The pedagogical approach of trialogical learning was developed in various stages in the KP-Lab project. The project aimed not just on developing a single pedagogical approach or pedagogical model, but rather to develop tools and models to support transforming existing practices towards more trialogical ones. This explains why there can be different focuses for trialogical learning in different settings, for example when emphasizing elements of inquiry (“object-oriented inquiry”), or when emphasizing innovation of the practice itself (“mentored innovation”). The trialogical approach comes then close to many existing approaches to collaborative learning focusing on open-ended problem solving and project work, like knowledge building, inquiry learning, project-based learning, situated-interaction approach, or problem-based learning.
The trialogical approach combines features from approaches highlighting conceptual aspects of inquiry processes and idea-centered work (like knowledge building or inquiry learning) with features highlighted in pragmatically oriented approaches (like project-based learning). It aims at giving support for long-term work over or between courses, and breaking boundaries between educational and professional institutions. It aims at producing tools and methods for supporting integrated collaborative knowledge creation processes. Trialogical approach emphasises learners’ joint work on knowledge artefacts in development of objects and practices for real use. These artefacts convert joint idea development and knowledge creation efforts into resources that can be re-used, scrutinized and modified in new learning and work contexts. Trialogical approach also places particular value on the participation of representatives of diverse professional contexts and knowledge communities in the joint work on these artefacts. This allows the cross-fertilization between diverse knowledge practices to be harnessed for object bound knowledge creation.
The generic process model of trialogical learning (see Figure 1) illustrates the idea that there are two parallel, but closely interlinked, processes taking place/emerging/occurring. This is, a) collaborative work for developing knowledge artefacts and b) processes and practices supporting or regulating this work. In the interaction and interplay of these processes, individual and collective efforts, agency, and various types of mediation, i.e., epistemic, pragmatic, social, and reflective mediation, are important. These aspects are closely related, but for analytic purposes they are separated.
A central feature of the model is that all specified activities are targeted at elaborating shared objects. This means concrete mediating elements and outcomes of each activity, e.g., notes, document drafts, process plans, conceptual models and more abstract goals of the entire process, e.g., a final product, an article to be produced, or transformed working practices. The end results and outcomes of the process are new concrete knowledge artefacts or transformed practices that are meant for real or subsequent reuse.
The boxes numbered with letters specify central activities in the iterative processes of trialogical learning. These activities are concretized in technology mediated processes for working on the shared objects, which are in the middle of the figure. The activities do not have to follow a strict order. It depends on the domain and educational setting how these elements are connected with each other. The elements are meant to provide a rough outline of phases in these iteratively conducted processes as a guideline for the participants. The model consists of a learning community (or group) where the work is conducted. External communities and organizations, however, should provide an initiative or motive for the work as well as existing knowledge artefacts and practices as building materials and models for new artefacts and practices. Correspondingly, the learning community is aiming at producing reusable knowledge artefacts or practices that can be reused by the community itself or by external communities and organizations. The learning community can also include members of external communities and practices as close collaborators and active participants throughout the process, actualizing strong cross-fertilization.
Elements of the process shortly explained:
A Explicating real purpose and need for creating new knowledge / for transforming practices. A central starting point is that the learning community aims at producing knowledge artefacts and learn practices which have “real” use, that is, something which is not made just for the purpose of the specific learning context (like an exam or an essay to be checked by the teacher) but which can be reused later on. Connected to this element is then also reusing previously produced knowledge artefacts and practices (see: F reusing knowledge artefacts / practices)
B Framing questions and epistemic challenges / common process organization. This is a kind of a brainstorming phase for the overall knowledge creation challenge and for the ways of organizing the process. It often requires a bit different activities and tools than more elaborate work with knowledge artefacts but should already produce some concrete outcomes to be worked with (notes, sketches, idea lists, outlines etc). The process organization takes place all along with participants’ epistemic activities and is not just one “phase” in the process.
C Drafting and versioning knowledge artefacts and solutions / process plans and models. Very early on participants are encouraged to start drafting concrete knowledge artefacts which are meant to be early versions of the final products aimed at. The core idea of trialogical learning is that these drafts are then concretely elaborated and versioned by participants throughout the process. Some of these knowledge artefacts are meant to function as means for the final end products that the process is aiming at. Similarly, process plans (process models, task definitions, responsibilities, timetables, milestones, etc.) are drafted and elaborated by participants during the process for deliberate organization and monitoring of shared activities.
D Examining and reflecting on produced knowledge artefacts / enacted practices. Both knowledge artefacts developed and enacted practices should be constantly scrutinized and evaluated during the process in order to ensure the quality of the knowledge artefacts produced and practices enacted (sometimes there are outside reviewers who give criteria for the products). The participants should spare time for now and then critically evaluating the produced entity of knowledge artefacts and conducted activities and practices. Appropriate technology can provide possibilities for that in the form of various views into the shared virtual working areas, awareness functionalities and analytic tools. There should also be room for presenting alternatives, questions, conceptualizations, visualizations, links, tags, etc. in relation to things which have already been developed.
E Finalising and specifying produced knowledge artefacts / process models and practices. Knowledge artefacts and practices are meant to be used later on (by others or by participants themselves later on). They must be finalized and explicated for that purpose.
F Reusing knowledge artefacts/ practices. This element has a double role in the model. On the one hand, in the starting phases of trialogical knowledge creation processes, existing knowledge artefacts and practices, and resources are utilized as building materials and models for new development. On the other hand, a central feature of trialogical learning is to aim at producing reusable knowledge artefacts and practices, meaning that the participants’ knowledge creation and development work has a real meaning for somebody in the future.