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Reading List: Conjecture Mapping

Edited by: Michael Chang

This reading list provides an overview of conjecture mapping, a tool proposed by Sandoval (2014) initially designed for learning scientists to systematically approach design-based research. The list includes introductory materials to conjecture maps and provides examples about how other learning scientists have used, adapted, and interpreted conjecture maps in their own work. One common point of confusion for researchers about conjecture maps is the term “Mediating Process” (see the third column in the below figure). To help readers understand how to consider mediating processes in the creation of the conjecture maps, we’ve also included a few papers that show how researchers may identify mediating processes that emerge from their designs. For those unfamiliar with the design-based research process, this reading list also contains introductory materials for design research.

Conjecture Map Tool framework as initially proposed by Sandoval (2014)

Last updated: 05/10/2022


Conjecture Mapping: An Approach to Systematic Educational Design Research
Resource Type: Academic article (not open access)
Citation: Sandoval, W.A. (2014). Conjecture mapping: An approach to systematic educational design research. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 23, 18 – 36.
Background Needed: Medium

  • Motivates the need for a systematic approach towards design research (See below for readings about what design research is)
  • Presents the initial idea of a conjecture map, which helps researchers connect design, mediating processes (e.g., how individuals or groups of individuals take on the elements of the design), and learning outcomes through a series of conjectures

Developing Learning Theory by Refining Conjectures Embodied in Educational Designs
Resource Type: Academic article
Citation: Sandoval, W.A. (2004). Developing learning theory by refining conjectures embodied in educational designs. Educational Psychologist, 39, 213 – 223.
Open access link:
Background Necessary: Medium

  • Predecessor to the conjecture map framework, and introduces a construct called embodied conjectures, which is a theoretical conjecture about how a design element influences learning
  • Provides some insight into methodology that designers may use to refine their embodied conjectures

Examples of Conjecture Maps in Practice

Teachers, Students, and After-School Professionals as Designers of Digital Tools for Learning
Resource type: Book chapter (not open access)
Citation: Wilkerson, M.H. (2017). Teachers, students, and after-school professionals as designers of digital tools for learning.
Background Needed: Low

  • Details how Wilkerson developed and iterated through conjecture maps in the development of the SIMSAM project
  • Strong focus on how different participant stakeholder groups (e.g., teachers, students) shaped the conjecture map over different experiments

Augmented Reality Game-Based Learning: Enriching Students’ Experience During Reading Comprehension Activities
Resource type: Academic article (not open access)
Citation: Tobar-Muñoz, H., Baldiris, S., & Fabregat, R. (2017). Augmented reality game-based learning: Enriching students’ experience during reading comprehension activities. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 55, 901 – 936.
Background Needed: Low

  • Researchers take a design research approach to explore how an augmented reality game influences youth reading comprehension and engagement
  • Provides overview of conjecture maps, and clearly presents how their in-classroom studies proved/disproved certain elements of their original conjecture

Augmenting Formative Writing Assessment with Learning Analytics: A Design Abstraction Approach
Resource type: Conference paper
Citation: Knight, S., Shibani, A., & Shum, S.B. (2018). Augmenting formative writing assessment with learning analytics: A design abstraction approach. ICLS.
Background needed: Low

  • Knight et al. describes how effective writing skills can be developed by augmenting tasks with learning analytics
  • Interesting use of conjecture maps where a non-learning analytics conjecture map is augmented with AI-based learning analytics

Understanding the mediating role of teacher inquiry when connecting learning analytics with design for learning
Resource type: Academic article
Citation: Alhadad, S.S., & Thompson, K. (2017). Understanding the mediating role of teacher inquiry when connecting learning analytics with design for learning. IxD&A, 33, 54-74.
Background needed: High

  • This research links the importance of teacher inquiry (i.e., teacher practices that link pedagogy to data and evidence) to inform and development to the effectiveness of learning analytics towards supporting learning inside a classroom
  • They approach this by applying ACAD (Activity-Centered Analysis and Design) as a way of attending to designed elements (with a focus on social interaction), learning activity, and learning outcomes, before connecting them specifically to design through conjecture mapping

Mediating Processes

Seven Affordances of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning: How to Support Collaborative Learning? How Can Technologies Help?
Resource type: Academic article (not open access)
Citation: Jeong, H., & Hmelo-Silver, C.E. (2016). Seven affordances of computer-supported collaborative learning: How to support collaborative learning? How can technologies help? Educational Psychologist, 51, 247 – 265.
Background Needed: Low

  • Following a discussion about the affordances of CSCL (computer supported collaborative learning), Jeong & Hmelo-Silver urge designers to carefully consider and study how teachers and students ultimately take on the design, and to understand how that connects to learning
  • This key point urges us to move away from technological determinism (i.e., theory that claims that technology is directly responsible for society’s behavior) and explore the complex ways that stakeholders take on technology but also how the stakeholders eventually come to shape the technologies themselves

Schooling Mobile Phones
Resource type: Academic article (not open access)
Citation: Philip, T.M., & Garcia, A. (2015). Schooling Mobile Phones. Educational Policy, 29, 676 – 707.
Background Needed: Low

  • This paper explores the divergent ways in which adults (and the likely designers of the technology) and youth make sense of handheld devices, and is used to explain what happens when technology is introduced into classrooms without theorizing, and testing, the relationship between a technology-based design and learning

Implementing learning analytics for learning impact: Taking tools to task
Resource type: Academic article (not open access)
Citation: Knight, S., Gibson, A., & Shibani, A. (2020). Implementing learning analytics for learning impact: Taking tools to task. Internet High. Educ., 45, 100729.
Background Needed: Low

  • This paper emphasizes the criticality of relating learning analytics to learning outcomes, and share some insights about what factors in learning analytics may come to shape learning
  • This paper may be helpful for researchers unsure how to apply conjecture mapping to learning analytics

Overview Literature on Design Based Research

Design-Based Research: An Emerging Paradigm for Educational Inquiry
Resource type: Academic article (not open access)
Citation: Design-based research: An emerging paradigm for educational inquiry. Educational Researcher, 32 (1), 5 – 8.
Background Needed: Low

  • A critical work about design-based research which motivates the need to blend together empirical educational research and learning theory
  • Drives forward the question: why is it that this learning support worked in a particular learning context?

Design Research: Theoretical and Methodological Issues
Resource type: Academic article (not open access)
Citation: Collins, A.M., Joseph, D., & Bielaczyc, K. (2004). Design research: Theoretical and methodological issues. (2003). Journal of the Learning Sciences, 13, 15 – 42.
Background Needed: Medium

  • Provides some historical background around design-based research and present case studies about how one might approach design research
  • Approaches precede development of conjecture mapping

What is design based research?
Resource Type: Video
Citation: CIRCLS. (2021, October 22). What is design-based research? [Video]. Youtube.
Background Needed: Low

  • Overview of Design-based Research and techniques associated with it, including conjecture maps