The use of design principles in design-based research has become more prominent also in educational fields (see e.g. Kali 2006). In the KP-Lab project design principles for trialogical learning were defined early on in the project to characterize basic features of the trialogical learning and giving general guidelines for pedagogical and technological design. They were quite strongly theoretically motivated. Their background is in theories belonging to the knowledge-creation metaphor of learning, especially in the knowledge building, expansive learning and activity theory, and progressive inquiry learning. Probably because of their theoretical and general nature they have not been modified much when it comes to their main formulations. The biggest change has been that two related design principles were merged to one. The content and meaning of these design principles have, however, been specified during the KP-Lab project in several times. In the KP-Lab project they have been used mostly to give a kind of a theoretical anchor to the project, showing key emphases of trialogical learning and giving a general framework for pedagogical research and development. They are also one influence in the generic process model of trialogical learning. In the technological development and co-design they have been used indirectly as a background for emphases in pedagogical cases. Technological requirements are more directly linked to types of mediation.

The updated list of design principles of the trialogical learning (or the trialogical design principles) is (see also Figure 1):

1. Organizing activities around shared “objects” (knowledge artefacts, processes, practices).

A central idea of trialogical learning is that work and learning are organized around developing shared, concrete objects, that is, knowledge artefacts or knowledge objects with a conceptual emphasis (e.g., ideas, plans, models) or with material emphasis (e.g., prototypes, design artefacts), and/or practices and processes (e.g., ways of working or organizing the collaboration).

In the KP-Lab project the terms ‘object’ and ‘shared object’ have aroused a lot of discussions and it has been elaborated both theoretically and pragmatically. They can be interpreted in a narrower or broader way. In a narrow sense, trialogues refer to work with concrete knowledge artefacts or knowledge practices or processes which are collaboratively developed and modified; and seen as “objects” of these activities. In a broader sense “object” have been interpreted as those aims (phenomena or entities) towards which knowledge creation processes are directed (see ‘knowledge object’). Technological and pedagogical development of KP-Lab has shown that collaboration with knowledge artefacts and knowledge objects requires in any case combined activities representing different types of mediation; besides work with knowledge artefacts (epistemic mediation), managing and enhancing processes and communities working with them, as well as reflecting and transforming knowledge practices. Also epistemic mediation requires usually a combination of different kinds of activities and functionalities to be successful (see also DP4; and object-orientedness). One of the aims of KPE has been to provide flexible means for organizing and managing knowledge creation processes.

2. Supporting interaction between personal and social levels, and eliciting individual and collective agency.

Participants are promoted to integrate their own personal work and group’s practices and resources for developing shared objects, to combine their own expertise and contribution into the shared achievement.

It is an important theoretical supposition for the trialogical learning that, in order to really understand knowledge creation, the role of individuals and social communities must both be taken into account. In the KP-Lab, this principle was not specially emphasized when it comes to technology (at the early stages of the project it was decided that the focus is on socially shared spaces and not on personalized ones). But in practical terms it has been used in some cases to emphasize ways of combining individual activities to collaborative ones (e.g. by having first individuals to evaluate some processes and after that have collaborative sessions on the same issue). Within the KP-Lab project there has been research on shared epistemic agency (Damsa et al 2010) which is closely related to this DP.

3. Fostering long-term processes of knowledge advancement.

Trialogical learning requires sustained, long-standing work for the advancement of the objects. The idea of this DP has been to emphasize that changes of knowledge practices usually take a lot of time, and that long term transformations usually take longer than, for example, one course. The KP-Lab project oriented in investigating and promoting (with pedagogical and technological means) also these longer term processes. Because of practical reasons these longer-term changes of knowledge practices were not investigated much but the focus has been on large-scale courses. The focus on long term processes means also that knowledge creation processes require many iterations to be successful, and that outcomes of the knowledge creation processes are targeted to subsequent use.

4. Emphasizing development through transformation and reflection between various forms of knowledge and practices.

Interaction and transformations between tacit knowledge, ideas, knowledge practices, and conceptualizations are seen as a driving force in processes of knowledge creation. Originally this DP has its basis on the theories belonging to the knowledge creation metaphor where the role of explicated tacit knowledge, or jointly produced conceptualizations which promote new activities has been emphasized. In KP-Lab it has meant that various tools have been developed to enhance these transformations and reflections, for example, to support multimedia annotation, or developmental working sessions, as well as analytic tools for supporting collaborative analysis and reflection on knowledge practices (see Richter et al 2010).

KPE provides rich means for supporting different types of activities (epistemic, pragmatic, social, reflective mediation) and perspectives to knowledge creation but these kinds of transformations and reflections require usually special guidance.

5. Cross fertilization of various knowledge practices across communities and institutions.

Knowledge work engages people in solving complex, authentic problems and producing objects also for purposes outside the educational institution. An essential aspect of this hybridization is between schooling/studying and research cultures as promoted in various investigative learning practices.

Cross-fertilization is an important theoretical aspect of trialogical learning when it emphasizes that knowledge artefacts are produced for “authentic” use (outside an educational context), and that interaction between different communities, especially between educational institutions and other communities should be promoted. KP-Lab research has shown that this is a clear motivating factor for participants. Cross-fertilization can have different levels of deepness, a deep one in educational context meaning collaboration where members of professional community participate on giving feedback and producing knowledge artefacts.

6. Providing flexible tool mediation.

Trialogical learning cannot easily be pursued without appropriate technologies that help the participants to create, share and elaborate, reflect and transform knowledge artefacts and practices. Collaborative technologies should provide affordances for trialogical learning processes.

In the KP-Lab project KPE has been the main tool developed to enable flexible ways of connecting, organizing and reflecting various knowledge artefacts, processes and reflection. One strong point of KPE is the possibility to structure and organize the work in a visual and non-linear way. This kind of a flexible and visual desktop like working area is seen as a good alternative especially to folder like and more linear structures, and fits nicely to the idea of promoting collaborative and iterative knowledge creation processes. It seems that users would like to have it even more flexible, at least in the sense of having more tools integrated into it.

Figure 1. The dimensions of trialogical design principles depicted with colour codes (DP1:red, DP2:brown, DP3:blue, DP4:green, DP5:yellow, DP6:black) in one figure (adapted from Paavola et al 2010).


Damsa, C. I., Kirschner, P. A., Andriessen, J. E. B., Erkens, G., Sins, P. H. M. (2010). Shared epistemic agency - An empirical study of an emergent construct. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 19(2), 143 - 186.

Kali, Y. (2006) Collaborative knowledge building using a design principles database. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning 1(2), 187–201.

Paavola, S., Engeström, R., & Hakkarainen, K. (2010). Trialogical approach as a new form of mediation. In Morch, A. Moen A. & Paavola S. (eds.) Collaborative Knowledge Creation: Practices, Tools and Concepts. Available

Richter, C., Simonenko, E., Sugibuchi, T. & Spyratos, N. Babic, F., Wagner, J., Paralic, J., Racek, M., Damşa, C., & Christophides, V. (2010). Mirroring Tools for Practice Transformation. In Morch, A. Moen A. & Paavola S. (eds.) Collaborative Knowledge Creation: Practices, Tools and Concepts. Available

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