Immerse yourself into the world of instructional design with The Instructional Design Lady. Explore learning theories, common instructional design models, and methods that decolonize learning. The mission of the Instructional Design Lady podcast is to facilitate and support inclusive instructional design models and theories with the infusion of an African world view. Join me to learn about the various roles of instructional designers, learn how to work effectively with subject matter experts, and understand quality control for instructional design, while improving your design skills.
Beta-testing Designs with End-Users
Today, learners demand more customization, voice, and practicality from their learning environments (Kalaitzidis, Litts, & Halverson, 2017). Hence, instructional designers will have to upgrade learning environments in order to meet the demand of today’s learners. As discussed in an earlier post, content creation and calibration cannot be done in a silo. Content that is customized, incorporates the students’ voice, and is practical for students, has to be co-designed with students. Hence, content that is co-designed with learners is the ultimate form of personalized learning.
Why should instructional designers include learners in the content creation process? First, by including learners in creating content, the learners themselves intrinsically set learning goals for attainment. In other words, when instructional designers introduce learners to the instructional objectives and learning outcomes for the units and lessons, the learners then can determine their own learning because they have been empowered by the instructional designer to customize and practicalize the content and they have been allowed to add their voices to the content creation and learning process.
Second, by including learners in the creation process, a learning flow that produces deep engagement and learner motivation can be established. Csikszentmihalyi (1990) argued that “clear goals, individual control, tasks that the individual is capable of successfully completing, and skills that must be learned” is what establishes a flow for deep learning and engagement. When learners co-create content, tasks are designed that are not too challenging or too easy. Students co-design tasks with teachers that align with their personal interests, thus placing them in a flow channel of learning.
Third, learner voice, choice, and agency are all embedded in co-designed instructional design models, as these types of models highly value empowering learners to make decisions about ends, priorities, and means (Reigeluth, Myers, & Lee, 2017). When students are empowered, then they are more engaged and thereby more capable of attaining their learning goals and the instructor’s teaching objective.
Alpha vs. Beta testing
In many cases, after instructional designers have created their content without student input, they typically test the content in the alpha stage through the student view. For instance, instructional designers might make sure that the links work, that the dates of content release are correct, and that the aesthetics of the content is appealing. If the content passes the instructional designer’s alpha test, then it is delivered to the student without any trial run. Some would argue that this is a travesty, as students are being held accountable for content that was not given a trial run by the learners. Cars are test-driven, wine is taste-tested, and movies have trailers, all for the sake of testing the quality or operation of the product. Why then are students not given an opportunity to give their content a trail run?
Why content should be beta-tested with students
When instructional designers allow students to co-design and beta test the content, students are able to find bugs and fix them, improve content features, and optimize the distribution of learning, teaching, and assessing (Kalaitzidis, Litts, & Halverson, 2017). “In software development, the beta phase is an accepted, normal, predictable stage of product development” (Gonzalez, 2018). This is not the case in traditional instructional design. Gonzalez (2014) mentioned that “beta is a lifelong commitment to continuous …growth” (para. 4). Hence, shouldn’t instructional designers adopt beta...
Socol’s Tool Belt Theory
Sophisticated digital tools allow texts to be annotated, videos to be produced, interactive learning experiences created, all of which further enhance student learning. However, “The only way to allow students to assemble [an] essential toolbelt for information and communication is to throw open your classroom and let the world in” (Socol, n.d., para. 17). This is a powerful quote, as it is essential for teachers to not only stock their toolbelt but to help students stock theirs too. Socol (n.d.) goes on to say,
How will your students know which calendar works for them – the one on their phone, Google Calendar with SMS appointment texting, Microsoft Outlook, or any of a dozen paper systems unless you allow them to try them out? How will your students know whether they ‘get’ a novel better by listening to an audiobook, or reading it on paper, or using text-to-speech, if you don’t let them experience all repeatedly and help them decide? Will their choice be the same when they are reading history texts? Math texts? Again, how will they know? How will they know which is the best way for them to write, by hand (either on paper or on a tablet system), by keyboard (and which keyboard), or by voice, if they do not get to try out all the kinds of writing they need to do with all these tools?
They won’t know. And you – the school, the teacher, the education system – will have deprived them of these essential skills.
It matters for all students, of course, but- as always – if you are “rich, white, and normal” it matters a bit less. You will have fewer needs, your parents will buy you more supports, you will be surrounded in your daily life by sophisticated tool users. So not bringing Toolbelt Theory into your classroom just exacerbates inequity – yes, of course – as school does in most things.
After reading those paragraphs, I felt a sense of urgency to figure out how I will implement the Toolbelt theory into my practice. How will I equip students with “Tasks – Environments – Skills – Tools” (T.E.S.T.) that show them how they learn best (Socol, n.d.)?
Socol (2008) proposed the Toolbelt Theory. This theory is “based on the concept that students must learn to assemble their own readily available collection of life solutions. They must learn to choose and use these solutions appropriately, based on the task to be performed, the environment in which they find themselves, their skills and capabilities at that time, and the ever-changing universe of high and low-tech solutions and supports. After all, few of us have a toolbox with just one screwdriver or just the tools we were given when we were ten-years-old” (para 3).
So, the Toolbelt is designed to:
• Break the dependency cycle
• Develop a lifespan technology skills
• Reduce and limit limitations
• Empower student decision making
• Prepare students for life beyond school
Socol (2008) posited the following example to illustrate his TEST model. You need to know what you need to do (the specific task: cut 20 sheets of plywood or cut down a Christmas tree, find a book to buy or find a book to borrow). You need to know where you will be doing this (the specific environment: in a forest, in a workshop, in a town with a university library and four bookstores, in a place with neither). You need to know your own capabilities (your skillset: I am strong enough to cut down a tree with a hand saw, I am experienced enough that I can cut a straight line with a hand-held circular saw, I can walk to the bookstore, I know the Dewey Decimal System). And you need to know what is available to you to help you, and how to use those devices (your toolbelt: My neighbor has a chain saw, I can rent a table saw, a bus will get me to the bookstore, if I go online and reserve that library book it will be waiting for me at the counter...
Content Creation Calibration Presentation
I had the pleasure of presenting at the Virginia Society for Technology in Education 2018 Conference. I shared my ideas on Content Creation and Calibration with learners and I took feedback from the audience regarding the topic.
Some of the key questions were:
* How do I engage dormant learners in the design process?
* How do I provide support to dependent learners?
* How do I educate parents on student content creation and calibration?
I don’t claim to have the answers to these questions. Nonetheless, take a look at the presentation and provide your feedback. Is it really possible to have students create instructional content?
The Tyranny of the Urgent
Functioning in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) conditions creates a sense of infinite urgency. Furthermore, ubiquitous exigencies make learning more difficult as the pressure to work seems to never cease. In such conditions, what is the learner to do? “Although we need more and more learning and training, the irony is that we have less time to acquire it” (Marquardt, Banks, Cauweiler, and Ng, 2018, p. 19).
Gagne (1985) proposed nine instructional events that provide a framework for creating optimal learning conditions. However, each instructional event requires time, something that learners lack. How then will the instructional designer construct optimal learning conditions for learners while maintaining fidelity to Gagne’s nine instructional events? The answer is with a heutagogical stance rather than a pedagogical stance. Blaschke (2012) defined heutagogy as “a form of self-determined learning with practices and principles rooted in andragogy” (para. 1).
Gagne’s nine instructional events include the following:
* Gaining attention
* Informing learners of the objective
* Stimulating recall of prior learning
* Presenting the stimulus
* Providing learning guidance
* Eliciting performance
* Providing feedback
* Assessing performance
* Enhancing retention and transfer
Gagne proposed these nine instructional events during the industrial age, when training was very much trainer-centered and less learner-centered. Hence, Gagne’s nine instructional events are pedagogical in nature, which helped to set a pattern for traditional education. When a pedagogical stance is utilized in training, the trainer makes the assumption that learners need external factors such as Gagne’s nine instructional events to occur in order for learning to happen.
On the contrary, when a heutagogical stance is utilized in training, the learner takes ownership of his or her learning, thus Gagne’s nine instructional events become nine heutagogical learning events. Heutagogy encourages learners to challenge their theories in use, their values and assumptions rather than providing a basic response to tasks. Gagne’s nine instructional events through the lens of heutagogy shifts learners into action by having them “study the process of how they came to their conclusions, how this process can lead to other solutions, and how their own assumptions changed through the process” (Eberle, 2009, para. 7). In my view, heutagogy converts Gagne’s nine instructional events into nine learning events. They are as follows:
* Learners awareness is raised towards observing a task or problem
* Learners choose or construct their learning objective(s)
* New learning is created with different solutions or strategies
* Meaningful, purposeful learning experiences are provided which are relevant to the learners’ needs
* Independent and collaborative learning with peers and colleagues is encouraged and supported
* The instructor facilitates exploration, collaboration, and self-actualization
* Critical reflection, universal feedback from peers, colleagues, and instructor are provided
* Learners are encouraged to self-diagnose his or her learning via knowledge application
* Facilitator promotes action learning for solving complex problems of the 21st century
As stated earlier, more and more learning is necessary because of the “turbo-speed changes created by technology” (Marquardt, Banks, Cauweiler, and Ng, 2018, p. 18). As such, the instructional designer should consider designing optimal learning environments using a heutagogical stance. The tyranny of the urgent will probably never end, so, the response to this phenomena should be with more open-ended learning and less...
The Instructional Designer in a VUCA World
Today’s world has “turbo-speed changes created by technology” (Marquardt, Banks, Cauweiler, and Ng, 2018, p. 18). And with these turbo-speed changes come the constant need for learning and creativity. As conditions change, instructional designs that can be adapted to various learners and conditions become more prevalent than ever before. Hence, instructional designers have to “learn their way into the creation of something that does not yet exist” (p. 40).
Complex problems require complex solutions and complex solutions come with creative thinking. Michalko (2011) submitted that one cannot will himself or herself to change his or her thinking patterns no matter how inspired he or she is to do so. Hence, “creative thinkers get variation by conceptually combining dissimilar subjects, which changes their thinking patterns and provides them with a variety of alternatives and conjectures” (Michalko, 2011, p. 14).
Michalko’s (2014) Thinker Toys is an excellent resource that helps foster creativity. Actually, I was impressed with this resource and I decided to do a series of animations on Thinker Toys. Below is one of the animations that was created based on Michalko’s Thinker Toys Handbook.
In sum, it’s not enough for instructional designers to know learning theory. Instructional designers have to be creative thinkers and problem solvers because instruction is more than a product to be delivered and a set of instructional strategies to be used in a training exercise.
Gläser, W. (2018). VUCA World. Leadership Skills and Strategies VUCA World. Retrieved August 24, 2019, from https://www.vuca-world.org/
Marquardt, M. J., Banks, S., Cauweiler, P., & Ng, C. S. (2018). Optimizing the power of action learning: Real-time strategies for developing leaders, building teams and transforming organizations.
Michalko, M. (2011). Creative thinkering: Putting your imagination to work. Novato, Calif: New World Library.
Michalko, M. (2014). Thinkertoys: A handbook of creative-thinking techniques.
The Instructional Designer’s Hierarchy of Needs
According to Maslow, there is a hierarchy of needs that are necessary for learning to occur. Like Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, I believe that there is a hierarchy of needs for instructional designers. Maslow has five levels of hierarchical needs. They are as follows:
* Physiological needs
* Safety needs
* Belongingness and love
* Esteem and accomplishment
* Self-actualization/Achieving one’s potential
Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, I’ve decided to tweak his theory for instructional designers who design learning experiences. Assuming that Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs have already been met, the following are the instructional designer’s hierarchy of needs:
* Knowledge and understanding of learning theory
* Knowledge and understanding of individual learners
* Knowledge and understanding of David Rock’s SCARF Model
* Instructional toolbelt
For starts, instructional designers must have a solid knowledge base of learning theory. In other words, instructional designers have to be familiar with the learning process and effective conditions of learning from a pedagogical stance, andragogical stance, heutagogical stance, or an ergonagical stance. Learning theory has been described by behaviorists, cognitivist, constructivists, and of late, connectivists. Hence, instructional designers should be familiar with each school of thought on learning in order to have a full understanding of the various dimensions of learning.
Learners are who instructional designers work for, yet they rarely get access to them. Nonetheless, having data on learners is important because it will determine the instructional stance. For instance, if learners are inexperienced or beginning to learn new concepts and skills, then a pedagogical stance would be instrumental in this case. However, if the learners are mature and need less guidance, then an andragogical stance would work best. If the learner is a fully self-actualized mature learner, then a heutagogical stance would be appropriate. Finally, if the learner needs specific technical knowledge for technical problems, then an ergonagical stance would be perfect.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs includes safety. Therefore, learning can not occur in situations of perceived threat. Hence, instructional designers who create an opportunity for learners to experience Rock’s SCARF model are helping to reduce the learner’s perceived threat. Rock created a brain-based model that supports collaboration can can be affected by threats and rewards. SCARF stands for status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness. This model is used to help individuals enhance relationships and improve connectedness with others. When SCARF is applied within an instructional design, it boosts learner connectedness as it reduces perceived threats. Here is how I see SCARF enhancing instructional designs below:
* Status is about the relative importance of all connected individuals.
* Certainty allows all connected individuals the ability to predict the future.
* Autonomy provides connected learners a sense of control over events.
* Relatedness provides a sense of safety amongst connected learners.
* Fairness is the belief that fair exchanges will occur between all connected individuals.
In one of my earlier posts entitled Collaborative Production of Digital Media and the Tool Belt Theory, I mentioned Socol’s Toolbelt Theory. Socol argued that learners need to have access to a variety of digital and analog tools and understanding of the task at hand. He called this paradigm TEST. TEST stands for Task, Environment, Skills,