ACAD: Activity-Centred Analysis and Design

What the ACAD framework offers

The most recent explanation of ACAD is in this paper from ETR&D:

Goodyear, P., Carvalho, L., & Yeoman, P. (2021). Activity-Centred Analysis and Design (ACAD): core purposes, distinctive qualities and current developments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 69(2), 445-464.

This paper provides a summary account of Activity-Centred Analysis and Design (ACAD). ACAD offers a practical approach to analysing complex learning situations, in a way that can generate knowledge that is reusable in subsequent (re)design work. ACAD has been developed over the last two decades. It has been tested and refined through collaborative analyses of a large number of complex learning situations and through research studies involving experienced and inexperienced design teams. The paper offers a definition and high level description of ACAD and goes on to explain the underlying motivation. The paper also provides an overview of two current areas of development in ACAD: the creation of explicit design rationales and the ACAD toolkit for collaborative design meetings. As well as providing some ideas that can help teachers, design teams and others discuss and agree on their working methods, ACAD has implications for some broader issues in educational technology research and development. It questions some deep assumptions about the framing of research and design thinking, in the hope that fresh ideas may be useful to people involved in leadership and advocacy roles in the field.

The following definition and explanation comes from p446 of the ETR&D paper.

Activity-Centred Analysis and Design (ACAD) is a meta-theoretical framework for understanding and improving local, complex, learning situations.

Explaining what this means requires some shared terminology. (Emphasis added.)

We use the term ‘activity’ to mean ‘what students are actually doing’ – mentally, physically and emotionally – during a period of time in which they are meant to be learning something (a learning episode or ‘at learn-time’). For better or worse, what students actually do may differ considerably from what their teachers think they are doing or what their teachers intend them to do (Goodyear 2000; Ellis and Goodyear 2010; Elen 2020; Koh and Kan 2020).

We use the term ‘learning situation’ to underscore the point that students’ learning activity is always situated (Lave and Wenger 1991; Yeoman and Wilson 2019). As we explain later on, we take this to mean that learning activity is (at a minimum) physically, socially and epistemically situated. The more familiar term ‘learning environment’ does not reliably evoke all aspects of what makes learning activity situated.

We use the term ‘local’ because we also see educational work as situated (Pink 2012; Simonsen et al. 2014). It is done by real teachers in concrete situations. ACAD helps a teacher or team of teachers, with or without the help of a specialist educational designer or evaluator, to understand a learning situation in which they have a stake – where they have professional responsibility for students’ learning, some power to change aspects of the design of the learning situation, a need to understand how their students’ learning activity unfolds, and why it unfolds in the way that it does. Teachers’ work is usually cyclical. Although this is not universally the case, it is common to teach a course once a year, to analyse what is working well and why, and decide what needs changing and what can be left as it is. ACAD can help with brand new designs, but it has greater power when embedded in cycles of incremental improvement (Goodyear and Dimitriadis 2013).

We use the term ‘complex’ to indicate that teachers do not need an analysis and design methodology to diagnose simple problems and prescribe simple remedies (Ellis and Goodyear 2019). ACAD has a dual focus – analysing and understanding what exists and (re) designing for the future. This means ACAD also has a dual ontology, insofar as an actual instance of a learning activity and a design for future instances of similar learning activities are not the same kinds of thing. A map is not the territory. We see ACAD as meta-theoretical in that it does not insist on any one theory of learning. Indeed, it is agnostic about the kinds of theoretical explanations that are used in analysing learning situations and the kinds of design rationales expressed in designing for future learning. However, ACAD does highlight the need for credible explanations of local phenomena and for persuasive arguments in making design decisions.

The ACAD Video

Colleagues in the Sydney Business School and Copenhagen Business School made this short (3 minute) video about ACAD.

Other papers about ACAD and its associated ideas

Here are some pdf copies of papers and chapters on design for learning etc. They are all relevant to, but may not directly name, ‘ACAD’

Teaching as design (Goodyear 2015)

In medias res: reframing design for learning (Goodyear & Dimitriadis 2013)

Forward-oriented design for learning: illustrating the approach (Dimitriadis & Goodyear 2013)

Teaching-as-design and the ecology of university learning (Ellis & Goodyear 2010)

Learning, technology and design (Goodyear & Retalis 2010)

Patterns and pattern languages in educational design (Goodyear & Yang 2009)

Educational design and networked learning: Patterns, pattern languages and design practice (Goodyear 2005)

Seeing learning as work: implications for analysis and design (Goodyear, 2000)

Pedagogical frameworks and action learning in ODL (Goodyear 1999)

Also strongly recommended:

Carvalho, L., & Goodyear, P. (Eds.). (2014). The architecture of productive learning networks. New York: Routledge.

Carvalho, L., & Yeoman, P. (2018). Framing learning entanglement in innovative learning spaces: connecting theory, design and practice. British Educational Research Journal, 44(6), 1120–1137. doi:doi:10.1002/berj.3483

Goodyear, P., & Carvalho, L. (2016). Activity centred analysis and design in the evolution of learning networks. Paper presented at the Tenth International Conference on Networked Learning, Lancaster UK. 

Goodyear, P., Carvalho, L., & Dohn, N. B. (2016). Artefacts and activities in the analysis of learning networks. In T. Ryberg, C. Sinclair, S. Bayne, & M. de Laat (Eds.), Research, Boundaries and Policy in Networked Learning (pp. 93-110). New York: Springer.

Goodyear, P., & Carvalho, L. (2019). The analysis of complex learning environments. In H. Beetham & R. Sharpe (Eds.), Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: principles and practices of design (3rd ed., pp. 49-65). Abingdon: RoutledgeFalmer.

Goodyear, P., Carvalho, L., Yeoman, P., Castañeda, L., & Adell, J. (2020). Una herramienta tangible para facilitar procesos de diseño y análisis didáctico: Traducción y adaptación transcultural del toolkit ACAD. (A tangible tool to facilitate learning design and analysis discussions: Translation and cross-cultural adaptation of the ACAD toolkit). Revista de Medios y Educación

Goodyear, P., Thompson, K., Ashe, D., Pinto, A., Carvalho, L., Parisio, M., . . . Yeoman, P. (2015). Analysing the structural properties of learning networks: architectural insights into buildable forms. In B. Craft, Y. Mor, & M. Maina (Eds.), The art and science of learning design (pp. 15-29). Rotterdam: Sense.

Sun, S. Y. H., & Goodyear, P. (2019). Social co-configuration in online language learning. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 36(2), 13-26. doi:

Yeoman, P., & Ashmore, N. (2018). Moving from pedagogical challenge to ergonomic challenge: Translating epistemology into the built environment for learning. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 34(6), 1-16. doi:10.14742/ajet.4502

Yeoman, P., & Carvalho, L. (2019). Moving between material and conceptual structure—developing a card-based method to support design for learning. Design Studies, 64, 64-89. 

Yeoman, P., & Wilson, S. (2019). Designing for situated learning: Understanding the relations between material properties, designed form and emergent learning activity. British Journal of Educational Technology, 50(5), 2090-2108. 

ACAD talks/slide decks etc

A pre-recorded 20 minute talk for the 2020 AECT conference, related to the ACAD paper in ETR&D and AECT’s Distinguished Development award to Peter Goodyear. Slides etc for the AECT talk.

ACAD tools

The ACAD cards and wireframe are described in the Yeoman & Carvalho (2019) Design Studies paper mentioned above and in the 2021 ETR&D ACAD paper.

A digital implementation (in Spanish) of the cards/wireframe is under development by Linda Castañeda & colleagues – see the Goodyear, Carvalho, Yeoman, Castañeda & Adell (2020) paper mentioned above.

ACAD Cards in use: see Goodyear, Carvalho & Yeoman (2021) ETR&D paper.

Navigating difficult waters in a digital era: technology, uncertainty and the objects of informal lifelong learning

Goodyear, Peter (2021) Navigating difficult waters in a digital era: technology, uncertainty and the objects of informal lifelong learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 52, 1594-1611.


This paper uses two complementary examples from an autoethnographic study of learning and sailing to explore some connections between informal lifelong learning activities, their objects (purposes) and the hybrid (digital and material) technologies on which they depend. The examples focus on an aspect of the craft of sailing and on understanding the relations between sailing, place and local history. The paper argues that close attention to activities in which people engage can help discover some less visible purposes of learning and can broaden our understandings of situated skills. The paper also argues that being able to find and configure environments suitable for learning are important capabilities for successful lifelong learners. The paper has two additional implications for thinking about research and development in educational technology. First, a technology becomes educational by virtue of its relation to emerging activity, rather than because of any intrinsic physical properties. Second, educational technologies are often assembled in complex meshworks. Understanding how they function involves analysing dynamic relations and interdependencies: listing the affordances of individual components is not enough.

Notes & Quotes

This paper is currently on open access and appears in a special issue of BJET concerned with lifelong learning in a digital era. I chose to focus on informal lifelong learning, in part to create an opportunity to write about some of the things I’d been discovering in the “Learning with M~” project (a long-term autoethnographic study of learning and learning to sail).

“Objects” in the title alludes to the purposes of learning – which are not always self-evident and sometimes have to be discovered.

From the Introduction:

“This article is one piece of an autoethnographic study of learning about learning and learning to sail. My aim is to use two contrasting parts of this larger, as yet unpublished study to explore some broader questions that arise in the relations between informal lifelong learning and educational technology. Autoethnography is not widely used in educational technology research – see Campbell (2015) and Sintonen (2020) as exceptions – though its use is growing in educational research and in the social sciences more generally. It is a powerful method for documenting and sharing insights into long-term experiences; I have been learning to sail for over 50 years and writing about learning and technology for 40 of them. In that time, my understanding of what learning and knowing entail, and what technology is and can do, have changed substantially.The next section of the paper lays out some background: ideas on informal lifelong learning and digital technologies, activity-centred analysis and design, discovering the objects of lifelong learning and research relevant to learning the craft of sailing and becoming a capable sailor. After that, I provide a brief introduction to autoethnography, including some potential strengths and weaknesses.

The main part of the paper is a ‘results and discussion’ section, in which I try to share some of the ways I currently understand what is involved in learning to sail. I use two contrasting examples. The first comes closer to most people’s preconceptions of what learning to sail involves. It focuses on measurements of speed and orientation to the wind. The second is much broader. What happens when one tries to come to terms with sailing a boat in waters that, until quite recently, were populated by indigenous saltwater people who were brutally dispossessed? How calmly can one sail on the edges of an ocean that is rising and where that rising threatens to drown the island homes of the Pacific’s pioneering seafarers?  There are no easy answers, but this is no excuse for ignoring the questions.

In the concluding section of the paper, I try to sum up what I now see as important for understanding and investigating relations between educational technologies and lifelong learning in these turbulent times. Like Steve Mentz (2015, xxvi), I think tales from the sea can be a useful source of “equipment for thinking in a world of ecological catastrophe”. (p1596)

On complex meshworks; productive and epistemic objects.

“A problem arises from the fact that the paddlewheel of the log spends much of its life in warm salty water, teeming with marine life. In [Figure 1] you can just see three of the black plastic “cups” of the paddlewheel, peeking out through accretions of algae and tiny shellfish. I can remove the paddle wheel to clean it, but within a month or so, a rich ecosystem of tiny crustaceans and their friends and admirers will have taken up home on the blades, which slow and then cease to turn. Regardless of the boat’s actual speed through the water, the digital [boat speed] display … will show a speed of zero. The networked instrument system no longer knows what speed the boat is doing through the water, so it can no longer calculate the true wind from the apparent wind. The wind display … no longer affords reliable guidance on whether to turn the boat closer to the wind, or to ease away from the wind. The assemblage or meshwork of sea, wind, hull, wheel, rudder, sails, ropes, anemometer, wind vane, analogue and digital displays, microprocessors and their connecting cables continues to act, but the crusty squatters living on the paddlewheel mean that truth and appearance can no longer be properly distinguished. 

There are workarounds, one of which is ready to hand for people who have learned to sail without instruments. One can use the boat and its sails as an epistemic device. One stops, for a moment, using the boat as a productive device – whose purpose is to move us through the water as quickly as possible, to get to our destination – and converts it into an epistemic device – whose purpose is to answer the question: where is the wind? One edges the boat up into the wind, closer to the direction from which the wind appears to blow, and watches closely for the luff of the sail to start shaking. At the point where it begins to shake (to “luff”), one eases off a little, letting the bow of the boat drop a few degrees further off the wind. Knowing the boat well, one also senses a subtle shift in speed through the water. Like other sailors, over a lifetime, I have learned to carry out this epistemic activity to the point where it can be quite automatic and embodied, meshed with proprioception, with an alternating rhythm that balances speed and knowledge.

In other words, some activities of sailing have both productive and epistemic objects: one learns to sail a boat quickly and to tweak the environment to check whether one could be sailing even more quickly. In use, the boat becomes an educational technology.” (p1603)

Figure 1: The logwheel: as bought from the chandlers and after immersion in subtropical water for some months

References (full set of references used in the chapter)

Anderson, L. (2006). Analytic autoethnography. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35(4), 373-395. 

Beattie, A. R., & Hayes, S. (2020). Whose domain and whose ontology? Preserving human radical reflexivity over the efficiency of automatically generated feedback alone. In N. B. Dohn, P. Jandrić, T. Ryberg, & M. De Laat (Eds.), Mobility, data and learner agency in networked learning (pp. 83-99). Cham: Springer.

Billett, S. (2014). Mimetic learning at work: learning in the circumstances of practice. Heidelberg: Springer.

Billett, S. (2018). Distinguishing lifelong learning from lifelong education. Journal of Adult Learning, Knowledge and Innovation, 2(1), 1-7. 

Bochner, A. P. (2012). On first-person narrative scholarship: Autoethnography as acts of meaning. Narrative Inquiry, 22(1), 155-164. doi:

Bojsen-Møller, J., Larsson, B., & Aagaard, P. (2015). Physical requirements in Olympic sailing. European Journal of Sport Science, 15(3), 220-227. doi:10.1080/17461391.2014.955130

Boon, P. (2017). The Hawkesbury river: a social and natural history. Clayton South, Victoria: CSIRO.

Bradley, W. (1969). A voyage to New South Wales: the journal of Lieutenant William Bradley RN of HMS Sirius. Facsimile. Sydney: Ure Smith Pty Ltd.

Brown, M. (2017). The offshore sailor: Enskilment and identity. Leisure Studies, 36(5), 684-695. 

Brown, M., & Humberstone, B. (2016). Seascapes: shaped by the sea. London: Routledge.

Brown, M., & Peters, K. (Eds.). (2019). Living with the sea: knowledge, awareness and action. London: Routledge.

Campbell, K. (2015). The feminist instructional designer: an autoethnography. In B. Hokanson, G. Clinton, & M. W. Tracey (Eds.), The design of learning experience: creating the future of educational technology (pp. 231-268). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Carey, P. (2008). 30 days in Sydney: a wildly distorted account. London: Bloomsbury.

Carvalho, L., & Yeoman, P. (2018). Framing learning entanglement in innovative learning spaces: connecting theory, design and practice. British Educational Research Journal, 44(6), 1120–1137. doi:doi:10.1002/berj.3483

Centre nautique des Glénans. (1989). The new Glénans sailing manual. Newton Abbot: David & Charles.

Clark, A. (2017). The catch: the story of fishing in Australia. Canberra: National Library of Australia.

Cohen, M. (2010). The novel and the sea. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Conrad, J. (1913/2013). The mirror of the sea: memories and impressions. Toller Fratrum: Little Toller Books.

Dant, T., & Wheaton, B. (2007). Windsurfing: An extreme form of material and embodied interaction? Anthropology Today, 23(6), 8-12. 

Denzin, N. K. (2014). Interpretive autoethnography. Los Angeles: Sage.

Ellington, H., Percival, F., & Race, P. (1993). Handbook of educational technology (3rd ed.). London: Kogan Page.

Foley, D., & Read, P. (2020). What the colonists never knew: a history of Aboriginal Sydney. Canberra: National Museum of Australia Press.

Gale, T., & Walls, J. (2000). Development of a sailing dinghy simulator. Simulation, 74(3), 167-179. 

Goodyear, P., & Carvalho, L. (2019). The analysis of complex learning environments. In H. Beetham & R. Sharpe (Eds.), Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: principles and practices of design (3rd ed., pp. 49-65). Abingdon: RoutledgeFalmer.

Goodyear, P., Carvalho, L., & Yeoman, P. (in press). Activity-Centred Analysis and Design (ACAD): core purposes, distinctive qualities and current developments. Educational Technology Research and Development 

Goodyear, P., Thompson, K., Ashe, D., Pinto, A., Carvalho, L., Parisio, M., . . . Yeoman, P. (2015). Analysing the structural properties of learning networks: architectural insights into buildable forms. In B. Craft, Y. Mor, & M. Maina (Eds.), The art and science of learning design (pp. 15-29). Rotterdam: Sense.

Goold, P. (Ed.) (2012). Sailing-philosophy for everyone: catching the drift of why we sail. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Huff, M., & Schwan, S. (2012). The verbal facilitation effect in learning to tie nautical knots. Learning and Instruction, 22(5), 376-385. doi:

Hunkins, F. P. (1992). Sailing: Educating and celebrating self. The Educational Forum, 56(4), 443-450. 

Hunt, R. (2018). On sawing a loaf: living simply and skilfully in hut and bothy. Cultural geographies, 25(1), 71-89. doi:10.1177/1474474016673066

Hutchins, E. (1995). Cognition in the wild. Cambridge Mass: MIT Press.

Ingold, T. (2014). That’s enough about ethnography! Hau: journal of ethnographic theory, 4(1), 383-395. 

Irish, P. (2017). Hidden in plain view: the Aboriginal people of coastal Sydney. Sydney: NewSouth Publishing.

Laurier, E. (1999). That sinking feeling: elitism, working leisure and yachting. In D. Crouch (Ed.), Leisure/tourism geographies: Practices and geographical knowledge (pp. 195-213). London: Routledge.

Markauskaite, L., & Goodyear, P. (2017). Epistemic fluency and professional education: innovation, knowledgeable action and actionable knowledge. Dordrecht: Springer.

McCulloch, K., McLaughlin, P., Allison, P., Edwards, V., & Tett, L. (2010). Sail training as education: More than mere adventure. Oxford Review of Education, 36(6), 661-676. Retrieved from

Mentz, S. (2015). Shipwreck modernity: ecologies of globalization, 1550-1719. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Orams, M. B., & Brown, M. (2020). The dream and the reality of blue spaces: the search for freedom in offshore sailing. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 0(0), 0193723520928599. doi:10.1177/0193723520928599

Raban, J. (Ed.) (1993). The Oxford book of the sea. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rogoff, B. (2014). Learning by observing and pitching in to family and community endeavors: an orientation. Human Development, 57(2-3), 69-81. 

Sayers, R., & Searl, G. (2017). Retracing Governor Phillip’s footsteps around Pittwater: the mystery of the cove on the East side. Retrieved from 9 Nov 2020

Schijf, M., Allison, P., & Von Wald, K. (2017). Sail training: a systematic review. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, 9(2), 167-180. 

Schwan, S., & Riempp, R. (2004). The cognitive benefits of interactive videos: learning to tie nautical knots. Learning and Instruction, 14(3), 293-305. doi:

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Sibthorp, J. (2003). Learning transferable skills through adventure education: The role of an authentic process. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 3(2), 145-157. doi:10.1080/14729670385200331

Sintonen, S. (2020). From an experimental paper to a playful screen: How the essence of materiality modulates the process of creation. British Journal of Educational Technology.

Sumsion, J. (2000). Reflecting on sailing; and reimagining, reinventing, and renewing life as a teacher educator. Teacher Education Quarterly, 77-87. 

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Wojcikiewicz, S. K., & Mural, Z. B. (2010). A Deweyian framework for youth development in experiential education: perspectives from sail training and sailing instruction. The Journal of Experiential Education, 33(2), 105. 

A very partial list of people who are not white men

In response to a tweet from @jennihayman, I did a quick scan through my endnote database and extracted this list of women in/around learning technology and the learning sciences whose work I’ve found particularly insightful and inspiring.

I hope this is useful enough to those of you who are searching for people to read/follow to compensate for the grief I will get from people I’ve mistakenly left off the list.

Patricia AlexanderMegan BangBrigid Barron
Sian BayneMargaret BearmanHelen Beetham
Sue BennettKate BielaczycJoan Bliss
Henny BoshuizenJos BoysAngela Brew
Ann BrownAlison Carr-ChellmanLucila Carvalho
Michelene ChiBetty CollisGrainne Conole
Laura CzerniewiczMadeleine DahlgrenGloria Dall’Alba
Crina DamşaLinda Darling-HammondSharon Derry
Lone Dirckinck-HolmfeldNina Bonderup DohnAnne Edwards
Rachel EllawayRandi EnglePeg Ertmer
Keri FacerNancy FalchikovTara Fenwick
Marilyn FleerDedre GentnerLesley Gourlay
Julia GouveaKris GutiérrezLinda Harasim
Nira HativaCaroline HaythornthwaiteSara Hennessy
Davinia Hernández-LeoJan HerringtonStar Roxanne Hiltz
Cindy Hmelo-SilverVivien Hodgsonbell hooks
Celia HoylesSarah HowardMizuko Ito
Sanna JarveläKaren JensenYael Kali
Judy KayJanet KolodnerKaren Könings
Deanna KuhnKristiina KumpulainenSusanne Lajoie
Susan LandDiana LaurillardJean Lave
Nancy LawSari Lindblom-YlanneAllison Littlejohn
Kirsti LonkaMarcia LinnRose Luckin
Lina MarkauskaiteLucia MasonRobin Mason
Susan McKenneyErica McWilliamBarbara Means
Naomi MiyakeRoxana MorenoBonnie Nardi
Monika NerlandRikke NørgårdDiana Oblinger
Gale ParchomaTrena PaulusDonatella Persico 
Francesca PozziMimi ReckerLauren Resnick
Rita RicheyMargaret RielBarbara Rogoff
Jen RossAlison RossettGilly Salmon
Annalisa Sannino Maggi Savin-BadenEileen Scanlon
Marlene ScardamaliaSylvia ScribnerAnna Sfard
Val ShuteChristine SinclairBridget Somekh
Chris Steeples (Smith)Vanessa SvilhaKate Thompson
Mary ThorpeSherry TurkleSimone Volet
Stella VosniadouShirin VossoughiBarb Wasson
Bev WoolfPam WoolnerPippa Yeoman

ICCE 2020

28th International Conference on Computers in Education

Here’s a copy of the slide deck I used in my keynote at the ICCE conference (25th November 2020). There are more slides/ideas in here than I discuss/use in the actual talk. Notably, there are a couple of slides very near the end containing follow-up references.

Aligning education, digital and learning space strategies: an ecological approach

These are slides to accompany the presentation I made at ITaLI, University of Queensland, this morning.

Rob Ellis and I have a chapter on this in a new book edited by Ron Barnett and Norman Jackson.

Our book length treatment was published earlier this year by Routledge.

Tasks, activities and student learning

Talk at ITaLI, University of Queensland, 7th November 2019

The following references are cited in the slides/talk. Slides themselves are here: Goodyear UQ 2019-Nov-07 condensed.

Bearman, M., & Ajjawi, R. (2019). Can a rubric do more than be transparent? Invitation as a new metaphor for assessment criteria. Studies in Higher Education, 1-10.

Beckman, K., Apps, T., Bennett, S., Dalgarno, B., Kennedy, G., & Lockyer, L. (2019). Self-regulation in open-ended online assignment tasks: the importance of initial task interpretation and goal setting. Studies in Higher Education, 1-15.

Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for quality learning at university: what the student does (3rd ed.). Buckingham: Open University Press.

Carvalho, L., & Goodyear, P. (Eds.). (2014). The architecture of productive learning networks. New York: Routledge.

Ellis, R., & Goodyear, P. (2010). Students’ experiences of e-learning in higher education: the ecology of sustainable innovation. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

Forbes, D., & Gedera, D. (2019). From confounded to common ground: Misunderstandings between tertiary teachers and students in online discussions. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 35(4). doi:10.14742/ajet.3595

Goodyear, P. (2015). Teaching as design. HERDSA Review of Higher Education, 2, 27-50. Retrieved from

Hadwin, Allyson, and Philip Winne. 2012. “Promoting Learning Skills in Undergraduate Students.” In Enhancing the Quality of Learning, edited by John R. Kirby and Michael J. Lawson, 201–27. New York: Cambridge University Press

Krippendorff, K. (2006). The semantic turn: a new foundation for design. Boca Raton FL: CRC Press.

Laurillard, D., Kennedy, E., Charlton, P., Wild, J., & Dimakopoulos, D. (2018). Using technology to develop teachers as designers of TEL: Evaluating the learning designer. British Journal of Educational technology, 49(6), 1044-1058. doi:10.1111/bjet.12697

Shuell, T. (1986). Cognitive conceptions of learning. Review of Educational Research, 56(4), 411-436.

Suchman, L. (1987). Plans and situated actions: the problem of human-machine communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sun, S. Y. H., & Goodyear, P. (2019). Social co-configuration in online language learning. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 36(2), 13-26. doi:

Wisner, A. (1995a). Understanding problem building: ergonomic work analysis. Ergonomics, 38(3), 595-605.

Wisner, A. (1995b). Situated cognition and action: implications for ergonomic work analysis and anthropotechnology. Ergonomics, 38(8), 1542-1557.

The Sydney Business School ACAD video (3 mins) is here:

Discussion, collaborative knowledge work and epistemic fluency


I received a request for this paper earlier today. It started life as a keynote at the Networked Learning conference in Lancaster in 2006. Maria Zenios visited us in Sydney later that year, and we were able to work together and develop a more extensive treatment of the issues. We used a recent paper in BJES by Effie MacLellan as a springboard. We combined ideas from Stellan Ohlsson, Allan Collins, Dave Perkins and Carl Bereiter to introduce epistemic tasks, forms, games and fluency. Then we linked this with research on learning through discussion by Helen Askell-Williams and Michael Lawson and by Rob Ellis and myself, to distinguish between weaker and stronger forms of collaborative knowledge building. If you’re serious about helping students prepare for work in complex knowledge creating jobs, then you need the stronger form.

I hadn’t reread this paper for a while, and I think it still stands up quite well. As of today, it’s had 87 citations, not all of them by me. I’m also glad to see that research on learning through discussion in higher education has been growing in the last 10 years. The literature was quite thin in 2006/7.

In 2008, Lina Markauskaite and I wrote a grant proposal that allowed us to do some of the ‘cognitive anthropology’ hinted at in this paper. The outcomes, and a much richer understanding of matters that were only sketched in the BJES paper, can be found in our ‘magnum opus’ – Markauskaite, L., & Goodyear, P. (2017). Epistemic fluency and professional education: innovation, knowledgeable action and actionable knowledge. Dordrecht: Springer.