REACT Foundations

Most institutions of higher education recognise the problem associated with the level of innovation and quality in teaching and learning and most have formulated some sort of response. Many of these responses seem limited, have little effect and often don’t address the following issues. REACT is based on a foundation drawing on knowledge from a broad array of disciplines. It also has connections with a number of other activities. This page offers a description of some of these foundations and connections.

REACT’s foundations and connections include (but aren’t limited to):

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Discussion around the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning started in 1990 when Boyer (1990) proposed that scholarship be broadened beyond an emphasis on discovery to encompass the scholarship of integration, application and teaching. This concept has since been refined (Glassick et al, 1997; Trigwell et all, 2000 ) and has been at the core of the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

The REACT project engages with ideas about the scholarship of learning and teaching as expressed by Shulman (1993) , including:

  • Communication and community
    Provided by REACT’s use of both mentoring and collaborative processes.
  • Creation of an artifact
    Provided by REACT’s requirement to write a paper, using a fixed structure, that can be shared, discussed, critiqued and improved.
  • Peer review
    Provided by REACT’s use of a mentor and also its two-stage peer review process.

REACT’s 7-step writing process also resonates strongly with the scholarship of teaching model developed by Trigwell, Martin, Benjamin and Prosser (2000)

  1. being informed about learning and teaching generally and in the teachers’ own discipline;
  2. reflection on the teachers’ particular context and the relationship between this and the literature
  3. the focus of the teaching approach adopted; and
  4. communication of the relevant aspects to members of the community of scholars.


Research in education

Burkhardt and Schoenfeld (2003) claim that the traditions of educational research are not strongly aligned with effective models linking research and practice. The following table summarises their argument.

Current practice Improved situation
Educational research provides useful insight but does not often lead directly to practical advances. A better linkage with the practical needs of the education system would increase the usefulness of research
The research-based development of tools and processes for use by practitioners is largely missing from education. It is common in other applied fields. Such developments will help increase the incidence of robust evidence-based recommendations for practice.
Realignment will require significant changes in work patterns. Must be closer coordination of effort between research, design, development, policy and practice. Must be a conscious change in the academic value system to induce the necessary number of educational researchers to develop the relevant skills to engage in such work.

REACT takes a slightly different approach. Its emphasis is on providing the opportunity, motivation and assistance to educational practitioners to participate in design-based research.

Burkhardt and Schoenfeld (2003) describe three main research traditions within education

  1. Humanaties approach.
  2. Science approach.
  3. Engineering approach.

REACT seeks to encourage research within the "engineering approach" (some/many may prefer architecture or medicine as alternate names to engineering).

The engineering approach is directly concerned with designing and systematically developing high-quality solutions to practical problems. While such research is often under-valued, especially within the field of education, it plays a key role in making research more useful.

This is not to suggest that the other two types of research are not valid or important. The suggestion is that the "engineering approach" to research can help improve the linkage between research and practice.


Design research

Design research is a knowledge-using activity that offers prescriptions, embodied in artifacts, in an attempt to improve performance of some task. Design research is concerned with how things ought to be, with devising artifacts to attain goals (Simon, 1996). Often seen as the poorer cousin to traditional research design research can be found in fields as diverse as accounting, education and information systems.

Since the 1990s interest in design research, based on the work of Simon (1996), has grown within the discipline of education, usually under the name of design experiments. A theme issue of Educational Research (Kelly 2003) examines the work of a number of active design-based researchers within education. Design experiments are prime examples of research that resides in the space of studies that offer potentially significant contributions to both theory and practice (Burkhardt and Schoenfeld, 2003).


Design patterns

Design patterns provide a mechanism for codifying and using innovation. Originally developed in the discipline of architecture (Alexander et al, 1977) the design pattern idea has since been adopted in a wide variety of fields including: pedagogy, systems analysis, hypermedia, project planning, organisational structure and object-oriented design. Since 1999 a variety of authors have suggested that design patterns offer a set of useful tools for online teaching and learning (Jones and Stewart, 1999; Frizell and Hubscher, 2002; Avgeriou et al, 2003)

A number of the characteristics of design patterns, as used in the object-oriented design community, have been adopted within the REACT process. They include:

  1. A focus on problems
    A design pattern is a description of a particular problem within a context, the forces arising from that context and a solution that resolves those forces. An emphasis on practical problems helps bridge the researcher/practitioner gap.
  2. Requirement for working example
    In the OO (Object Oriented design) community there must be at least two working examples of the design pattern before it is considered.
  3. A consistent format

    Design patterns are described using a consistent format. The use of consistent format for the description of patterns makes it easier to learn, compare and use patterns (Gamma et al, 1994).

  4. Writers workshops
    Borrowed from creative writing, writers workshops are a collaborative process of producing and improving upon a piece of writing.

In Alexander’s original work patterns were only one part, what Introna (1996) described as, a larger ateleological design process.


Writers workshops

The standard academic review process is a closed process with an emphasis on evaluating scholarly work (Sumner et al, 2000). The traditional form of that process has 4 main steps:

  1. Paper is written
  2. Paper is reviewed anonymously
  3. Some changes made in response
  4. Paper is published

Sumner et al (2000) have modified the journal peer review process for The Journal of Interactive Media in Education to promote multidisciplinary debate. This work opens up the review process encouraging named rather than anonymous review and adding an additional stage of open peer review.

REACT also introduces the use of a writer’s workshop (as an example of open peer review). With REACT, however, this open peer review occurs after the initial idea has been formulated but before it has been implemented.

REACT’s use of writers workshops has been adopted from the Patterns community within the software development discipline and draws on the writers’ workshop (Gabriel, 2002) approach to peer review. This approach has some similarity with the "mini-conference" approach used by Collins, Lynch and Markham (2001) , who state that “…the mini-conference is a successful model to disseminate innovation and outcomes achieved that improve learning and teaching” (n.p.). They also reported that, in terms of promoting collegiality in a competitive, corporatised environment, the mini-conference was most successful.

The structure of the workshops is described by Douglas C. Schmidt (


Communities of practice

Communities of practice are groups of diverse people who come together around common interests and problems in order to create, share and apply knowledge within and across organisational boundaries. They provide a concrete path toward creating a true knowledge organisation and can be the keystone of an effective knowledge strategy(Wenger et al, 2002).

From one perspective the communities of practice approach rejects many of the underlying principles of the more top-down approach to strategy and knowledge construction. Particularly in organisations of large size, geographical scope and complexity.

Beyond the reference above additional material on communities of practice include


Teleological and ateleological processes

Most, if not all, modern organisational practice is based on the practice of setting and achieving objectives, to be purpose driven. This is a teleological approach.

Teleological systems are systems that are purpose directed, systems that (Introna, 1996):

  • Continually seek and move towards a predetermine set of goals.
  • Use negative feedback to continually measure convergence towards these goals.

Teleological development requires:

  • A relatively stable and predictable system
  • The developer must be able to "manipulate" the system’s behaviour directly.
  • The development must be able to accurately determine the goals or criteria for success

Using teleological development to support a social process can be at least limiting and inadequate and at most completely inappropriate and creates a range of problems(Introna, 1996).

Ateleological development offers an alternate that may address some of these problems. The following table (adapted from Introna, 1996) compares the two approaches.

Attributes of the design process Teleological development Ateleological development
Ultimate purpose Goal/purpose Wholeness/harmony
Intermediate goals Effectiveness/efficiency Equilibrium/homeostasis
Design focus Ends/result Means/process
Designers Explicit designer Member/part
Design scope Part Whole
Design process Creative problem solving Local adaptation, reflection and learning
Design problems Complexity and conflict Time
Design management Centralized Decentralized
Design control Direct intervention in line with a master plan Indirect via rules and regulators



Many of the following references have links to a "local copy". In most cases these are links to a page that contains an electronic copy of the paper. Due to various restrictions those electronic versions are only available to those on CQU’s network.

Alexander, C., Ishikawa, S., Silverstein, M. (1977) A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. Oxford University Press.

Avgeriou, P., Papasalouros, A., Retalis, S., Skordalakis, M. (2003). Towards a pattern language for learning management systems, Educational Technology & Society, 6(2), 11-24 local copy

Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate, Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

Burkhardt, H., Schoenfeld, A. (2003), Improving educational research: Toward a more useful, more influential and better-funded enterprise, Educational Researcher, 32(9), pp 3-14, December, 2003 local copy

Cambridge, B. (1999), The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Questions and Answers from the Field, AAHE Bulletin. local copy

Collins, F., Lynch, J., & Markham, S. (2001). The mini-conference as a research tool: Encouraging collegiality among ICT educators. Paper presented at the 18th annual conference of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education, Melbourne, Vic.

Frizell, S., Hubscher, R. (2002), Supporting the application of design patterns in web-course design, Proceedings of EdMedia’2002, pp 544-549 local copy

Gabriel, R. (2002). Writers’ workshops and the work of making things: Patterns, poetry… Boston , MA : Addison-Wesley.

Gamma, E., Helm, R., Johnson, R., Vlissides, J. (1994). Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software Addison Wesley, Reading, Massachusetts.

Glassick, C.E., Huber, M.T., Maeroff, G.I. (1997). Scholarship assessed: Evaluation of the professoriate, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Introna, L. (1996). Notes on ateleological information systems development, Information Technology & People, 9(4), pp 20-39 local copy

Isaacson, R. (2000), Why JoSoTL and why now? The Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(1). local copy

Jones, D., Stewart, S. (1999). The case for patterns in online learning, Proceedings of Webnet’99 Conference, De Bar, P. & Legget, J. (eds), Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, Honolulu, Hawaii, Oct 24-30, pp 592-597 local copy

Kelly, A. (2003), Research as design, Educational Research, 32(1), pp 3-4, January/February, 2003 local copy

Lesser, E., Storck, J. (2001). Communities of practice and organisational performance, Knowledge Management, 40(4)

Nouwens, F., Ross, E., Harreveld, R., Thomson, J., Danaher, P. (2004). Evaluation Perspectives: Integrrogating open and distance education provision at an Australian regional university, Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 5(3)

Onsman, A. (2003). Practicalities for Beginning Academics: A Preparatory Course for Staff New to Lecturing at Monash University in Proceedings of the Australian Universities Quality Forum – AUQA Occasional Publication, viewed 17 September 2004,

Reeves, T.C. (2000). Enhancing the Worth of Instructional Technology Research through "Design Experiments" and Other Development Research Strategies, International Perspectives on Instructional Technology Research for the 21st Century, New Orleans, LA, April 27, 2000 local copy

Shulman, L. (1993). Teaching as community property: putting an end to pedagogical solitude. Change, 25 (6), 6-7.

Simon, H. (1996), The sciences of the artificial (3rd ed.): MIT Press.

Sumner, T., Buckingham Shum, S., Wright, M., Bonnardel, N., & Chevalier, A. (2000). Redesigning the Peer Review Process: A Developmental Theory-in-Action. Proc. COOP’2000: Fourth International Conference on the Design of Cooperative Systems, (Sophia Antipolis, France: 23-26 May, 2000). local copy

Trigwell, K., Martin, E., Benjamin, J., & Prosser, M. (2000). Scholarship of teaching: A model. Higher Education Research & Development, 19 (2), 155-168.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice, Harvard Business School Press, Boston.


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