Educational Development Philosophy

My Educational Development Philosophy is an extension of my Learning Philosophy with the addition of a greater emphasis on leading by example. This type of leadership is captured by Mahatma Gandhi’s famous statement: “Be the change that you want to see in the world”. Since I have spent the past 20 years teaching at the undergraduate and graduate level, conducting workshops, seminars and other forms of professional development and have provided consulting services on creating significant learning environments, instructional technology, instructional design, and course/program/learning development, I am able to create the type of environment in which the learner (student, faculty, staff or administrator) can come to know, acquire knowledge and make meaningful connections.

I can model effective instructional methods in face2face, mobile, blended and fully online settings because I have learned and taught in all of these settings. More importantly, I can model effective instruction and learning facilitation in diverse settings because I function on both the personal and professional level in all these settings. People learn what they live and in particular faculty won’t bring technology or innovative methodologies into their classrooms or learning environments that they are not willing to use on a regular basis. I discuss this notion in greater detail in the posts “You Learn What You Live”  and “Why Learners Should Blog”.

My instructional design process uses the following educational development steps:

  1. Start with Why
  2. Significant Learning Environments
  3. Outcome based/Backward Design – 3 Column Table
  4. Aligning Outcomes-Activities-Assessment
  5. Making Your Course Integrated

1. Start with Why

Any form of educational development starts with answering the question “Why”. Answering the “Why” question is really addressing what the intrinsic motivation for the learner will be. When working with students you need to answer in advance why this course, material or work that they are asked to do will help them in the future. Similarly, if we don’t address the “Why” question when working with faculty it is extremely difficult to move onto how one applies active learning, or a flipped classroom or other student-centred instructional approaches. Simon Sinek argues that “people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it”. A full explanation of Sinek’s approach can be found in the Youtube video on the following blog post:

2. Significant Learning Environments

We design information systems, smart buildings, ecological friendly communities, and so many aspect of our society but we, unfortunately, do not apply this holistic approach to designing student-centered learning environments. Whether we are purposeful in its design or we just allow the circumstances to dictate its development, schools, colleges and universities are providing learning environments for their students. Rather than allow the environment to come together inadvertently and respond reactively to the learning dynamics that arise I suggest that educators become proactive and create significant learning environments that inspire, foster and facilitate deeper learning. The following mandala highlights the components that we need to consider when we are creating significant learning environments:

Creating Significant Learning Environment

Creating Significant Learning Environment

The following links provide additional examples and reflections that reinforce this step:

3. Outcome based/Backward Design – 3 Column Table

The fundamental problems that many instructors face with their students lack of interest, poor preparation and poor retention of learning can be addressed by effective outcome based or backward design/redesign of their courses. The two more traditional content-based methodologies of listing topics or listing activities fall short because these approaches often fail to provide a context for deeper learning and seldom move beyond foundational knowledge. By imaging how a course will change a students life or prepare them for future endeavours an instructor can create a major course goal/outcome and then establish sub-goals which can then provide the context for assignments and formative assessments that will help the learner achieve the the major course goal.

Dee Finks Taxonomy of Significant Learning detailed in his book, Creating Significant Learning Experiences, provides an excellent format for this process which can be organized through a three column table that lists the goals/outcomes, activities and assessment and provides a foundation structure for the course development. While I have used the context of course development to explain the use of outcome-based or backward design, the significance of having explicit learning outcomes is equally important all aspects of educational development.

The following links provide examples and reflections on this process:

4. Aligning Outcomes-Activities-Assessment

Next to having faculty grasp the importance of creating and using well defined learning outcomes aligning outcomes, activities and assessment is one of an instructional designers most challenging tasks. This task is often exacerbated if faculty have had difficulty creating effective learning outcomes because the course activities and assessment are directly related to the outcomes. The outcomes become the measuring stick for the activities and the assessment and if the outcomes are not specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely (SMART) then both the learning activities and the assessments will not align. If a learning outcomes requires higher order thinking skills like analysis or creation then the learning activity must be student-centred, active and dynamic in order to correspond with the outcome. A passive lecture or fill in the blank worksheet will not be the type of activity to move the learner into the deeper levels of learning that is achieved if they are tasked with making an analysis or in creating or developing a project. Similarly, using a multiple choice exam as an assessment tool in this instance will not provide an effective measure of deeper learning. Working through this process will also ensure that volume of work and rigour of assessment is neither too to heavy nor too light but corresponds to the activities and learning outcomes. The following image provides the conception perspective on the effective alignment:
significant-learning-diagram-600x375
Finding this alignment is one of the most important and rewarding components of the instructional design process and contributes significantly to the building of an effective learning environment.

The following links provide examples and reflections on this process:

5. Making Your Course Integrated

Even though this development approach starts out with the broader perspective and I have repeatedly emphasized the importance of the holistic environment there is a tendency for people who are new to the process to get caught up with the pieces of the process and loose sight of the bigger picture.
MANDALA_pieces
It is not uncommon for faculty who get excited with a new active learning activity, or process to attempt to use their new favourite tool too often or in too many places. There is also a challenge with faculty who just want to add engagement or other active learning components to their existing course without taking into consideration all the other components.

It very important to help faculty to step back and consider the entire designed experience that starts with the learners current and potential needs, incorporates active and dynamic learning and aligns with clearly defined goal and outcomes. The key is to take the whole environment into account not just the smaller pieces or the classroom or campus but all aspects of the design if we hope to make the course integrated.

Perhaps one of the most effective ways for both the learner and the instructor to consider this level of course integration is to use a learning portfolio as a thread to connect all the course components or modules together.

The following links provide examples and reflections on this process:

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Not Just Another Learning Philosophy – Lifelong Learning in a Changing World - September 5, 2016

    […] Harapnuik, Dwayne. (n. d.) Educational Development Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.harapnuik.org/?page_id=4639 […]

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