Passion versus Desire

“Follow your passion”, they say! “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion” (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel). I’ve heard sayings like these, amongst others, coming of age in Small Town, Maryland.

It wasn’t that long ago when I went to a teacher in-service training where the speaker told the crowd to have students create a passion notebook. Students were to use their passion notebooks to help them capture the ideas that they were passionate about, and the students were to write about their ideas during the writing block. I bought into this teaching strategy, because it was a novel solution to the writing woes of my students for that time (circa 2005). Fast forward twelve years, I’ve learned that passion is based on emotions and emotions change with the weather.

Merriam – Dictionary defined passion as a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept. Other dictionaries have defined passion as any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.

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On the other hand, Merriam – Dictionary defined desire as a “conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment“. Other dictionaries have defined desire as, “to wish or long for; crave; want.” According to those definitions, there is a huge difference between passion and desire. And based on one of my earlier posts, it isn’t passion that leads to renewable learning

I believe that passions are short-term and may or may not remain with the learner until they are fulfilled. Whereas  desires are long-term and remain with the learner until they are attained. Desire brings about transformation while passion brings about shifts. Acting much like a fad, passions come and go, while desires form internal standards that are followed until the craving has been satiated.

Instead of telling students to follow their passion, I now tell students to follow their desire, because passion is based on emotions. Asking students to follow their passion will only lead to shallow learning. Thus students’ interests, preferences, and needs will be based on shallow curiosities. However, desire is based on the joy of attaining the wish or craving. Hence, asking students to identify their learning desires will lead to deeper learning. Desire is linked to an intrinsic goal or deep hunger that is not satisfied until the goal is attained. Ergo, I believe that learning can only be truly personalized when student’s learning desires are factored into the equation.

Standards, Competencies, and Proficiencies; Oh my!

During my summer hiatus, I’ve been reading many books and articles on improving student achievement. Most of what I’ve read mentioned standards, proficiencies, and competencies. I began to ponder the difference between each of those terms. Aren’t competencies and proficiencies the same? confused.jpg

To help me clarify the terms and understand how they are linked to student achievement, I decided to define each one for my thinking. I used the Merriam – Dictionary to help me define the following:

  • Standards –  something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality.
  • Competencies – having requisite [essential and necessary], or adequate ability or qualities.
  • Proficiencies – well advanced in an art, occupation, or branch of knowledge.

I’ve been grappling with these terms because I wanted to know how they appeared within the current construct of Instructional Design Theory. These terms are very pertinent and repetitive in Curricular Model Theories, however, I wanted to know what terms are linked to student achievement within Instructional Design Theories?



Based on my readings of Reigeluth, Beatty, and Myers, (2017), the focus of Instructional Design Theories seems to be on the means that yield performance and goal attainment rather than the results of learner achievement. In other words, what conditions and feedback are necessary for proficiency?

Terms like attainment, task-centered learning, and values were making themselves evident in my review of the literature on contemporary Instructional Design Theories and Models. I decided to use the Merriam-Dictionary to help me define those terms:

  • Attainment – to come to as the end of a progression or course of movement.
  • Task – a usually assigned piece of work often to be finished within a certain time.
  • Values –  relative worth, utility, or importance.

I reflected on my new learning and decided to construct a table that helped me to contextualize these terms better through the lens of personalized learning. The table below lists my ideas as a result of examining these terms:

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In sum, as instructional designers, including myself, learn more about brain science, information technology, and personalized learning, it would behoove us to not only consider the learning goals and tasks for attaining those goals, but also the instructional designer’s values that undergird instructional designs for learning.

In Reigeluth, C. M., In Beatty, B. J., & In Myers, R. D. (2017). Instructional-design theories and models: Volume IV.

Gamification Can Help Teachers Personalize Learning

Gamification is the key to helping teachers implement personalized learning because “gamified environments are ideal for mastery learning[;] allowing students to repeatedly practice skills to meet learning outcomes” (Kingsley & Grabner-Hagen, p. 553). Research shows that gamification increases learner engagement, motivation, and critical thinking. Furthermore, games offer challenges to learners and are the best way to support student agency, student identity, and student “productive” power.


According to Moje and Lewis (2007), student agency is the making and remaking of the students’ self, identity, and relationships. According to the Merriam-Dictionary, agency is defined as “the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power.” Hence, gamification places learners in a role, condition, or state in which they have to exert their power through decision making, perseverance, leadership, and critical thinking.


Moje and Lewis (2007) submitted that Student identity is a continuous formation of the student acting as a subject within a community. In other words, how students behave, speak, and function ultimately forms the basis of the students’ identity. Hence, gamification requires that learners act as a particular subject in a particular discourse community. Strictly speaking, depending upon the goals of the learning quest, learners have to function in a particular role in order to successfully complete the learning goals of the quest. They must also understand the context, nomenclature, and linguistic rules of the discourse community within the quest. What is more, gamification places learners in a variety of roles and discourse communities that they would not otherwise be. 

superman-1825726_1920Student “productive” power, as defined by Moje and Lewis (2007), is not only having the skill and will to achieve learning goals, but also having independent thought and autonomous action towards self-regulated learning and self-directed learning. Hence, gamification capitalizes on autonomy, learner choice, and learner control.

In sum, gamification shows learners that failure is not final… As a matter of fact, the repetitive activity of games supports perpetual skill building and leaves little time for players to sulk in failure. Much like gaming, personalized learning environments allow students to be immersed in a rich learning experience that yields multiple outcomes of learning, thus generating a learning constellation progression of knowledge and skills. If educators really want to implement personalized learning in their classrooms, then they will need to consider gamification.

Kingsley, Tara L. & Grabner-Hagen, Melissa M. (2017). Vocabulary by Gamification. The Reading Teacher. 71. doi:10.1002/trtr.1645.


Moje, E. B., & Lewis, C. (2007). Examining opportunities to learn literacy: The role of critical sociocultural literacy research. In. C. J. Lewis, P. Enciso, & E. B. Moje (Eds.), Reframing sociocultural research on literacy: Identity, agency, and power. (pp. 15-48). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Renewable Learning

When the last  tissue is used, one does not expect that the tissues within the box will renew themselves. Instead, the tissues and the box have to be replaced. Curriculum Theory Models are like an empty tissue box because they don’t generate renewable learning experiences.  The focus of Curriculum Theory Models is on meeting standards, teaching methods, maintaining a learning pace within a finite amount of time, and assessing cognitive behaviors.

Linear pacing guides and standardized assessments that seek predetermined answers leave little to no room for enrichment and extensions of learning within Curriculum Theory Models. As stated in an earlier post, enrichment and extensions of learning aligns with the student’s interest, student’s desired knowledge, and the student’s preferences, thus enabling personalized learning. It is my opinion that renewable learning occurs when learning is personalized for each learner.


Instructional Design Models use learner centered specifications that meet desired competencies and proficiencies for learners.  Unlike the disposable learning of Curriculum Theory Models, Instructional Design Models incorporate enrichment and extensions of learning based on the learner’s analysis, thus creating renewable and personalized learning experiences. Using the tissue box analogy from earlier, I liken instructional design models to a handkerchief, which is more robust than a tissue, and it serves more purposes than for just wiping the nose.

For starts, in Instructional Design Models, the design of learning is centered around the learners’ Zone of Desirability. The Zone of Desirability is defined as the gaps between the learner’s current knowledge state and his or her desire to know. This gap becomes an irritant to the learner, and creates a strong craving for information that could potentially fill the knowledge gaps. In some cases, the information received may not be correct, thus forming misconceptions for the learner.  Nonetheless, the learner satisfies his or her desire to know by seeking information from self-designed learning experiences that can possibly fill the knowledge disparities, thereby creating new knowledge for the learner. The figure below illustrates the process of cognitive behaviors within the learners’ Zone of Desirability.

Zone of Desirability

Many learning institutions are trying to make a shift to personalized learning without considering Instructional Design Models. Fitting personalized learning into Curriculum Theory Models is like fitting a square peg into a round hole.  This is because Curriculum Theory Models start with a standard rather than with the student’s Zone of Desirability.  As mentioned earlier, it is the Zone of Desirability that promotes renewable learning. The figure below illustrates the linear process of Curriculum Theory Models.

In addition to Instructional Design Models, the theory of personalized learning also makes learning renewable because it promotes student identity, student agency, and student “productive” power. Moje and Lewis (2007) defined productive power as  power that “is produced and enacted in and through discourses, relationships, activities, spaces, and times by [students] as they compete for access to and control of resources, tools, and identities” (p. 5).

Student power is “a complicated and challenging construct, simply because the working of power in [student’s] learning lives is often neglected or is relegated to a position of an outside agent (the teacher) acting upon the subject (the student)” (Moje, 2007). However, personalized learning is a person-centered learning theory that allows students to negotiate relationships, discourses, and activities in order to effectively share control of resources and tools. Thus personalized learning supports the students’ right to exercise their “productive power” within the classroom.


In sum, Instructional Design Models are more equipped to usher in personalized learning than Curriculum Theory Models simply because Instructional Design Models capitalize on the learners Zone of Desirability and the productive power of learners. If student “productive power”, voice, choice, and agency are factored into the learning design, then learning will always remain renewable.

Moje, E. B., & Lewis, C. (2007). Examining opportunities to learn literacy: The role of critical sociocultural literacy research. In. C. J. Lewis, P. Enciso, & E. B. Moje (Eds.), Reframing sociocultural research on literacy: Identity, agency, and power. (pp. 15-48). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.