Hypothetical Learning Trajectory As Design Heuristic


When we already establish the topic of learning, target group, and goals, and finish the conceptual analysis, we need to order and arrange the results of all this into sequence of educational activities as an outline of our design. This outline must be structured hypothetically. The outline that we made is also known as Hypothetical Learning Trajectory.

To guide the design, we need:

  • a learning trajectory
  • a route through concepts and contexts
  • an outline of the intended learning process
  • a learning line
  • a road map through the field of didactical obstacles

Hypothetical Learning Trajectory (HLT) is

  • a way to plan and structure a design, together with its rationale, and to capture your design decisions and expectations
  • Visualized as a chain of mental activities by the student, provoked by instructional activities, with motivation of why and how they are expected to work
  • An adequate design and research instrument to plan and monitor instructional activities and the accompanying hypotheses

According to Simon (1995) there are three components that should be presents in HLT:

  • Teacher’s learning goal
  • Teacher’s plan for learning activities
  • Teacher’s hypothesis of learning process: conjecture of students’ thinking

These following questions have to be addressed while we are setting up a HLT:

  • Which contexts, which problem situations?
  • Which didactical obstacles?
  • Which learning functions?
  • Which route through the different levels, through the field of contexts and concepts?

The sequence of students’ activities set in an HLT should be

  • Foster productive mental activities
  • Accompanied by the designer’s description of why the instructional activity is supposed to work and what kind of mental development is expected to be elicited.

The development of an HLT involves

  • Assessment of the starting level of understanding.
  • Stating the end goal.
  • Development of a chain of student activities (including learning functions) that brings about a movement towards that goal.

 A critical element in the research design is the idea of a scenario (Klaassen, 1995). According to Kortland (2001, p. 50), the scenario can be used as a tool for:

  • Designing the specific teaching/ learning activities and the even more specific student tasks these activities consist of.
  • Preparing the teacher on the classroom trial.
  • Focusing the classroom observations during the trial.
  • Guiding the post-trial reflection on the question whether or not the designed didactical structure could be considered “good enough”.

Personal Application

I consider to make HLT when I teach in Indonesia, since it is not only help me to avoid gap in teaching (because every steps of activities are clearly described), but also to let me keep in the track thus I can keep the learning activities flown based on the learning sequences set. I think it will also help me to evaluate myself in teaching, e.g. in which part that I lose or lack of emphasise thus the learning activity at that day cannot reach the goal.

Future Guideline

When design a learning activity or to be more specific, in design HLT, we should input the explanation about how we can assess students’ understanding if the design does not work or cannot reach learning goal.


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