PETE, PRIMM, and Monsters

A year ago, I wrote a short catalog of exercises that you can use in programming classes. I’d now like to build up a catalog of lesson structures, and would like your help.

A lesson structure isn’t an activity or a presentation mode; rather, it’s a sequence of those akin to the chord changes in a song. Here are three four five examples:

  • PRIMM stands for “Predict, Run, Investigate, Modify, Make”. Learners try to figure out what a piece of code will do without running it, run it and check their predictions, trace through it or label its parts or do something else that requires close reading, modify it, and finally make something similar of their own from scratch.

  • PETE (my apologies, but I’ve lost the link to the original source) stands for “Problem, Explanation, Theory, Elaboration”. The instructor sets out a motivating problem, solves that particular instance, gives the general theory or concept underlying the solution, then presents a second example so that learners can see what’s intrinsic (i.e., what generalizes) and what’s accidental.

  • ADEPT is “Analogy, Diagram, Example, Plain English, Technical definition”. In other words, tell learners what it’s like, use dual coding to reinforce the message, provide a concrete instance (preferably drawn from authentic experience), go through it in everyday language, and only then hit them with definitions and abstractions.

  • C&R stands for “Challenge and Response”. The instructor presents a simple problem that has a simple solution, then highlights a case where the simple approach doesn’t work and presents a slightly more complex solution. One of its shortcomings is then singled out and solved and so on. (This is how most contributors to AOSA described software architecture: through historical recapitulation of breakdown and remediation.)

  • Concrete-Representational-Abstract (CRA) is primary used with younger learners. The concrete stage involves physically manipulating objects to solve a problem (e.g., piling blocks to do addition). In the representational stage, images are used to represent those objects, and in the final abstract stage, the learner uses numbers or symbols.

A lesson structure feels like a design pattern, but when I search for “design patterns for lessons”, most of what comes up is from the 1990s or 2000s, and is mostly about how to develop such patterns rather than the patterns themselves. The Pedagogical Patterns project produced this book, but work seems to have stopped several years ago, and many of its patterns are at the level of course design rather than lesson design. This page on the Learning Design Grid site has links to other pattern sites, but again, work seems to have ground to a halt. I’m sure there’s got to be more out there, and I’d be very grateful for pointers—please email me if you have any. (I apologize for not enabling comments here: following my criticism of Shopify’s continued support for white nationalist sites, it seemed best to disable Disqus until the trolls turned their attention elsewhere.)

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