Better Learning Design

Rather than focusing on poor learning design, I think it is more beneficial to think about what good learning design looks like. We have encountered some ideas in previous units, such as Derek Muller talking about the importance of addressing misconceptions and Destin Sandlin talking about neuroplasticity.

Below are three videos that talk more specifically about designing learning. The videos are admittedly dated, but they are based on the book Teaching for Quality Learning at University by John Biggs and Catherine Tang, which is a well-regarded resource for university educators.

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Table of Contents: The changing scene in university teaching — Teaching according to how students learn — Setting the stage for effective teaching — Contexts for effective teaching and learning — Knowledge and understanding — Constructively aligned teaching and assessment — Designing intended learning outcomes — Teaching/learning activities for declarative

The three videos are about 20 minutes long all together.

Part 1 (8:12)

Part 2 (6:19)

Part 3 (4:13)

What’s going on here?

There are three key ideas that I hope you take away from the videos above. First, learning happens because of what learners DO. Learning is not about what teachers do, or about who learners are, but about what learners do. So in this course, on learning design, you are designing learning experiences. In economics courses, you do economics; in history courses, you do history, and so on. The same is true in your Personal Learning Challenges. If you don’t do the thing you are trying to learn, whether it is a cognitive skill in a particular domain of knowledge, a kinesthetic skill in a sport or in playing a musical instrument, or an affective skill in relating to or understanding yourself and your social world. If you want to improve, you must do the thing.

The second thing to note is the idea that there is a difference between surface and deep approaches to learning. A surface approach is characterized by learners doing the minimum amount of work and using low level cognitive skills (memorization, etc) when high level cognitive skills (evaluating, assessing, critiquing) are required. A deep approach is characterized by learners using high level cognitive skills for activities which require them.

The final thing that you should take away from the videos is the importance of constructive alignment. Constructive alignment exists when the goals or outcomes of a given learning experience are aligned with the method to be used to assess the learning. For an obvious example, if the goal or outcome of a learning experience is for the learner to be able to juggle three balls in a cascade pattern for 30 seconds, but the assessment of the learning is conducted via a multiple guess exam, then there is a distinct lack of alignment. Furthermore, a learner could simply memorize the steps or actions required in order to successfully juggle in a cascade pattern and pass the assessment easily without ever even touching a ball.