Design Defined

This is a continuation of the theme contained in the posts:

Training, Learning, and Design

The Organization of Training, Learning, and Design

“Design” is a word that is broadly applied in the vernacular. We can “design” many things, and the motivated among us will actually build whatever we design.

In education, we use design to describe a particular type of creating, especially when we design curriculum and the professional development that facilitates design. Essential aspects of design include:

  • Proposing an initial activity. This is a multidimensional endeavor as teachers reconcile the learners (and their backgrounds, experiences, and motivations), the task that will extend learners understanding, and the environment (including the physical, social, and technical aspects of the classroom or space).
Learners, environments, tasks
  • Implementing the activity. Teachers cannot rally understand how effective their initial activity will be until they try it with the learners in the environment. Good teachers are prepared for their plans to run amuck; sometimes we misunderstand the nature of our learners, sometimes we misunderstand how the task will be interpreted, sometimes unforeseen aspects of the environment affect our plans.
  • Reflecting on the activity. The best teachers understand they must evaluate their plans. We undertake this reflection to answer two questions:
    1. Was it sufficient to move on? Depending on how the curriculum builds, it is sometime necessary to reteach a failed lesson–or more accurately to design a new lesson so the students learn the expected material but that minimizes the risk of whatever caused it to fail the first time. Reteaching the same lesson rarely resolves the problems that led to its failure the first time.
    2. What can I learn from this? The craft of teaching requires one to continually improve what he or she does. The lessons can come from ourselves and they can come from others. Those who develop the capacity to step back and look objectively (and judgmentally) on practice will become the designers of the best lessons.