Gathering Requirements for Teacher Tools: Strategies for Empowering Teachers Through Co-Design

Camillia Matuk, Libby Gerard, Jonathan Lim-Breitbart, Marcia Linn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Technology can enhance teachers’ practice in multiple ways. It can help them better understand patterns in their students’ thinking, manage class progress at individual and group levels, and obtain evidence to inform modifications to curriculum and instruction. Such technology is most effective when it is aligned with teachers’ goals and expectations. Participatory methods, which involve teachers closely in the design process, are widely recommended for establishing accurate design requirements that address users’ needs. By collaborating with researchers, teachers can contribute their professional expertise to shape the tools of their practice, and ultimately ensure their sustained use. However, there is little guidance available for maintaining effective teacher–researcher design partnerships. We describe four strategies for engaging teachers in designing tools intended to support and enhance their practice within a web-based science learning environment: discussing physical artifacts, reacting to scenarios, customizing prototypes, and writing user stories. Using design artifacts and documents of teachers’ reflections, we illustrate how we applied these techniques over 5 years of annual professional development workshops, and examine their affordances for eliciting teachers’ ideas. We reflect on how these approaches have helped inform technology refinements and innovations. We moreover discuss the further benefits these strategies have had in encouraging teachers to reflect on their own practice and on the roles of technology in supporting it; and in allowing researchers to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between technology, teaching, and design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-110
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Science Teacher Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Case methods
  • Co-design
  • K-12 science inquiry
  • Professional development
  • Teachers
  • Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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