The world of instructional design is overrun with endless rules. Many rules are steeped in years of research and driven by appropriate learning theory. However, we think there are some rules that are OK to be bent, twisted, or broken to fit specific needs. There’s an old saying that in order to break the rules, you need to know them. In this series, we are going to take some long-lived rules of Instructional Design and discuss the when and how to break them. Agree or disagree? Let us know!
Rule #1: “Avoid Direct Instruction”
Direct Instruction (DI), is the explicit teaching of a skill-set using lectures or demonstrations of the material, rather than exploratory models such as inquiry-based learning (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Direct_instruction&oldid=526504905). Think of the last “training class” you sat thru while a droning facilitator dumped data from a seemingly endless PowerPoint deck. Many Instructional Designers try to avoid DI at all costs because it’s seen as old-fashioned, ineffective and didactic. Exploratory learning came along in reaction to the DI “sage on the stage” model, and has been overused to such an extent that many see it as the only way to design effective instruction. However, by rejecting DI because of assuming its leading to a poor design, we lose out on its distinct advantages.
Research tells us that learners must construct their own understanding in order to truly learn. In the real world, learners working through exploratory models often go down rabbit holes, learning valuable information and skills, but ones that may not be relevant to the task at hand. Exploratory learning is critically important when you want learners to be invested in the topic and when skills are more important than fact. But for learning data and facts, DI cannot be beat.
DI can save time and effectively transmit data, facts and procedures. We’re not arguing that DI should be used exclusively. Many learning organizations use DI exclusively (and, in our opinion, ineffectively) in the form of PowerPoint-style data dumps with little interactivity. A better model is to create an exercise that encourages the learner to explore a relevant case study, view targeted direct instruction related to the case, conduct problem-solving and reflective group work, and then finally prepare a presentation or teach-back to their peers. Don’t think you have to avoid DI at all costs, just be sure to integrate it effectively with interactive activities and exercises.
This series is co-written with Total Learner. Check back for the next rule to break: Get Buy-in From All Your Stakeholders.
One thing that I have struggled with over the past few years is the degree to which the different parts of my virtual and IRL selves should be integrated and advertised. I’ve aligned myself with the K-12 educational world for well over a decade now and have been hyper-aware of the importance of editing my professional presence to be as non-confrontational and non-controversial as possible. However, I feel that my outside interests inform my professional expertise AND are part of what make my instructional design more fresh and interesting.
And I guess the big reveal in this post is that I am a lady arm-wrestler.
I’ve got several personas that I wrestle as, but Schoolmarm is my first and most personal expression. Schoolmarm represents the darkest aspects of my teacher and ID personas. Judgmental, unkind, didactic, and unpleasant, Schoolmarm personifies all that I fear I might become, but hope not to. When I design instruction, I design in opposition to Schoolmarm’s angry and insecure disposition.
Rather than be embarrassed about this expression of crazed therapy, I’m going to embrace it. This love of play and pushing boundaries IS what makes me a great instructional designer.
For more information about the Ladies Arm Wrestling movement go to:
CLAW on Facebook
CLAW the Movie
I love this video. It’s funny and unexpected, but it also can inspire some thought about the intersection between mobile learning, training and authentic tasks (no, really!).
Mastery Learning is Transferable
That frog is really good at that game. Is anyone surprised? That’s what frogs do. The main knowledge transfer is from operating in 3D world to a 2D representation on a screen, but the game still exploits the frog’s rapid reflexes and tongue/eye coordination.
Platforms Change, Skills Remain the Same
The frog doesn’t care if that’s an iPhone or an HTC or a real-life fly. Its scanned the movement and the shape and wants to perform. Design for the task, not for the platform or the OS.
Without Satisfaction, Frustration Reigns
Finally the frog attacks the one 3D object that it can. It’s been denied a tasty treat multiple times when all of its experience tells it that that it should be eating a bug– not just a tidbit, but a critical part of its sustenance. As it fails to get its reward, its body language demonstrates greater urgency.
What are our lessons as designers here?
- Know what compels our learners — design activities that speak to their desires and strengths.
- Design platform- and device-agnostically– Exploit what makes them unique– touch screens, for example, but make sure that activities are high quality.
- Reward with authentic returns. Virtual awards won’t satisfy everyone, or at least not frogs.