Laurillard conversational framework

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Laurillard (1993,2002) claims that there are four main aspects of the teaching-learning process and that different educational media can be analyzed (and used) in terms of these dimensions.

This framework can be considered both learning theory and a practical framework for designing educational environments. Higher education, according to Laurrillard is much about acquiring "ways of seeing the world". Associated pedagogic strategy has to consider different forms of communication and associated mental activities: Discussion, adaptation, interaction, reflection.

See also guided discovery learning

Design of learning environments

Laurillard's framework includes four important components:

  • Teacher's concepts
  • Teacher's constructed learning environment
  • Student's concepts
  • Student's specific actions (related to learning tasks).
Laurillard's Conversational framework

Each (larger) pedagogical scenario should include all four kinds of activities (communication forms) that happend in 8 kinds of "flows" in the model.

(1) Discussion
between the teacher and the learner
  • Teachers' and learners' conception should be mututally accessible
  • Both should agree on learning objectives
(2) Adaptation
of the learners actions and of the teacher's constructed environment.
  • Teacher must adapt objectives with regards to existing conceptions
  • Learners must integrate feedback and link it to his own conceptions
(3) Interaction
between the learner and the environment defined by the teacher
  • Teacher must "adapt to world", i.e. create an environment adapted to the learning task given to the learner
  • Teacher must focus on support for task and give appropriate feedback to the learner.
(4) Reflection
of the learner's performance by both teacher and learner
  • Teacher should support the learner to revise his conceptions and to adapt the task to learning needs
  • Learners should reflect with all stages of the learning process (initial concepts, tasks, objectives, feedback, ...)

Media and activities

According to Philipps (1988), “Laurillard argues that the only use of technology which can meet these aims is the "multimedia tutorial simulation", characterised in terms of guided discovery learning. Her schema is based on forming an information rich environment in which the student has control in discovering knowledge, but the discovery is supported and scaffolded by extra guidance functions (Laurillard, 1993) which provide support and feedback for subsequent learning. These functions are analogous to the coaching and scaffolding at critical times proposed in the Situated Cognition Theory.”

Laurillard argues that different media forms have different affordances, i.e. provide a different level of support for various kinds learning experiences. She identifies five media forms: narrative, interactive, communicative, adaptive and productive. According to Conole and Fill (2005), “Narrative media tell or show the learner something (e.g. text, image). Interactive media respond in a limited way to what the learner does (e.g. search engines, multiple choice tests, simple models). Communicative media facilitate exchanges between people (e.g. email, discussion forum). Adaptive media are changed by what the learner does (e.g. some simulations, virtual worlds). Productive media allow the learner to produce something (e.g. word processor, spreadsheet).”

The following table is from Peter Clinch (2005)

learning experience method/technologies media forms
attending, apprehending print, TV, video, DVD narrative
investigating, exploring library, CD, DVD, Web resources interactive
discussing, debating seminar, online conference communicative
experimenting, practising laboratory, field trip, simulation adaptive
articulating, expressing essay, product, animation, model productive



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  • Gráinne Conole and Karen Fill (2005). A learning design toolkit to create pedagogically effective learning activities. Journal of Interactive Media in Education (Advances in Learning Design. Special Issue, eds. Colin Tattersall, Rob Koper), 2005/08. ISSN:1365-893X Abstract (PDF/HTML open access)
  • Crawley, R.M., Evaluating CSCL - Theorists' & Users' Perspectives, JISC Technology Applications Programme (JTAP), HTML, retrieved 19:20, 22 November 2006 (MET).
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  • Laurillard, D. M. (1993). Rethinking University Teaching: A Framework for the Effective Use of Educational Technology. Routledge, London.
  • Laurillard, D. (2002). Rethinking University Teaching. A conversational framework for the effective use of learning technologies. London: Routledge ISBN 0415256798 .
  • Philipps, Rob, (1998), Models of learning appropriate to educational applications of information technology, Paper presented at the 1998 Teaching and Learning Forum, held at the University of Western Australia. HTML, retrieved, 17:17, 15 September 2006 (MEST).
  • Phillips, R. (1997). The Developer's Handbook to Interactive Multimedia - A Practical Guide for Educational Applications. Kogan Page, London.