Sunday, 21 February 2016

Sharing Learning Design(s)

Research has shown that individuals, teams and institutions can adopt quite different approaches to how they set about conceiving of and describing learning designs. In part this may reflect different approaches to teaching and different institutional cultures.
Which part/s of the design do you usually think about first when you begin a new learning design? Do you start with – the learners, the technology, learning approach, previous designs, resource constraints, time constraints, institutional strategy, or ...?
Where do your ideas originate? From colleagues, from conferences or events, from student data or feedback, from personal experience, from case studies, or ...?
What difficulties do you often encounter when trying to describe your design ideas to colleagues or to yourself?

I will generally start with what has and hasn't worked in the past. Whatever I am planning will either be comparable to something I may have designed before, or an evolution of an existing programme.

For example when planning a workshop and support on programming in the national curriculum, I was not starting from scratch (pun intended), I was drawing on experience of other training events from similar schools and from recent classroom work on programming.

The starting point is always 'how will this be applied by the end of the session, and a few months later,' in terms of quite specific 'non-negotiable' things that if they aren't clear will mean the activity was a failure. I'll also think about the more advanced people in the group and what I believe they already know and think about how I can ensure they also get something from the work.

The next point, before I get into any detailed planning, is to consider the approach and way that the available time will be broken up to ensure there is a sense of purpose and pace. So I'll consider the mix of online time, instruction, individual activities, discussion, group activities. If it is a multi-session programme I'll consider what might work between sessions and at the start of each.

As I am not based at a specific centre I rarely need to follow an institutional style or strategy - indeed if it is IT related I'll probably have shaped it. If however there is a local set of rules or guidance I'll use them to make sure what I am modelling is transferable - it is also good manners!

Once I have a sense of what I want the flow of the sessions to be I then look at content.

Ideas tend to come from past experience, and especially from watching other people teach which is probably the best professional development in existence for a teacher.

The greatest difficulties I find are:

  • when planning for myself,  I will often need to adapt and change and may find an hour's planning never gets used because once I get into the flow, an earlier idea of activity from a previous session will slot in better than what I was expecting. So when asked for a detailed programme I try to avoid being too detailed as there's a need - once you've committed to an approach - to stick with it and deliver.
  • putting material together to share with other people, when you plan (or hope) they will take that material and run with it is tricky - packaging up resources in order is easy enough (and often the limit of what I try to do) but actually describing in detail the plan and the thinking behind it (so that the colleague can compare my assumptions to how they are going to use it and adapt) is either a huge amount of work or a confused mess. To some extent I think the material later in this module might help.

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