diSessa & Cobb (2004)

From MathEd.net Wiki
Revision as of 19:12, 8 November 2013 by imported>Raymond Johnson (→‎Outline of Headings)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Ontological Innovation and the Role of Theory in Design Experiments

The article Ontological Innovation and the Role of Theory in Design Experiments was written by Andrea diSessa and Paul Cobb and published in the Journal of the Learning Sciences in 2004. The article is available from Taylor & Francis Online at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15327809jls1301_4.


The motivation for this article is our belief that theory is critically important but currently underplayed in design research studies. We seek to characterize and illustrate a genre of theorizing that seems to us strongly synergistic with design-based research. We begin by drawing contrasts with kinds of theory that are relevant but, we contend, by themselves inadequate. A central element of the type of productive design-based theorizing on which we focus is "ontological innovation," hypothesizing and developing explanatory constructs, new categories of things in the world that help explain how it works. A key criterion to which we adhere when discussing ontological innovations is that theory must do real design work in generating, selecting and validating design alternatives at the level at which they are consequential for learning. Developing and refining an ontological innovation is challenging and requires the kind of extensive, iterative work that characterizes design experiments more generally. However, the pay-off in terms of clarity of focus and explanatory power can be great. We present two case studies that illustrate the development, refinement, extension, and instructional application of ontological innovations.

Outline of Headings

  • The Importance of Theory
  • Characterizing "Theory" for Design Studies
    • Grand Theories
    • Orienting Frameworks
    • Frameworks for Action
    • Domain Specific Instructional Theories
  • Ontological Innovation
  • Case Study 1: Meta-Representational Competence
    • Opportunistic Research, Retrospective Analysis, and Discovery
    • Ontological Innovation: Meta-Representational Competence
    • Refinement, Iteration, and Extension
    • Synthesis and Extension
  • Case Study 2: Sociomathematical Norms
    • Opportunistic Research, Reorientation, and Retrospective Analysis
    • Ontological Innovation: Sociomathematical Norms
    • Intervention, Iteration, and Refinement
    • Synthesis and Extension
    • Reflection
  • Conclusion



diSessa, A. A., & Cobb, P. (2004). Ontological innovation and the role of theory in design experiments. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 13(1), 77–103. doi:10.1207/s15327809jls1301_4


author = {DiSessa, Andrea A. and Cobb, Paul},
doi = {10.1207/s15327809jls1301\_4},
journal = {Journal of the Learning Sciences},
number = {1},
pages = {77--103},
title = {{Ontological innovation and the role of theory in design experiments}},
url = {http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15327809jls1301\_4},
volume = {13},
year = {2004}