ECOOP 2001
by Joe
Mining Pedagogical Patterns

Patterns are designed to capture best practice in a specific domain. Pedagogical patterns try to capture expert knowledge of the practice of teaching and learning. The intent is to capture the essence of the practice in a compact form that can be easily communicated to those who need the knowledge. Presenting this information in a coherent and accessible form can mean the difference between every new instructor needing to relearn what is known by senior faculty and easy transference of knowledge of teaching within the community.

In essence a pattern solves a problem. This problem should be one that recurs in different contexts. In teaching we have many problems such as motivating students, choosing and sequencing materials, evaluating students, and the like.

These problems do recur and in slightly different form each time. Each time a problem pops up there are considerations that must be taken into account that influence our choice of solution. These forces push us toward or away from any given solution to a problem. A pattern is supposed to present a problem and a solution. The problem together with the forces must apply to make that solution beneficial to the problem.

A pattern language is a set of patterns that work together to generate complex behavior and complex artifacts, while each pattern within the language is itself simple. The patterns community has begun to realize that patterns in isolation provide only incremental improvements to software systems, organizations and processes. Pattern languages, on the other hand, promise to drive fundamental and lasting improvements. One very successful pedagogical pattern language is Seminars by Astrid Fricke and Markus Voelter ( It describes how to design and deliver a short course. Little in this language (or any pattern language) is novel, but it brings together in one place expert knowledge that is often forgotten and sometimes overlooked.

A number of educators have been involved in the pedagogical patterns project for several years. There is an international web site with contributions, including some of these. Contributions are eagerly sought and members of the community are happy to work with new pattern authors to develop their work. See

This workshop intends to bring together educators and industrial trainers interested in using patterns to improve instruction. Each participant is asked to contribute a pattern or patlet (idea for a pattern). The first part of the workshop will be spent in exchanging these ideas and their relevance to the Experiential Learning Pattern Language. Next we will discuss in groups pedagogical problems and their solutions focusing on gaps in the existing pattern language. We will take the ideas gleaned earlier and attempt to abstract them to a form in which they can be appropriately expressed as patterns. Finally we will attempt to bring the ideas together in a refinement of the Experiential Learning Pattern Language.

We seek submissions from educators and trainers of Object Technology, or experienced pattern writers who have an interest in this area. Submissions should do one of the following:
(1) identify a pattern or a patlet (idea for a pattern) which is related to the pattern language, but not covered in it
(2) specify the points which need clarification in the pattern language
(3) describe other uses of the pattern language. For example, perhaps you have used the same technique or approach, but in a different setting (or indeed the same setting).
(4) explain your interest in the project and what experience you would bring to the workshop.

To participate in the workshop, it is essential that you have read the Experiential Learning Pattern Language, which could be viewed at the Pedagogical Patterns Project web page,

It is also hoped that this workshop will have the side benefit of expanding the membership of the pedagogical patterns community and provide contacts and opportunities for future collaboration.

We are always looking for more ideas, and for people who are able to validate the patterns, i.e. can see their own practice reflected in the patterns we have collected. This is an important aspect of any patterns project.