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Educational Engineering as Instructional Design Model and Research Method

Educational Engineering is presented as a novel Instructional Design model for guiding the design, development, implementation and evaluation of educational artefacts for learning, testing and teaching. Educational artefacts are documents, tools, content, concepts, models and solutions such as textbooks, syllabi, lesson plans, curricula, graded readers, exercises, tests, applications or electronic learning platforms. Engineering is a specific strategy to apply when not enough knowledge is available for designing these artefacts in a methodological and justifiable way, taking into account the specificity, limitations and affordances of the local context. It focuses on formulating working hypotheses based on theory and practice. The validation of these working hypotheses is carried out through the implementation and evaluation of real-world solutions in a cyclic and iterative way.
The author will present and discuss three hypotheses:
(a) The Ecological Paradigm Shift states that there is no evidence to suggest that technology has an inherent, measurable and generalizable effect on learning. This effect can only come from the entire learning environment as an ecology, and it is proportional to the designedness of this learning environment.
(b) The Process-Oriented Paradigm Shift states that the targeted learing effect depends less on features of the learning environment as a product than on the way it has been designed. This means that educational artefacts should not be evaluated on their features, but only on the rationale behind the way they have been designed.
(c) The Psychological Paradigm Shift states that, when designing, it is counterproductive to focus exclusively on pedagogical goals. The lower the motivation, the more reason to focus on personal goals first. The problem is that personal goals are difficult to elicit, hence a specific technique is required (Author, 2010).
Educational Engineering formulates hypotheses to be validated about the design process itself. If a process can be defined as a series of activities, the question to be asked is to what extent we should rethink the activities themselves, their order, duration, intensity and weight in order to achieve better results (e.g. Van den Akker et al., 2007) . While traditional treatment/analysis research methods focus on measuring the eventual effect on learning (Cohen et al., 2007), Educational Engineering focuses on the preliminary conditions for optimal learning to occur. Educational Engineering can also contribute to knowledge creation, and thus be considered a specific research method.
The author will conclude with a discussion of this research method and its epistemological potential. He will also show to what extent Educational Engineering is different from other research methods, and how practitioners can turn their daily work into practice without having to call it Action Research.

Author. (2010).Elicitation of language learners’ personal goals as design concepts. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching. Vol. 4, No 3, November 2010, 259-274. Taylor and Francis.
Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2007). Research Methods in Educiation. London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.
Van den Akker, J., Bannen, B., E.Kelly, A., Nieveen, N., & Plomp, T. (2007). An introduction to Educational Design Research. Proceedings of the seminar conducted at the East China normal university, Shanghai (p. 129). Enschede: SLO Netherlands institute for curriculum development.


Jozef Colpaert    
Universiteit Antwerpen

Jozef Colpaert teaches Instructional Design, Educational Technology and Computer Assisted Language Learning at the Institute for Education and Information Sciences (Universiteit Antwerpen). He is director R&D of the LINGUAPOLIS Language Institute, editor of Computer Assisted Language Learning (Taylor and Francis) and organizer of the biennial International CALL Research Conferences. He is currently working on the empirical and theoretical validation of Educational Engineering, a novel instructional design and research method.


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