Pieter Sprangers

How can we develop a model for the (re)design of more effective, valuable and appealing educational systems?


António da Cruz Rodrigues, IADE - Universidade Europeia


Often learning is monopolised by educational systems such as ‘schools’. In my PhD, I wish to study the design of educational systems and develop a methodology to redesign educational systems such as schools or educational systems in other contextual realities, e.g. business context. My final goal is to develop a model enabling educational system designers to (re)design valuable educational systems so as to organize learning in a better way. A first simple indication that an educational system - such as a school - nowadays is considered to be a complex system is that it is not easy to describe it in a manner that is is genuinely well understood by other people. Nowadays schools are complex systems and often generate complicated ways of learning. Schools are often characterized by their relative closed nature, since the learning activities often happen in closed classrooms. Educational designers should dispose of a model providing them the necessary insights on how they can simplify educational systems while redesigning them. Developing such a model, founded in educational design research, is the goal of my PhD project.

Keywords: educational system, organization of learning, educational system designer, model for educational system design, learning

Research topic

The research topic of this PhD can be synthesized as follows: “How can we develop a model for the (re)design of more effective, valuable and appealing educational systems?”

In this PhD-research project, the focus is not being put on learning design, instructional design or educational design but on ‘educational system (re)design’.

The research scope of this project will be to develop a model, enabling educational system designers to (re)design educational systems that generate higher (relative) learning outcomes. 

Educational design is a professional practice with its roots in the systems model of instructional design (Gagné & Briggs, 1974). Educational design practitioners come to their profession through a range of qualification pathways and are well informed by theory, diverse though this may be (Schwier, Campbell & Kenny, 2004). In general, designers work intensively with the immediate pedagogical questions of curriculum and assessment design. They usually do so in direct collaboration with the subject matter expert and occasionally, within multidisciplinary teams that include technical as well as academic staff. The key concern of designers is to ensure educational rigour through the integration of appropriate learning theory into the learning materials and events being designed. (O’Reilly, M. 2004)

In his book ‘Edushock, brainoptimizer for learning in the future  (2011), Pieter Sprangers (co-author) wrote that learning  should not be regarded as a synonym for educating and furthermore that learning can happen everywhere, always and anyhow.   In his utopic vision schools are replaced by ‘lighthouses of knowledge’ where glocal learning communities are formed where age independent informal and formal learning can happen.

Educational design research adresses educational problems in real-world settings and has two primary goals: to develop knowledge and to develop solutions.  Empirical investigation is conducted in real learning settings-not laboratories-to craft usable and effective solutions. At the same time, the research is carefully structured to produce theoretical understanding that can serve the work of others(Reeves T., McKenney S, 2012).

Research questions

Research questions in the context of design research mostly imply a search for characteristics:

  • Main research question: What variables can ‘educational system designers’ take into account to (re)design educational systems?
    Or: How can learning be organized in a systemic manner?
    (Testing-out research / problem solving research)
  • Subquestion 1: What is an educational system?
    meme – element – different learning environments – learning design – instructional design – educational design – educational system design
    (Defining research)

  • Subquestion 2: How can we eliminate obstacles as regards to the self-construction process of learning in educational systems?
    (Evaluative research)
  • Subquestion 3: What could an ‘educational system designers’ profession imply and entail?
    (Descriptive research)