Learner Centered Design

in the K-12 Environment

Software design for learners at the elementary and secondary levels must be guided by educational theory. Learner centered design is concerned with the nature of the active learning process, the unique qualities of diverse individual learners, and motivational factors.

Learning is a dynamic process in which the learner actively "constructs" new knowledge as he or she is engaged and immersed in a learning activity. The theory of constructivism is at the core of the movement to shift the center of instruction away from the teacher and allow the learner to actively direct and choose his own learning path.

Learners bring prior knowledge to the learning task which serves as a starting point for further exploration. The teacher or software designer's role then, is to guide or provide bridges, or scaffolds from what is known to what is unknown. As the learner interacts with new information in a unique environment, he builds, or "constructs" new knowledge. Much of constructivist theory is based on the work of Bruner, Vygotsky and Jean Piaget.

In Learning Theory in Practice: Case Studies of Learner-Centered Design, a paper presented at CHI 96, the authors (Elliot Soloway and others from the University of Michigan Highly Interactive Computing Group) refute the longheld notion that learning is something passed from teacher to student, but is rather a process whereby learners actively construct understanding and meaning. Three major principles of active learning which must be considered in the software design process are:

Project descriptions and examples of Learner Centered Design principles in action can be found by visiting the following sites:
Comments or questions? Please email Dee Camp-White (Doctoral student, School of Computer and Information Sciences , Nova Southeastern University)

These pages last updated April 27, 1997