Design for learning

Educators function as architects of the learning journey which involves the deliberate shaping of the student experience to promote understanding. By integrating student-centred instructional approaches, such as blended learning, flipped classroom, lecturing, etc., educators can design learning experiences, face-to-face as well as online, that cater to diverse learners while capitalising on the potential of technology.

What is design for learning?

Educators, in their role as architects of the learning experience, do more than just deliver content, they strategically scaffold the learning journey, ensuring students not only acquire knowledge, but skills and attitudes. 

In today's digital age, the way we approach teaching and learning has transformed significantly. To create the most impactful learning experiences, educators need to understand that:

  • Teacher-led delivery should shift to a more learner-centred approach in order to foster active learning and collaboration through direct instruction (or synchronous) and self-directed ( or asynchronous) components;
  • It is the deliberate choices that educators make about when and how to combine self-directed learning with direct instruction that is paramount to a successful learning experience.
  • Intentionality in the strategies employed provides relevant and meaningful learning experiences. 

Blended learning seamlessly weaves together online and in-person learning experiences to boost student engagement and meet the unique needs of a diverse class by providing flexible pathways through learning experiences. Blended learning aims to lean on technology to do what it does well–information transfer–and free teachers to do what they do well–support individual and small groups of students as they progress toward firm standards-aligned goals.

Tucker, 2023.

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Three pillars of design for learning Photo: C. Tucker

Why should you design for learning?

Designing for learning is an approach that empowers students, placing them at the centre of their educational journey, and promotes an exciting future for education, grounded in learner-centric practices.

According to Tucker (2023), there are three critical pillars an educator should consider when designing for learning: student agency, differentiation, and control over the pace of learning. By incorporating these elements into the design of courses, educators can provide a more robust and impactful learning experience for themselves and their students:

  • Student agency instills a sense of responsibility and ownership in students, fostering motivation through meaningful choices in their educational journey;
  • Differentiation involves adjusting teaching methods to address students’ unique needs and abilities, supporting their learning journeys;
  •  Allowing students to regulate the pace of their learning helps them to control information acquisition and task completion, ultimately enhancing engagement and boosting their likelihood of success.
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Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education Photo: N/A

How does designing for learning contribute to quality?

Designing for learning fosters active, student-centred approaches that cater to diverse learning styles and encourage critical thinking, thereby enhancing the overall quality of teaching and learning. It ensures that educational experiences are tailored to meet the evolving needs of students and align with the latest advancements in pedagogy and technology.

Designing for learning will help you...

Focus on student learning:

  • Designing for learning tailors instructional methods, content, and resources to meet their diverse needs and preferences;
  • It promotes active engagement, deeper understanding, and the acquisition of essential skills
  • It offers more flexibility because students can control when and where they learn. By self-monitoring their time and pacing, students are able to spend more time on unfamiliar or difficult content (Aslanian & Clinefelter, 2012).

Connect outcomes, teaching, and assessment:

  • Designing for learning ensures that learning outcomes, teaching methods, and assessment strategies are aligned to create a cohesive educational experience where what is taught matches what is assessed and the desired learning outcomes;
  • It enables the integration of ongoing formative assessment techniques within the teaching process, providing valuable feedback to both educators and students to adapt instruction and improve learning outcomes;
  • It establishes a feedback loop, allowing educators to continuously adjust their teaching methods based on assessment results, helping students progress toward achieving the desired outcomes more effectively.

Improve the quality of teaching & learning:

  • Designing for learning allows for personalised and differentiated instruction, tailoring the educational experience to individual student needs and preferences, thereby improving engagement and comprehension;
  • It promotes active learning by incorporating interactive and engaging elements, such as collaborative activities, problem-solving tasks, and real-world applications, which enhance students' critical thinking and retention of knowledge.

The main shift is in the delivery of the session. Your primary role moves from delivering the content to facilitating and supporting the student's journey, through the digital content, through the learning activities and in supporting the self-directed study.

Tuffnell, 2020.

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