September 14, 2009

Making Process of Learning Patterns

Learning patterns are developed by the really active and creative collaboration for one year at Learning Patterns Project, Keio University. I would like to briefly overview the making process of our pattern language.

In the first half of the process, we started some survey and brain storming about the knack of experienced learners. Again and again we conduct both of divergent thinking and convergent thinking. Sometime we thought in the view related to curriculum, sometimes in the view of campus life. The pieces of idea about effective and creative learning were organized and categorized over the discussion. Summarizing the idea, the candidate of patterns were emerged.

In the latter half of the process, we wrote the detail of patterns and held the workshop to improve the patterns more than twenty times. Drawing the illustration of each pattern was proceeded in parallel, so sometimes the illustration help to shape the contents of the patterns. We always spend six hours a week for workshop to improve a patterns. This phase was a precious experience for us but also really hard task because of no end is in sight.

Here, we shall explain the style of this workshop, because it is very important for improvement of pattern languages. We learned the workshop style explained here is in the Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP), which is annually held both in United States and Europe. Our method to improve a pattern language is a variation of the method which is sophisticated in the area of software design. The pattern communities have developed the way to improve and approve the patterns, which this process is also a kind of creative collaboration and it is depend on mutual approval.

The participants of the workshop consists of authors of patterns which are taken in the workshop and some volunteers. Participants are required to read all papers in advance, which are including some patterns respectively. Then in the workshop, they spend one and half hour to talk about each paper. Most interesting rule of the workshop is that the author should shut his / her mouth, instead of giving a presentation or explanation. Only other participants except the author allow to talk about the proposed patterns. The author has responsibility to write down the comments for improving the patterns.

The reason why the author ought not to say something is related to the thought that pattern language is "language" to use. Therefore It is necessary for the pattern language to be understandable for the various readers. Through such a process, the author can know which part of description is mistakable for others, and also get more appropriate or attractive words, explanation, and examples. Furthermore it is another important rule of workshop that they can say only positive comments including the clue to improve the pattern. This rule works well to drive the participants into good collaboration. Like this, the proposed pattern language in this paper has been improved through such a workshops in our project.

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