Educational Engagement

You learn by doing. You’ve heard it before, and I subscribe to this notion personally. How, though do we develop the class time where new concepts are to be shared and reinforced?

Frameworks provide a logic by which instructors can design instruction, but it’s possible to have too much preparatory work in place during these and other preparatory projects. Two frameworks for instructional design are ADDIE and SAM. ADDIE was developed by the military and it consists of 5 main steps, with many sub-steps under those. While it gave order and scalability to many training projects that needed to take place and has continued to do so in workplaces everywhere, it can have distinct drawbacks over a SAM process.

One problem for the classroom can be a lecture, followed by a quiz – passive learning, and not very engaging. “Tell and test” is something that could be encouraged by the use of the ADDIE framework, e.g. the 2nd D, Design, has bullet points under it stating “develop objectives”, immediately followed by “develop test”. When learners know approximately when they will need a piece of information, they can learn it for that event, and afterward forget it rapidly. Perhaps this is a beneficial thing for some human experiences, but not with information that should be boosting corporate value over coming quarters.

It’s better to learn with gusto, go unwind or go to sleep, and review over the next day, weeks, and beyond. When you learn something new, it creates new paths in the brain and these become reinforced by studying with distributed practice – cramming, or having a one-off session followed by a quiz and a survey usually aren’t good enough to really internalize something new.

Also to that end, active learning is so much better than passive learning. An example of passive learning is reading a case study about the process of a negotiation – an instructor could then quiz students on aspects of the process or understanding of some kind of positioning, etc., but the engagement and learning will be so much better and retrievable later if the learners also actually simulate a negotiation, and in this case, compete with each other, followed by talking about the results with the rest of their group.

ADDIE tends to make for a thorough process, but it can be drawn out and expensive, it’s up to you to adapt it and make it engaging, and sometimes at the end, your denouement can be met with the dreaded, “Oh, that’s not what I expected.”

SAM processes can avoid some of these concerns, because you don’t build the entire, sometimes complex project at once, from start to finish. You build this feature, and that segment and they all stand on their own as these little deliverables. That way, you can get the feedback you need before you sink serious time and money following the wrong path.

Whatever framework you use, it’s up to the instructor to facilitate engaging class time where material sticks. Fun and games have their place in the classroom, but they are but a facet of a brilliant learning experience.


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