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Jane and Tiffany Engage learners in complex projects Principle

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Jane Nkosi
4 February 2013

The Engage Learners in Complex Projects Principle


Too often   inquiry-based learning environments introduce curricular topics in an   isolated and over-simplified manner. In many cases topics are presented as   disconnected from one another, which lead to the constructing of superficial   knowledge that lacks integration. When students are introduced to real world   problems they have the opportunity to struggle with the complexity of the   topics and to engage in thoughtful debates. In this manner students can make   connections between various ideas of central topics, develop integrated   understanding, and be prepared for future learning.

Creating a complex projectinvolves balancing large and small questions. In projects, students link ideas in effective and in unproductive ways.  learn more from this link:



Question: How can the Pedagogical Patterns Collector be used to scaffold students'learning.

Kindly submit your response by Tuesday 5 Feb.


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Jane Challinor
9:30am 4 February 2013


the problem I see in the PPC is that it doesn't give the opportunity to schedule over weeks/terms/years the activities you plan. It just gives an aggregated time pie chart. How you then divide this up and schedule sessions is maybe for  another planning tool. I suspect each stage in the scaffold would require its own PP?? But that then comes back to the issue of topics appearing disconnected. So could you maybe add further boxes under each heading and make it clear that they relate to time sequencing eg label them week 1/week 2 etc? 

I don't know the answer!!  Maybe there are simpler tools to be used :)

Jane C



Tiffany Crosby
2:19pm 4 February 2013


Very insightful comment, I had this issue as I planned out one learning objective within my business psychology class. Some of the activities for the objectives occurred offline and some were synchronous and the staging of them was important but was hard to reflect within the tool.

Thanks for the response.


Steven Warburton
6:12pm 4 February 2013

This is not a direct answer to the question regarding the PPC ... but as I was reading the "The Engage Learners in Complex Projects Principle" for me it is important to consider  how you frame a particular problem or "problem space" to be able to then adequately find or define a solution. So, there are often multiple ways to solve a problem I found parallels with a design patttern from

This pattern was originated by Donald Bagert as the Concept, Glossary, Problem, Analyze, Discuss,
Design (CoG-PADD) [DB] pattern and by Joe Bergin with this same name.

You have a new concept to introduce that has important high-level characteristics.
When faced with a new concept, students often focus on low level details,
ignoring its higher-level aspects. Students are able to read, understand, and
modify artifacts larger and more complex than they can themselves build. They
also need to see problems of a realistic complexity so that they don’t get the idea
that all problems are small and simple.
Therefore give students an example problem or artifact that is too large for
them to be able to focus on the details in the time available. Structure the
assignment so that they can work effectively with large-scale conceptual or
structural knowledge of most of the artifact.
Provide a very large artifact that is well structured and well integrated and on
which the students will modify a small part. Make sure they must conceptually
understand the whole and at an interface level the components, but only the local
point of change in detail. It helps to provide a question-answer session in which
you focus on the high level content and defer questions on detail. A good initial
assignment is to diagram or otherwise explain the artifact. See Explain It Yourself
This approach allows students to understand a new idea without worrying about
the details, to appreciate the concept using a real-world problem example, and to
work in small groups to solve a problem, which helps them to quickly understand
a new concept. You may also want to give the students an artifact that is too large
for them to understand at all unless they work in groups. This leads to GROUPS
WORK, of course, if you permit it, as you should. If it has features that cover the
entire course and is given early, it may also be a Lay of the Land (JBx).

Tiffany Crosby
12:26am 5 February 2013

Steven, Thank you for that perspective. The larger than life pattern seems to address one of the challenges with trying to engage earners in big picture thinking. I would live to find some larger than life scenarios that have already been created and the learning concepts that they are designed to reinforce.

Jane Nkosi
9:53am 5 February 2013

Jane C,

Thank you for the comment; probably a tool like LAMS could accommodate the scafodling. and Stephen, I appreciate your idea of introducing the bigger picture as it gives students the reason to work at the challenge.


Jane Nkosi


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