I looked at two approaches to instructional design. The first one reminded me of a familiar K-12 Madeline Hunter approach, Gagne’s theory of learning. This is a behavioral approach. The second is a Constructivist lesson plan I found through a Google search that was produced by the eMiNTS National Center (professional development of educators by educators). Here are the two approaches in a nutshell:
1 Attention: Gaining attention
2 Inform: Stating the objective
3 Stimulate: Stimulating recall of prior learning
4 Present: Presenting the stimulus
5 Guide: Providing learning guidance
6 Practice: Eliciting performance
7 Feedback: Providing feedback
8 Assess: Assessing performance
9 Evaluate: Enhancing retention and transfer to other contexts
Capture the students’ attention; stimulate their thinking and help them access prior knowledge.
Give students time to think, plan, investigate and organize collected information.
Involve students in an analysis of their explorations. Use reflective activities to
clarify and modify their understanding.
Give students the opportunity to expand and solidify their understanding of the concept and/or apply it to a real-world situation.
Evaluate throughout the lesson. Present students with a scoring guide at the beginning. Scoring tools developed by teachers (sometimes with student involvement) target what students must know and do. Consistent use of scoring tools can improve learning.
How are the two approaches similar? Both start with a step (in Gagne it is steps 1 and 3) that engages the student’s attention and helps him or her access prior knowledge. The Practice (Gagne) and Explain and Elaborate (Constructivist) steps are similar. However, the Explain and Elaborate of the Constructivist approach encourages critical thinking, which the Gagne Practice event may not. Nonetheless, both approaches give the learner a chance to use the information learned, applying it. Both also have evaluation steps: Gagne has Feedback, Assess and Evaluate and the Constructivist has Explain and Evaluate. Of the two designs, the Constructivist design would most likely encourage critical thinking on the part of the learner through the evaluation modes. The Constructivist design also lets the students know the evaluation criteria up front, even at times giving them input on how they will be evaluated.
Where the two models diverge is in who directs the learning and how the learner is defined. The Gagne model has direct instruction coming from the teacher who is the source of the information to be learned in Present and Guide (steps 4 and 5). The teacher is the focus of presentation and interaction. She may have a tutorial relationship with individual students. Learning objectives are defined as observable behavior and there is a criterion or measure of success upon which the student is evaluated. In contrast, the Constructivist approach has the students doing Exploring and Explaining (steps 2 and 3) with teacher facilitation rather than direct instruction. Learners are considered able to think or solve problems and do this by exploring the learning environment with their peers to construct meaning from the learning experiences. They have some opportunity to define for themselves the goals or objective.
Activities for the two models differ as well. Students in the Gagne approach are passive learners, absorbing the presentation and materials and performing the outcomes that indicate attainment of the learning goals. The activities are reading, review and analysis of text and other materials. Individual work is submitted to the teacher with little discussion among peers. The Constructivist model has the students actively learning by exploring the learning environment and applying knowledge to their own learning paradigms. The activities emphasize discussion and collaboration, case studies, projects, and open-ended assignments related to the real world. They are done in collaboration among a group of learners.
Finally, assessment for the Gagne design consists of individual tests and performances to demonstrate mastery of what the student is learning in a few summative products and performances. Assessment for the Constructivist design is reporting on active, authentic experiences, projects, and activities. Emphasis is on interaction, reflection and collaboration among the group of learners. It is ongoing throughout the curriculum.
How would I begin the process of starting the design phase of curriculum development? It is important to first look at my potential audience to discern their general characteristics, prior knowledge, demographics and motivations. I explore these concerns during the first week of my community college classes in Education and Early Childhood Education. I’m interested in learning about my learner’s previous experiences in working with children or teaching, their learning styles and multiple intelligences, and their motivations for taking my class. I learn a bit about their cultural backgrounds as well by the self-portraits they prepare in pictures and words to share with the class.
Other questions useful to ask myself at this stage are:
• What concepts do I want students to understand after completing the lesson?
• What will my students evaluate, synthesize, or analyze?
• How will I know students have gained an understanding of the concepts?
• What resources will my students and I use?
• How will students learn to use the technology resources? How will I break up the lesson into segments—the number of hours or days?
• What diverse learner needs do I need to consider when selecting resources, grouping students or planning the culminating project? Are there any special considerations such as assistive technologies or second-language learning to take into account?
This has been a valuable exercise on the instructional design process. The Madeline Hunter approach, similar to the Gagne theory, has influenced me for years. Yet I can see that as I’ve added more collaborative active learning and critical thinking in my courses, I am evolving to a Constructivist model. The Constructivist instructional design I found is worthy of further implementation in my practice.
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