Tag Archives: instructional design

Designing and delivering instruction “Gagné-style” #MOOCMOOC

Are you interested in learning how to design instruction? Then there is a MOOC that might be really interesting for you!

The “MOOC MOOC: Instructional Design” started yesterday, and for three weeks presents readings to different topics which are then to be discussed on twitter as well as on participants’ personal blogs, facebooks, or other social media.

I have only looked into the first reading at the time of writing this, and it turns out that the “reading” is, in fact, a short movie on youtube! How motivating when you expected each of the six links to lead to scientific papers or other heavy reading! :-)

Because it is an interesting topic also for my blog, I am going to pick out certain parts of the video and talk about them here. You find the original video at the bottom of this post in case you are interested.

So, here we go.

Robert Gagné developed 9 steps of developing instruction and 9 steps of delivering instruction. (And when I say “instruction”/”course”/”class” in this blogpost, I mean courses you teach, summer camps you run, outreach activities you do with the general public, anything that you do with the goal of other people learning something with your help).

I find it helpful to see the processes of designing and delivering of instruction broken down into small steps. Not because I think you should religiously follow them, or necessarily in that order (for example I find the “constructive alignment” idea of designing your exam before planning your instruction really helpful), but to be reminded of steps that you currently might not be paying enough attention to. I find that my own designing and delivering of instruction goes through phases where the focus definitely changes.

9 steps of planning instruction

1. Take home message. Figure out what you want your participants to take away from the instruction. What will they be able to do after having completed your course? What methods can they use? What questions can they answer? In a nutshell: Figure out your learning outcomes.

2. Figure out what prior knowledge your students will need to be successful in your class. This point is both to do with gaining an understanding of who your target audience is (so if you have this really exciting topic and a very precise idea of the content you want to convey but don’t know who you want to present it to yet: is it more appropriate for a group of kindergardeners or university students? Or if you are planning a curriculum over several weeks or months or years: At which point does your audience know enough for that specific piece of instruction you want to do and what other courses might they have to do beforehand?) and who is in your actual audience (in case you are given an audience rather than being free to pick one: What will your audience know?)

3. Now figure out what exactly it is you need to teach to bring them from what they know/can do before they meet you to what you want them to be able to do afterwards.

4. Then think about the context. Why should they learn what you want them to learn? What is their benefit? How can they use the new skills to be more successful in their studies, their job, their lives?

5. Now think about the different kind of people you might have in your course. Who is there? What kind of support will they need to learn? What methods will best reach them?

6. Now it is time to think about the kind of media and teaching materials you want to use. Should they read articles? Watch movies? Will you give a lecture? How much interaction, if any, do you want between participants?

7. And now: Get your participants excited! Create motivation to learn your content! (whether or not that is actually possible we don’t know, but here is what I wrote earlier about motivation) Put it in the context of their reality and make a compelling case for why they should want to engage.

8. Now we are ready for a trial run with a small group of students.

9. Evaluate the trial run. The idea here is that instruction never works exactly as imagined the first time round, or even if it did, that would most likely not be optimal. So test how it is going, and then improve! (And then test again, and improve again, …) :-)

Step 8 from the list above can itself be broken down into 9 steps of delivering instruction.

9 steps of delivering instruction

These 9 steps are a good guideline along which you can plan your instruction. Each step represents a phase, most of which can be walked through one after the other. You will typically circle through these 9 steps at least once during each unit of instruction, sometimes more often than that.

1. At first, you need to gain attention. Create some kind of hook as to why people should listen to you at all. Why is your topic super interesting and super important? Tell them!

2. Present learning outcomes. What will participants be able to do when you are done? Knowing that will both help them learn (because they now actually know what they are supposed to be learning) and will motivate them because they see that your content is applicable to their real lives.

3. Activate prior knowledge. All participants know something about your topic before joining your course, or at least think they do. Help them remember what they know already, so you have a good foundation to build on and your topic gets integrated into the larger context of what participants already know!

4. Now give an introduction to the topic itself.

5. Provide guidance in form of the teaching materials you want to use. Syllabus, where applicable. Powerpoint slides, text books, whatever materials you want your participants to work with. Teaching materials could, for example, also mean your tank filled with water if you were doing tank experiments!

6. Let them try it out! Let them actively learn by applying new concepts or ideas, by solving puzzles or exercises, by engaging with the topic.

7. Provide feedback while students are engaging with your topic! (This step happens at the same time as the previous one. This means you are giving formative feedback, that participants can use to increase their performance in real time)

8. Assess performance.

9. Support transfer and application of your topic to where participants are supposed to be using it later: Have office hours, or follow up with participants, or have some other structure set up that continues after your course itself is over.

And finally, here is the video that inspired this blog post: