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.

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