Over the course of my studies and professional career in higher education, I’ve run across several models of instructional design, including (but not limited to) the following:
I think such models provide good information about the kinds of things that are important to think about when designing and developing courses, for those new to teaching in particular. Even for those with extensive teaching experience, I think these models can provide good guidance and can remind us to stay focused on what students should learn and how we will know if they have learned it.
On the other hand, I’ve found some of the design models to be fairly narrow and prescriptive. And I’ve felt that focusing on the specifics such as learning objectives or even outcomes is not in fact the best place to start course design. I mean, I know I’ve got to identify my learning objectives and outcomes, and I know it’s great if I can use the Bloom verbs when I’m writing them up. But there’s been something nagging at me that there’s something more to course design than all these steps and objectives and outcomes and such. What is it?
Something this week has triggered for me a few thoughts about course design. I think the first steps we really take at course design, even if we don’t articulate them, are much more philosophically driven than task-oriented. I think, for example, that we actually start by thinking about what our main problem/question for a specific course is. I think we think about the students we will meet in the course (as Ko and Rossen suggest). And I think we think about teaching and learning spaces (as Todd Conaway suggested in the video for the week).
One thing I think we may be even less intentional about, which is still a philosophical matter, is thinking about what a given course is. How do we conceive of it, really? What is it at a fundamental level? Is the course to be a monolog? A conversation? A text? An event? A seminar? A game? A bricolage? These are just a few possibilities, and I imagine that there are many conceptualizations of specific courses (and would love to hear your ideas about what those might be!). I imagine that the answer to the question may well be linked to philosophical structures of specific disciplines and fields as well as to an instructor’s own philosophical perspectives.
TLDR: I think it is important to consider philosophical questions, including “what is the course,” prior to parsing out the learning objectives. Our answers could very well inform our objectives and our ideas about how to accomplish our learning objectives.