Instruction Design makes all the Difference

Across millennia of our astounding technological progress, we haven’t been able to design any super computer that can replace or barely challenge the human mind. We can design computers that can compute faster than all of us, but we cannot design a self-aware, self-augmenting, self-regulating machine, not yet in any case. Let’s look at the human brain in a new light – it is mighty capable in multiple ways, but we ask you to look at it in just one of its functions. The human brain is the most powerful pattern-recognition machine we know of.

As many of you might know, the core of computing is binary logic – differentiating one from zero or yes from no. The minor miracle that makes it possible for you to read this article, wherever you are now, is powered by the machine’s ability to make a steady distinction between just those two patterns over several variables.  Now, let’s ponder over the most basic model of a human – an infant. The infant’s brain is computing the two polarities of every aspect of reality and the countless variations in between the poles for every new concept it encounters, right from birth. From material hard facts like light-dark, hot-cold, near-far, sound-silence to abstract emotions like safe-unsafe, pleasure-pain, happy-unhappy, infinite ideas are grasped at astounding speeds by a mere baby. In just 3 years from birth, a child accumulates more information about the universe than can fit in our largest libraries. The child automatically learns more about relations, language, other life forms, weather, objects, physical laws, colours, sounds, shapes, smells, weights any many more concepts, than we can programme a robot to identify. The human brain comes with an inbuilt learning mechanism that is monumentally more powerful than every other machine we know combined.

These are real, tested and proven facts. The human mind is made to learn and it loves to learn, period. Now if we are posed with problems phrased as: “he doesn’t learn”, “she can’t learn” and “they won’t learn”, then we must insist that this calls for a change in perspective. As we have just discussed, everything that is learnt before actual “teaching” occurs is effortless and infallible. The problem is not in the learner or the learning, but in the teaching. In the words of one the biggest geniuses of our times:

“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” – Albert Einstein

As a self-regulating system, the mind rejects the chaos of incongruent information because survival and growth depends on forming steady concepts. In encountering larger, inter-connected and in effect more complex data, the mind seeks cohesiveness of information that extends to all its aspects. This can be translated to what is required of instruction design:

  • Information must be clear and have logical progression
  • Information must correspond to or broaden previously held knowledge
  • Information must have scope for application and utility
  • Information must be effective and create desired outcomes

At Triway, effective instruction design is the foundation that fortifies all our services and endeavors. Our primary objective is to validate our curriculum through visible results. We recently conducted a survey among schools that opted for EngCampus to gauge our effectiveness and the results speak for themselves:

What schools participating in EngCampus say:

  •  90% of the schools are of the opinion that the EngCampus curriculum is helpful to their students in gaining linguistic aptitude and triggering thinking as compared to the previous curriculum.
  • Most of the schools expressed an opinion that the EngCampus curriculum facilitates use of English language in daily life.
  • 95% of the schools are of opinion that the previous curriculum was only examination oriented whereas the EngCampus curriculum focuses on all-round development of the students.
  • 89% of the schools expressed the opinion that the EngCampus curriculum focuses more on reading not only the lesson but also other books; whereas the previous curriculum was focused just on rote learning.

A glimpse into our Instruction Design Process:

We are often asked, how we go about designing our curriculum. We are happy to share with you some of the key stages in our instruction design and hope that you can take away something of value from here.

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The above diagram outlines the four step design process, which is continuous. To begin with, we ask ourselves:

  • What do we need to teach?
  • What outcome do we need to achieve after teaching this?
  • What are the various effective and engaging methods to deliver these lessons?
  • How can we assess that the lessons have been effectively imbibed?

Each of these questions leads us to manifold answers which then need to be narrowed down to precise and measurable targets. The subject matter needs to be segmented and stacked appropriately to ensure attainable results. This sort of structuring of content is something that journalists use, it is known as the “inverse pyramid”.

critical-information-1

This streamlines the lesson being imparted, minimizing the effort of the learner as well as the teacher. It also makes the lesson immediately actionable and less time-consuming. The next step is to identify the strategies and methods for teaching and learning. Some lessons can be understood best by listening to a lecture, while others call for more innovative approaches like role-plays, hands-on activities, using learning accessories or group discussions. At times, there is no one best method and multiple methods must be combined and adapted. Moreover, lessons should take into account learner’s potential .

Once lessons are imparted they must be tested. Assessments which expect pupils to repeat exactly what was said by the teacher or the textbook, do not hold good in most scenarios. The test must check if students can apply their learning in new and unfamiliar territories, demonstrating true utility. The test should also be mindful of the students’ strengths and weaknesses and assess their individual as well as collective progress. Another point of note, tests should not be daunting or monotonous, but instead be exciting and encouraging.

Since the instruction design process is an ongoing one, every cycle of design should be connected to the previous and next cycles, learning and improving from them. In other words, the design process itself must reflect learning and development. Each challenge faced should eventually result in newer and better solutions. After all, necessity is the mother of invention.

Design is a fluid and organic process, and despite all the models and methods at your disposal, you will find that each design destination calls for a new road. Your design method will always be subject to the time and place where it must be applied. It cannot be stressed enough that design must be flexible to adapt towards the needs of each learner, topic and method. We have shared the key-points of the instruction design process here and we can end with a summary highlighting the principles that will help you along your way.

Principles of Effective Instructional Design

First things first

Try to limit the concepts in each lesson and progress from basics to advanced. One clear concept is easier to imbibe and lots of unfamiliar data at a time creates confusion and stress. As an example, primary word meanings needs to be clear before heading into synonyms or addition needs to be totally understood before moving on to multiplication.

Smart Strategies

Not all methods are equally effective. Sometimes it takes just a simple showing and telling while at other times, doing is needed. Choose simpler methods over complex ones and engaging methods over passive ones. Do not shy away from multi-sensory activities, role-plays and games.

Interconnected and ongoing

Real knowledge requires repeated exposure and linking to other existing ideas. Students must be made aware of the various co-relations and apply what they are learning to develop true understanding and recall.

Maintain the pace

When simple concepts have been established, the higher-order concepts that link to it should follow in quick progression rather than changing topics. Without a coherent sequence, students forget and fret over previous lessons all over again.

Be Relevant

Make sure that you speak the language that your learners can understand and relate to. The learner should also be able to understand the relevance of what they are learning and be able to apply it in their life to gain value.

Involve the learner

Do not make life-decisions for your learners. Let the learners have a say in what they would like to learn and why. Build upon the capacities of your learners rather than misdirecting their energies towards pursuits that don’t hold value or interest to them.

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