The Pattern Language Network

Taming web2.0 in Higher Education

Archive for November, 2008

the new pattern template is here!

Posted by yishaym on November 19, 2008

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been busy with workshops all over the place: CETL ALiC in leeds, formative e-Assessment in London, Teaching and Learning Computer Science in Edinbrugh. Of these, the first two were planned as a Workshop II in the frame of our methodology. The London one pretty much followed the plan, while in Leeds, as Janet reported, was more of a “I.IV”. Perhaps we were more aggressive in London.

In Edinburgh (Heriot-Watt, to be percise) on the other hand, we managed to discuss case stories and derive two patterns in a single day. It might be down to having a longer workshop, or to the fact that computer scientists are more comfortable with the whole design pattern concept.

These workshops were a good oportunity to evaluate and refine our pattern template. In light of Janet’s suggested format, as well as the discussions we had here on Validity, Resonance and Aggregation, we now have a new and improved pattern template:

  • Includes slots for icon, illustration and diagram.
  • Added a confidence value (0-3) dropdown.
  • Details (authors, dates, etc) hidden and shown on request.
  • Added a support section

The last bit is perhaps the most significant change. The support section aims to scaffold pattern authors through establishing scientific validity. It includes four elements:

  • Source – the case story from which this pattern originated.
  • Triangulation – additional supporting case stories (remember the rule of three)
  • Rationale – theoretical backing
  • Verification – solutions implemented using this pattern

This still doesn’t reflect the pattern scheme in full glory, but “you might find, you get what you need”.

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Try once, refine once: a handy pattern from Aliy Fowler

Posted by yishaym on November 19, 2008

Aliy Fowler from Kent is one of the participants in our formative e-Assessment group. She brought us a case story called String comparison in language learning. At the 2nd workshop of this group, we discussed this case, and identified a pattern, which she called Try Once, Refine Once. Aliy and her table posted the first version of this pattern, and we’ve been iterating on it for the last couple of weeks.

This pattern is far from complete. The discussions around it are still hot, and you’re welcome to pitch in. But even in its current form, it is worth a read. This pattern uses a clever grading scheme to promote students to make a serious effort to get the answer right, and then make good use of the feedback they receive.

try once refine once flow chart

try once refine once flow chart

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CETL ALiC meets Planet

Posted by Janet Finlay on November 7, 2008

On Tuesday John and I facilitated a second Planet workshop for the CETL ALiC (Active Learning in Computing) fellows – the intention being to help them identify patterns that are shareable from the wealth of material and experience they have been gathering over the past three years. Dissemination is vital to ALiC and the project is keen to develop a pattern collection to represent the findings of the project.

The Planet team have agreed on a three workshop model for supporting pattern collection. Workshop one will look at cases (stories) and seek to draw out the key elements: the challenge faced, the success factors, the solution. Workshop two will take protopatterns developed by the facilitators and review and revise them into (hopefully) more complete patterns. Workshop three will focus on use and will attempt to address challenges brought by contributors using the patterns through the organising structure.

We held a workshop one for ALiC earlier in the year. This first workshop considered case studies and led to a much richer understanding of the actual activities. However the cases proposed were very detailed and covered an entire workpackage, making it difficult to identify successful practice. In this workshop we therefore asked the ALiC team to identify specific incidents of successful practice within their cases, which were then discussed and mapped onto a pattern template. It is therefore probably best thought of as a “workshop one and three quarters” – beyond a “workshop one” but not quite into the full extent of a workshop two. Each group identified several protopatterns and started to flesh out the detail. John and I will now develop these further, looking for connections with existing patterns and other evidence, in preparation for our next workshop – a full workshop two – in December.

For me one of the most useful outcomes of this workshop was the feedback on the template which we used to scaffold the pattern elicitation. This was based on the proposed pattern form and included all elements together with some explanation of what was needed for each. Two observations were made. Firstly, although all the pattern elements were included, we only ever used a subset in the discussion and in a particular order: problem, solution, context, then name and diagram in either order, then evidence. None of the other sections were useful in the discussion. Secondly, the use of the “P” word in the explanations was unhelpful – the ALiC team were focusing on their case stories – they didn’t have a pattern yet – so they suggested rephrasing to focus on the story.

So the good news is the scaffolding worked really well – I will revise it in line with the observations made above and will make it available on the wiki for others to use.

Looking forward to the next workshop with this group!

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Planet’s journey to the north

Posted by yishaym on November 4, 2008

On Nov. 13th we’ll be holding a workshop at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, on Teaching and Learning Computer Science. Contact Judy Robertson if you want to come along (or drop me a line).

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Finalising a pattern structure

Posted by Janet Finlay on November 3, 2008

We have had many discussions about the structure we need for a pattern and the template on the wiki has been updated to reflect some of these. However I don’t think we have agreed a structure that we can work with from now on. My own view is that the current structure is incomplete and does not give enough support to people moving from protopatterns to patterns. It would also be useful to use a structure which is compatible with other collections to allow more seamless reuse of the patterns of others.

I proposed some changes some time ago based on the PLML pattern elements – the resulting discussion was then summarised by Jim. I’d like to take that further now and propose an actual specification for the structure. I believe our template should include the following elements (comments in parentheses):

  • Name (short, memorable but not so gimicky as to be meaningless to anyone outside the initial discussion)
  • Illustration (a picture showing an instantiation of the pattern in real life – so a photo, screenshot, video – rather than a diagrammatic representation)
  • Problem (the design challenge the pattern will address)
  • Context (described by PLML as “applicability” – what kind of situation does this pattern apply to?)
  • Solution (the instruction that resolves or addresses the challenge expressed in the problem)
  • Diagram (a schematic or diagramatic representation that captures the essence of what the pattern is about – could be a sketch or a more formal representation)
  • Evidence – to include 3 sections (either formally or indicated in the section “advice”):
  1. Examples (cases where this pattern is seen)
  2. Rationale (principles, evidence from literature etc to back up pattern
  3. Links and references (supporting the above)
  • Related patterns (patterns within the language – or another) that this one extends, is part of, contains, is the same as etc)
  • Confidence (how sure are we this is a pattern – may be related to the level of evidence, the rule of three etc. – suggest a three level “star” rating).
  • Author
  • Licensing (as now)

I think this is in keeping with our previous discussions but that of course is open to disagreement! Some of these may end up being collapsed into one field; others may be optional. However, given the difficulties users have had in knowing how to move from case to pattern, overspecifying the structure seems appropriate to begin with.

Our plan is to use this format for the ALiC workshop this week and work on scaffolding questions and activities to help our participants map their cases onto it. We’ll keep you posted.

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From stories to patterns, and back, and back again

Posted by yishaym on November 3, 2008

Let’s say you know how to write a case story, and we’ve convinced you that stories are not enough. But how do you get from a story to a pattern? Well, hopefully by March we’ll have something of an answer to that. In the meanwhile, here’s a tutorial that just might help:

Posted in case studies, presentations, workshops | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »