Our designs and the social agendas they carry

Sasha Barab, Tyler Dodge, Michael K. Thomas, Craig Jackson, Hakan Tuzun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Although the work of learning scientists and instructional designers has brought about countless curricula, designs, and theoretical claims, the community has been less active in communicating the explicit and implicit critical social agendas that result (or could result) from their work. It is our belief that the community of learning scientists is well positioned to build transformative models of what could be, to develop learning and teaching interventions that have impact, and to advance theory that will prove valuable to others. This potential, we argue, would be significantly heightened if we as a community embrace the critical agendas that are central to so many discussions in anthropology, philosophy, or even curriculum development more generally. Instead of simply building an artifact to help individuals accomplish a particular task, or to meet a specific standard, the focus of critical design work is to develop sociotechnical structures that facilitate individuals in critiquing and improving themselves and the societies in which they function, and then we use our understanding of participation with these structures to advance theory. As an example of critical design work, we describe the Quest Atlantis project and the methodology used in its creation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-305
Number of pages43
JournalJournal of the Learning Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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