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Patterns for social practices: A psychological perspective

Katrin Wodzicki, Knowledge Media Research Center, Tuebingen
Johannes Moskaliuk, University of Tuebingen
Ulrike Cress, Knowledge Media Research Center, Tuebingen

In the past decades, a collection of widely accepted (design) patterns was developed as descriptions that externalize and document expert’s implicit knowledge in the domain of software engineering. The idea of using patterns to describe complex software problems and to offer an analytical framework to solve these problems seems to be a good way to transfer and discuss social practices as well. Recently, there were some efforts to use patterns in the field of e-learning and education.
In this paper, we will point out why patterns can improve social practices by making implicit knowledge explicit (e.g., about how to give a good lecture) and by advancing the communication between experts and laypersons. However, implementing patterns for discussing about social practices is linked with some challenges: How to identify constraints or forces that affect the usefulness of a pattern for social practice? How to take into account different audience of the pattern with different levels of previous knowledge? How to find appropriate granularity of patterns and how to make them adaptive to varying demands of the audience? How to support the application of social practices described in patterns? These questions are important because patterns are useless as long as they are not understood and applied to improve social practice.

From a psychological perspective there are some theories that address similar questions (e.g., theories about problem solving, expert-layperson-communication, and group decision-making). To enrich the discussion about patterns for social practices, we will highlight what can be learned from these psychological approaches. Nevertheless, there remain open questions about implementing patterns for social practices. Thus, we will close with three concrete research questions that have to be answered to ensure the successful use of patterns for social practices.

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