Utilizing the Performative Nature of Print Media for Active Learning: Textbooks and Other Educational Materials as Experience

By Matthew Peterson.

Published by The Learner Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Conventional wisdom holds that the traditional and formal method of learning—transmission—is at times less effective than informal approaches. While teaching methods are shifting to promote a broader view of learning—including inquiry-based learning and structuring—the textbooks and other print media that teachers utilize are designed predominantly for transmission alone. Although instruction is increasingly nuanced and sophisticated, conceptions of design that support teaching are not. Typically a textbook is judged primarily in terms of the information it contains, not the dynamics of student interaction with the object itself and how it presents that information. Such presentations can facilitate authentic types of learning—informal approaches that are more consistent with intrinsically motivating, real world experiences—if leveraged properly.

This paper delineates the performative nature of print media. Performative design describes the ability of visual and textual form to elicit active learning behaviors from its reader. The structures and dynamics of the printed page, in large part, determine the interpretative engagement of the reader. Examples will demonstrate how performative design schemes can promote exploratory interaction, comparable to what occurs in an active classroom setting or in exploration of the world outside of school. For instance, spontaneous game play can be initiated, where there is no explicit game, by the relationship between text and image. Students enjoy games—a rich and involving aspect of life outside of the school—and are intrinsically motivated to resolve them. Game play is valuable when interaction is considered, but goes unnoticed if consideration ends at an inventory of information. Counter examples will characterize traditional, less performative design as predicated on a transmission model—on “talking at”, rather than “interacting with” the student.

Subject experts, educators and designers must co-create effective materials with the same care and skill with which teachers approach a living classroom.

Keywords: Constructivist Learning, Experience, Interactivity, Interpretation, Mnemonics, Performative Design, Print Media, Reading Strategy, Schema Theory, Textbook Design

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp.19-26. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.101MB).

Matthew Peterson

PhD in Design Candidate, College of Design, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA

Matthew Peterson is pursuing a PhD in Design under Meredith Davis at NC State University. He has been a practicing graphic designer for 10 years, and co-owned and operated Field Study, an internationally-recognized design studio in Chicago.


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