Design decisions for toolkits

We are interested in the design decisions made by authors of toolkits and toolkit-like resources for use by teachers. Specifically, the focus of our enquiry is on resources intended to support teachers of mathematics and science by providing them with activities to be used in the classroom and with guidance to help them use the activities. Two key areas for design decisions naturally follow:

Within both these areas, it is perhaps useful to consider the different aspects of design. For example, there are decisions related to the detailed design of individual activities or tasks intended for use in the classroom or the professional development setting (‘tools’) and there are also decisions related to the overall set of activities (which we can think of as a ‘toolkit’).

Burkhardt (2009) distinguishes between technical, tactical and strategic design. For him, technical design focuses on the design of individual elements and affects:

“the end users and their environment (students and the teacher in classrooms; teachers in professional development activities; the diverse students taking a test, and those who will score their responses).” (p. 2).

It could be argued that Burkhardt’s technical design relates to the construction of tools within a toolkit.

His tactical design “is focused on the overall internal structure of the product” (p. 2). He explains that tactical design is concerned with the overall coherence and underpinning principles of the tools, and for us, this seems to related to the construction of the toolkit.

Burkhardt’s third aspect of design, strategic design, relates to the political contexts in which the toolkit will be used and is concerned with effective use of the product within the system it is intended to serve. It focuses on

“all the key communities involved who will affect decisions on the framework within which the users work – school leadership; school system leadership; politicians; parents; and various other professions, such as assessment designers and researchers.” (p. 2)

Whilst this aspect of design can be seen as crucially important, for FaSMEd it is less of a concern than the previous two aspects of design.

In other pages of this blog we provide examples of design principles gleaned from research literature and our initial research into toolkit design (interviews with some of the authors of toolkits and documentary analysis). Interestingly, these principles do not usually distinguish between the different aspects of design outlined above, but it may be that FaSMEd would find it useful to look at the principles through a ‘Burkhardt lens’.