showing difficult items and errors; to report successes by some studies, with sample items and demonstrated solutions; to argue for a change in, or greater coordination of, teaching strategies to address shared challenges.

In reporting to other teachers, be careful to avoid paper overload. This could be prevented by using a matrix of who sends reports and to whom. Be careful, too, in gaining support of and confirming expectations of school leaders and administrators in the process.

Whole school context

None of these strategies can succeed without the active support of school leaders and administrators. There is nothing less effective than a small group of individuals who are trying to work against the prevailing culture of a school with little support from above.

Administrators are crucially responsible for: formulating and maintaining a school wide policy on teaching and learning; inviting teachers to look beyond the numbers/scores and to see opportunities for action and improvement in teaching; providing time and space for teachers in the first instance to respond to the results of summation assessments and to indicate how teaching may need to change; inviting teachers to think how students can be helped to be more responsible, and challenging students to meet those challenges; identifying where new teachers and others may need support to make better interpretations; and integrating the results of these discussions into the school's ongoing program of teacher professional development and providing specific training where necessary.

Supporting teachers to move ahead

What information do teachers need to make productive instructional decisions after receiving assessments of student performance? In the first instance, they need a brief overview highlighting correct and incorrect responses, identifying minor errors, and being able to access results easily using available software. They need to be helped to impose some clustering of problem types (by concept, within reasoning level). Where scoring rubrics have been applied, teachers need to know what the minimum level is, what is below this level, what is regarded as proficient, and what is clearly more advanced. To do this, they may need some brief qualitative analysis of students’ performances, including students’ work samples especially those illustrating “proficient” and “highly proficient” responses; they may need training in using suitable software to execute more advanced analytics. The instructional benefits of using these analytics should be evident to teachers, individually and collaboratively, and also feasible in terms of teachers’ time. In the longer term, teachers need to be confident that time invested in working through the results of summative assessments will bring about improvement in teaching and a shift in quality of students’ work.

WG4 – Formative Assessment

Leaders: Michal Ayalon and Sheila Evans

Members: Riana Adams, Harold Asturias, Anna Baker, Elizabeth Coyner,
Lizzie Kimber, Judith Kysh, Will Morony, Minoru Ohtani, Monique Pijls, Kevin Reins, Tom Sallee, Karen Wootton, Dan Zalles

Even when students are tackling ‘rich’ tasks, teachers can find it challenging to, in the moment-of teaching, productively use evidence of student learning to move forward the individual or collective learning of the class. A solution could be to provide professional development outside the classroom. However, these courses can be prohibitively expensive. This leads to the question: Can we design resources that would allow teachers to develop their capacity to productively act contingently within their everyday practice of planning and teaching lessons? This idea, through common consensus, was the focus of the discussions during the working group at the ISDDE conference in Boulder 2015.

This 13 minute video summarises what we said, did, and learnt during the working group sessions.


2015 ISDDE Prize awarded to Sol Garfunkel of COMAP

Lifetime contribution to design in education

The 2015 Prize of $10,000(US) as been awarded to Sol Garfunkel from the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP). The award was announced at the 2015 Conference Dinner.

The unifying theme in Garfunkel’s work has been the teaching of mathematics through mathematical modeling of real world situations – the message has always been that math is important, useful and interesting and the COMAP designed resources reflect that philosophy.

Read the full citation here. Congratulations Sol – we look forward to your address at the next ISDDE Conference in Utrcht in September 2016.

Lynne McClure to be next Chair of ISDDE

The ISDDE Executive has elected Lynne McClure from Cambridge University as the next Chair of the ISDDE Executive Committee, starting in 2016. Lynne has a long and distinguished career as an educational designer. She will be known to many readers as the long term leader of the NRICH project; and as convenor of the 2014 ISDDE Conference. In November 2014 Lynne was appointed Director of the Cambridge Mathematics Project

Congratulations Lynne. Click here to read more about Lynne.

ISDDE Journal – Educational Designer

The new editorial team invites contributions to the ISDDE online journal, Educational Designer. Look at the journal website for the updated “Guide for Contributors” and the new contact pages. We are now accepting submissions for the annual volume for 2016, and a special issue on lesson study is under development. Those interested in contributing to the journal can submit polished manuscripts ready for review, or send an outline of a submission to the editors for advice.

Kaye Stacey Editor-in-Chief.

2016 ISDDE Conference – Infrastructuring the Design Continuum

The ISDDE'16 conference will take place from September 19-22, 2016 in Utrecht, The Netherlands. It will be hosted by the Netherlands National Institute of Curriculum Development (SLO). The conference draws upon the intellectual, experiential, collaborative, and aesthetic opportunities for inspiration afforded by this location and the region.

The theme, Infrastructuring the Design Continuum, refers to designer efforts to develop and implement the human and material resources required for supporting education in and across various system levels. For preliminary information go to the 2016 ISDDE Conference website.

Call for proposals to host 2017 ISDDE Conference

ISDDE is seeking a host for the 2017 conference. Please send ideas, recommendations, nominations or expressions of interest to Communications Chair, Will Morony.

Other news

Argumentation Toolkit launched

The Argumentation Toolkit ( was released in November 2015 as a collection of multimedia resources designed to help teachers understand and teach scientific argumentation. The project is a collaboration between Suzanna Loper and Jacqueline Barber from the Lawrence Hall of Science and Katherine McNeill from Boston College. They presented a session on their work at the 2015 ISDDE Conference.

The original goal of the project was to develop multimedia educative curriculum materials (MECMs) for middle school science teachers. However, "we received feedback that the multimedia resources, such as the videos, would be helpful to support teachers outside of the curriculum", said Katherine McNeill. "Consequently, we developed the website to make these more readily available. Over the next year, we will be revising the website to include more resources for teacher educators around scientific argumentation. Please feel free to e-mail us any suggestions or feedback on the current website as we engage in this work."

We are sure Kate McNeill and the team will welcome your comments.

Mathematics by Inquiry – the Australian way

This is a major new Australian project being undertaken by the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers. Over the next few years, Mathematics by Inquiry will design, develop and disseminate classroom resources that exemplify effective inquiry approaches in mathematics (K-10). These materials will be complemented by professional resources and associated professional development strategies for schools and teachers.

The project is made possible by $6.4 million of funding from the national government. The project brings together a large team that includes ISDDE Fellows from Australia and overseas. The project is in its very early days; some more information is available here.

Award for ISDDE Fellows

Just a reminder of the distinction earned by Hugh Burkhardt and Malcom Swan - the inaugural ICMI Emma Castelnuovo Award for 2016 – see the full citation.


ISSDE was formed to help those dedicated to raising the quality of design of educational processes and materials towork effectively as a coherent professional design and development community. The society's Background Paper provides information an\bout the mission and activities of ISDDE.

Educational designers around the world are invited to consider becoming a member of ISDDE.

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Next edition – February 2016