Learning Design In Practice

In my latest #tiegrad class I was asked to consider why learning design is important and how it can be useful in my own practice.  Here are some of my thoughts:

 

When I use robust learning design to explicitly plan, structure, and sequence learning experiences for and with my students I find the quality of the instructional time to be high, and the user experience more satisfying.  One example that comes to mind immediately are the resources, curriculum, and lesson plans I use from Free The Children.  When I first partnered with Free The Children, in 2010, I used their resources in my social studies classes to raise awareness of local and global issues, but instead of adapting the resources to suit the needs of my learners I rolled out the lesson plans from the box, verbatim, and they failed.

 

Why did they fail?  They were after all well written, scaffolded appropriately, and supported with multimedia options, but that wasn’t enough.

 

After persistently and feverishly struggling through several lessons I took the time to reevaluate the experience my students were having and made some changes.  In essence, I started the learning design process.  The lessons were bombing because they were not my lessons; they were someone else’s.  The first change I made was to restructure the content and make sure I fully understood what I wanted my students to learn.  Next I evaluated the learning needs of my students and quickly found out they had a very limited knowledge of the geographical world around them, so I helped to quickly fill some knowledge gaps.  Finally, and most importantly, I moved away from a lesson plan format where I shared information, and we worked on the gradual release of responsibly on a specific task, to a much more hands on method.  My students have learned that the best way of understanding social justice issues and working towards positive change in the world is by creating awareness, educating others, and taking direct action.  My students now hosts assemblies to educate the school on the importance of education, they hold movie nights to talk about the importance of clean water, and they indulge in a day of silence in support of child rights.  Robust learning design has proved helpful in increasing student engagement and motivation.

 

Advantages of Learning Design

  • Can lead to student centered learning rather than teacher centered learning
  • Leads to differentiated learning – Blooms Taxonomy
  • Can connect learning to real-life situations
  • Keeps the learning experiences ‘honest’ – How does this lesson relate to the goal?
  • Creating learning experiences based on latest neuroscience and tailored towards how children best learn today

 

My Learning Design

One area of learning design that is most important to my own practice is differentiating the learning experience for my students.  Sometimes I use the excuse that I have such a challenging class with a variety of complex needs that I cannot possible create meaningful learning experiences for everyone, but with a more robust learning design plan I can reach more of my learners.  Through understanding the cultural, knowledge, and skills gaps in my learners I can tailor learning to suit the individual needs of all my learners in a more effective manner than trying to squeeze all learners down a path they may not have the skills and experience to navigate.

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