“Good design’s not about what medium you’re working in. It’s about thinking hard about what you want to do and what you have to work with before you start.”
– Susan Kare, one of the very first pixel artists,
designed the first icons, typefaces,
and interfaces of the Apple Macintosh.
WHAT'S THAT YOU SAY? You want a deep dive on how – and why – I do what I do? You've got it! I use the following process and underlying guiding principles to help shape the courses I create.
I do my homework.
Guiding principle: A learner's prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.
Before creating any course, I believe it is vitally important to understand the scope of the target audience’s prior knowledge on the topic. To achieve this understanding, a structured assessment needs to take place and can be accomplished in a variety of ways — like surveys, quizzes, or personal interviews. Tactics depend on audience characteristics, the time frame and budget given for upfront analysis.
I believe that another key part of the upfront analysis includes working with SMEs to distill core component skills needed for learners to achieve mastery. SMEs must push past their own expert blind spots in order to articulate all of the component skills and knowledge required for complex tasks. Once the component skills are established, they become the basis for each lesson.
After the baseline of the learner’s prior knowledge has been established and core component skills and knowledge have been identified, I can use this information to establish overarching goals for the larger scope of the curriculum as well as establish learning objectives for the course itself. This includes breaking down lessons into component skills for the learners to practice.
I provide structure for guided practice.
Guiding principle: To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned.
I believe it’s important for learners to not only acquire new skills, but they must be given the chance to practice the new skills to achieve fluency. Once fluency is achieved, they can then work towards integrating skills to develop mastery.
To facilitate mastery, I focus learner’s attention on key aspects of a lesson by clearly communicating the goals and priorities and show them where to put their efforts. I also give learners adequate practice to increase fluency, dependent on their specific needs. If required, I’ll constrain the scope of the task to help minimize cognitive load to help increase fluency.
I provide explicit learning objectives and targeted, timely feedback.
Guiding principle: Goal-driven practice coupled with targeted feedback are critical to learning.
I believe that strong learning objectives and targeted, timely feedback are critical to a learner’s success. The content and timing of feedback makes learning more effective an efficient. I am explicit with learning objectives in my course materials — they are stated in terms of what the learners should be able to do at the end of each lesson or course.
I create my courses using decreasing levels of support — the more a student has mastered, the less support they are given. This type of timely, intrinsic feedback aids in skill mastery. Depending on the course, I’ll also provide feedback at the group level or incorporate peer feedback into the lesson as each strategy can help students identify the qualities of good work and diagnose their own problems.
I attended to learner motivation.
Guiding principle: Student’s motivation generates, directs, and sustains what they do to learn.
Understanding learner motivation is key to developing a successful course. If a learner has no personal investment in attaining the new skills or knowledge, there is a good chance they may not even complete the course. Uncovering learner's expectations for a course and the value of the skills and knowledge to be learned has a large impact on learner motivation — this is vital to determine during the upfront learner analysis.
To aid in ensuring learner motivation, I first make sure the material connects to learner’s interests or has relevance for important aspects of their lives. Next, I align learning objectives, practice and feedback to help build positive learner expectations for each course I create. I also make sure lessons include authentic, real-world tasks so that learners can concretely see the relevance and value of otherwise abstract concepts and theories. Finally, I make sure that learners have opportunities for early success to help provide a sense of competence and confidence before moving on to more complex assignments.
All exceptional design — be it graphic design or instructional design — is based on careful research and analysis, sound planning, and careful execution. By using the above guiding principles and instructional strategies, paired with my own skills and knowledge of visual communications, I am able to create memorable, effective training for my clients.
Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. John Wiley & Sons
Johnson, J. (2020, April 1). 22 famous graphic design quotes to inspire you. Retrieved June 7, 2021, from https://99designs.com/blog/creative-inspiration/10-famous-design-quotes/