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Designing for and Studying Cross-Setting Ecosystems of Learning

Sun, April 15, 8:15 to 9:35am, The Parker, Floor: Second Floor, Lorica Room


The purpose of this paper is to illustrate new forms of design research focused on supporting learning across settings in community-wide ecosystems.

Theoretical Framework
Learning is a phenomenon that unfolds across settings and time (Azevedo, 2013; Barron, 2010; Bell, Bricker, Tzou, & Baines, 2012), but most of our learning designs and research focus on a single setting for short periods of time. In this paper, we consider how two different concepts inform design: infrastructures and ecosystems. The work of redesigning infrastructures (Hillgren, Seravilli, & Emilson, 2011; Le Dantec & diSalvo, 2013) calls for building routines within and across organizations to support movement of youth across settings. The ecosystem concept calls attention to the need to foster resilience through opportunities that are accessible, abundant, and diverse, with multiple opportunities for deepening pursuits (Pinkard, Penuel, et al., 2016).

Methods & Data
We present a comparative case study of two Design-Based Implementation Research (DBIR; Penuel, Fishman, Cheng, & Sabelli, 2011) initiatives in different cities focusing on designing for learning across settings. Data sources include interviews, observations and organizational documentation (case 1) and program descriptions and GIS location data (case 2).

Case 1 is focused on developing new organizational routines to broker future learning opportunities to youth. A partnership between a collective of over 70 informal learning organizations in New York City, the Hive NYC Learning Network, and a university-based research project, Hive Research Lab, the initiative created a social infrastructure within the network to develop brokering routines. A subset of organizations worked closely with researchers to develop routines relevant to their organizational contexts; a larger group provided feedback and shared their own brokering strategies. We profile the types of strategies developed and how they each focused on different aspects of the brokering ‘problem-space’. The aim of the broader effort is to eventually circulate effective brokering routines across the larger regional network such that youth at all parts of the network are supported to continue their learning pathways.

Case 2 is focused on improving accessible opportunities for deepening interests within a citywide ecosystem within an initiative called The Chicago City of Learning. A team of researchers is focused on supporting this goal by helping youth find opportunities to deepen interests related to activities they have participated in in the past that are accessible to them. As one strategy, we have mapped and characterized different types of program opportunities as more “basic” and “advanced” and using machine learning techniques to automatically characterize program descriptions. We found that we were able to identify two levels of programming within a major category of interest (coding), and that consistent with earlier analyses (Pinkard et al., 2016), there are significant inequities of opportunity. The vast majority of programs provide entry points for coding, but not opportunities for advancement.

Scholarly Significance
These efforts represent large-scale, citywide efforts to promote more equitable learning across settings that simultaneously advance theory. They illustrate ways that complementary concepts can inform both design and analysis of learning at the city level.


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