Learning patterns/Introduction

Patterns can help you reproduce something complex, such as a successful Edit-a-thon, or this mechanical duck.

What is a learning pattern? edit

A pattern is a set of instructions that helps people consistently reproduce something complex, without having to start from scratch every time. When we edit Wikimedia projects, we use patterns all the time. Advice and policy pages document best practices that help us maintain high quality articles across different topics and languages, and style guides help us create consistent page layouts within our projects.

A learning pattern is a template that explains how to reproduce a successful strategy for performing or evaluating an activity, such as running an Edit-a-thon, or analyzing responses to an editor survey. Like a guideline, a learning pattern provides advice on how to do something. Like a template, a learning pattern has a consistent format so that people can quickly find the information they need when they browse through many different patterns (called a pattern library).

The idea was introduced by the architect Christopher Alexander in his book A Pattern Language (1977). He wrote,

“Each pattern describes a problem that occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.”

It has since been adopted by other fields such as computer science and pedagogy.

Why should I create a learning pattern? edit

Creating a learning pattern is a simple way to document an important lesson you have learned from participating in mission-aligned activities. These activities include volunteer initiatives like Portals and WikiProjects, Wikimedia programs like Wiki Loves Monuments, and other grant-funded projects like editing workshops, outreach campaigns, or new editor support tools.

If you have participated in any activity that is focused on furthering the Wikimedia Movement's mission and strategic goals, you have probably learned some valuable tips, tricks, advice, or considerations about what works, and what doesn't work, for that kind of activity. Creating a learning pattern allows you to share your knowledge with others who are performing similar activities, so that they can benefit from your experience.

Who can create a learning pattern? edit

Anyone can create a learning pattern about anything that you think could be useful to other people in our movement. If you have an idea for a new pattern, you can make one right now! Just type a short, descriptive title in the box above and click "Create a pattern" to get started. You can view current patterns in the list below, or by browsing Category:Learning patterns.

What does a good learning pattern look like? edit

There is no right or wrong way to create a learning pattern. If someone thinks a pattern you created is especially useful, they may endorse that pattern. Endorsing a pattern means that the pattern worked for them, or that they think the advice offered in that pattern is especially useful.

In general, the more complete a pattern is--the more examples, references, and other details it provides--the more likely it is to be useful for other people. But a pattern does not need to be long or complicated to be valuable. A short pattern that reminds people of the importance of taking pictures at events, or that describes a simple strategy for getting people to fill out surveys, can be very useful if it helps other people be more successful in their projects, saves them time, or helps them avoid common mistakes.

Common components of a pattern include: a description of a recurring problem, instructions and a rationale for a solution (and variants), related patterns, a memorable name.