For the past two weeks, my Instructional Design course mates and I have been refining our instructional designs and working towards creating the actual instructional materials. As we review each others’ materials for feedback, our instructor has asked us to stop and reflect upon what we think about instructional design so far. In my last blog I discussed how I am struggling with the differences between the ADDIE model and the current back-planning model used in public education these days. But what I am discovering is that I REALLY like designing instructional materials. Actually, as I reflect back over my academic and professional careers, the designing of lessons and materials is what I enjoy most. This revelation is something to consider as I look to what the future holds for me. Allow me to elaborate.
As my husband is also a teacher, we often find ourselves “talking shop” about better teaching methods and materials. We reflect on our own educational experiences, and he often comments about how little he remembers from his K-12 days and how much I remember. While we both agree the more authentic and hands-on the activities and experiences, the more memorable they are to students, textbooks were the principal source of instruction when we were students, so understanding how to approach them was imperative. In our relationship’s early days, he and I found a commonality when it comes to instructional materials. When asked to recall information we had previously seen in a textbook, we both had a knack for remembering where in the book the answers were located, what else appeared on the page such as diagrams or pictures, and what titles and subtitles appeared on the page. Of course, these were the days of fact-based teaching with basic recall as the primary form of assessment. I had never even heard of a project rubric until I began working towards my teacher certification.
As an undergrad student, I devised study strategies involving interacting with the text because college requires students to be more independent about their study habits and strategies. I developed color-coding highlighting systems, wrote in margins of rented textbooks, reworked and organized notes, etc. in hopes of digesting the content more quickly. I became so obsessed with the idea of making the learning process faster and more efficient, I conducted two major cognitive psychology experiments and wrote research papers on the use of pictorial stimuli and the use of color in instructional materials for some of my senior-level projects.
When I entered the working world at the same time personal computers were becoming capable of more than basic word processing and mathematical computation, I explored the wonders of creating newsletters and flyers for my various businesses, developed staff meeting agendas and training sessions, and basically attempted to improve the appearance of any paper-based product I could get my hands on. I also spent endless hours developing PowerPoints, worksheets, and graphic organizers for my students in my early years as a teacher. As instructional technology advanced, I began to develop more interactive materials through digital formats such as smart board software and web-based content. This evolution and my awareness of it are just one of the reasons I chose to pursue an Instructional Technology degree.
I suppose in some form or fashion, I have been using the basics of the ADDIE model all this time without even knowing what it was. Rarely did I create something without having a purpose or a need, knowing my intended audience, or considering how the materials would be used. Usually the need was MY need, whether directly as a teacher making something for my students, or indirectly such as templates for my staff to create more uniform lesson plans. How involved the design phase needed to be really depended upon how complicated the materials needed to be. A simple flyer or newsletter rarely needed more than layout adjustments, while a staff training required more thought about logical sequencing and prior knowledge. But both of these stages felt very intuitive and informal. I feel I now have a much better grasp of just how thorough and formal these steps need to be, but by far, my favorite stage is still the development of the materials.