Beta-testing Designs with End-Users

Today, learners demand more customization, voice, and practicality from their learning environments (Kalaitzidis, Litts, & Halverson, 2017). Hence, instructional designers will have to upgrade learning environments in order to meet the demand of today’s learners. As discussed in an earlier post, content creation and calibration cannot be done in a silo. Content that is customized, incorporates the students’ voice, and is practical for students, has to be co-designed with students. Hence, content that is co-designed with learners is the ultimate form of personalized learning.  

Flow theory

Why should instructional designers include learners in the content creation process? First, by including learners in creating content, the learners themselves intrinsically set learning goals for attainment. In other words, when instructional designers introduce learners to the instructional objectives and learning outcomes for the units and lessons, the learners then can determine their own learning because they have been empowered by the instructional designer to customize and practicalize the content and they have been allowed to add their voices to the content creation and learning process.

Second, by including learners in the creation process, a learning flow that produces deep engagement and learner motivation can be established. Csikszentmihalyi (1990) argued that “clear goals, individual control, tasks that the individual is capable of successfully completing, and skills that must be learned” is what establishes a flow for deep learning and engagement. When learners co-create content, tasks are designed that are not too challenging or too easy. Students co-design tasks with teachers that align with their personal interests, thus placing them in a flow channel of learning.

Third, learner voice, choice, and agency are all embedded in co-designed instructional design models, as these types of models highly value empowering learners to make decisions about ends, priorities, and means (Reigeluth, Myers, & Lee, 2017). When students are empowered, then they are more engaged and thereby more capable of attaining their learning goals and the instructor’s teaching objective. 

Alpha vs. Beta testing

In many cases, after instructional designers have created their content without student input, they typically test the content in the alpha stage through the student view. For instance, instructional designers might make sure that the links work, that the dates of content release are correct, and that the aesthetics of the content is appealing. If the content passes the instructional designer’s alpha test, then it is delivered to the student without any trial run. Some would argue that this is a travesty, as students are being held accountable for content that was not given a trial run by the learners. Cars are test-driven, wine is taste-tested, and movies have trailers, all for the sake of testing the quality or operation of the product. Why then are students not given an opportunity to give their content a trail run?

Why content should be beta-tested with students

When instructional designers allow students to co-design and beta test the content, students are able to find bugs and fix them, improve content features, and optimize the distribution of learning, teaching, and assessing (Kalaitzidis, Litts, & Halverson, 2017). “In software development, the beta phase is an accepted, normal, predictable stage of product development” (Gonzalez, 2018). This is not the case in traditional instructional design. Gonzalez (2014) mentioned that “beta is a lifelong commitment to continuous …growth” (para. 4). Hence, shouldn’t instructional designers adopt beta-testing as a form of continuous professional growth? 

After doing some research on this topic, I created an instrument that not only supports mega-batching content creation but beta testing content with learners. For the instrument, click here. I also created a content rubric checklist for students that can be used for beta-testing content. This checklist is based on UC Berkley’s checklist. In sum, if instructional designers truly want to personalize learning for students, then they will not only have to incorporate the learners’ voice, choice, and agency, they will also have to incorporate co-designs that are beta-tested with end-users.

Reference:
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2009). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper [and] Row.

Gonzalez, J. (2014). Teaching in Beta: What We Can Learn from Software Developers Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/beta-teaching/ on October 14th, 2018

Reigeluth, C.M., Myers, R. D., Lee, D. (2017). The Learner-Centered Paradigm of Education in Reigeluth, C. M., In Beatty, B. J., & In Myers, R. D. Instructional-design theories and models: Volume IV.

Kalaitzidis, T.J., Litts, B., and Rosenfeld Halverson, E. (2017).  Designing Collaborative Production of Digital Media in Reigeluth, C. M., In Beatty, B. J., & In Myers, R. D. Instructional-design theories and models: Volume IV.

 

Goal Setting F.A.S.T.

One technique Instructional Designers use to focus on the goals of instruction is the functional analysis system technique, or F.A.S.T. technique. FAST is a simple chart that the Instructional Designer fills in, that starts with the action and ends with arriving at a goal for fulfilling that action. In other words, the FAST technique works backwards in order to help put a focus on the larger goal or goals at hand.

To implement this technique into lesson designs for web-enhanced classrooms, first start with the desired action and then work backwards by doing a functional analysis of that particular action. Asking how and why questions will help with the functional analysis. For instance, How does it function? Why does it function? The answers to those questions will help students derive at a goal for learning that particular course learning outcome.

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Starting with the action will help students arrive at a final goal for learning.  For instance, when students are enrolled in a Mathematics course, first assist them in becoming familiar with the course learning outcomes for that particular mathematics course. Then, show the students how to convert those course learning outcomes into actionable goals.

Here is an example from Grade 6 mathematics CCSS Standards: Understand ratio concepts and use ratio reasoning to solve problems.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.RP.A.1
Understand the concept of a ratio and use ratio language to describe a ratio relationship between two quantities. For example, “The ratio of wings to beaks in the bird house at the zoo was 2:1, because for every 2 wings there was 1 beak.” “For every vote candidate A received, candidate C received nearly three votes.”
Converting this standard into an actionable goal using the FAST technique would look like this:
FAST

The FAST technique is a foolproof way to incorporate student voice and choice in lesson design for web-enhanced classrooms because it allows the students to set goals from themselves within a framework of standards for learning. By teaching students to convert course learning outcomes into actionable goals, students automatically add their voice and choice to their learning and their goals for learning.

Lifetime Learning is not about Knowledge Acquisition

We are moving deeper into the age of conception. Daniel Pink described this age as “an era in which mastery of abilities that we’ve often overlooked and undervalued marks the fault line between who gets ahead and who falls behind” (p. 6). From Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, one can surmise that students in the conceptual age must be able to:

  • create artistic and emotional beauty
  • detect patterns and opportunities
  • craft a satisfying narrative
  • combine seemingly unrelated ideas into a novel invention
  • empathize
  • understand the subtleties of human interaction
  • find joy in one’s self and elicit it in others” (p. 51).

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Many of the traditional practices being used to teach our students in the conceptual age are not engaging learners in authentic ways, thus confining student identity, student agency, and student power. These traditional practices focus solely on the acquisition of topical knowledge and facts.

Schank reminds us that “we need a different approach to knowledge than we currently have” (p. 22). In other words, “we need to teach students to attack the facts and not to replace them with other facts” (Schank, p.22). Moreover, Schank submits that, “students are not taught to use the information they have, to question other information” (p. 23). Continuing down this traditional path will not prompt personalized learning for our students. Therefore, being predisposed to Schank’s advice, I believe that it would behoove educators to move from a knowledge-based education model (which is curriculum design) to a process-based education model (which is instructional design). Schank calls this process-based education model, story-centered curricula.  I’d like to tweak what he calls it, to story-centered design.

“Real knowledge is acquired as a natural part of an employed cognitive process in service of a goal” (Schank, p. 79). Below is a list of Schank’s twelve cognitive processes that underlie learning:

  • Conceptual
    • Prediction
    • Modeling
    • Experimentation
    • Evaluation
  • Analytic
    • Diagnosis
    • Planning
    • Causation
    • Judgement
  • Social
    • Influence
    • Teamwork
    • Negotiation
    • Describing

As students engage in authentic learning experiences, “knowledge acquisition is a natural result of engaging in cognitive processes that are being employed to satisfy a truly held goal” (Schank, p.79). Hence, it is the design of the learning experience that should be the focus. “A good [learning experience] relies on the creation of stories that a student can participate in and feel deeply about” (Schank, p. 90). Perhaps, using stories which are goal-based and involve role play, can be an approach used by teachers as an instructional design model in a web-enhanced classroom.

In sum, lifetime learning is not about knowledge acquisition. It’s about continuous development of the twelve cognitive processes, student identity, student agency, and productive student power.

Reference:

Pink, D. H. (2006). A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. New York: Riverhead Books.

Schank, R. C. (2011). Teaching minds: How cognitive science can save our schools. New York: Teachers College Press.

Instructional Design Models Should Enhance Student Identity, Promote Student Agency, And Provide Student Power

When designing instruction for web-enhanced classrooms, we must consider the role of student identity, student agency, and student power. Student identity is a continuous formation of the student acting as a subject within a community. In other words, student identity is the ability to be able to identify with the particular discourse or language of the community. As students learn more from the learning community, their ability to identify with the subject allows them to act as a key subject within the community.

Student agency is the making and remaking of the students’ self, the students’ identity, and the students’ relationships. When teachers promote student agency, they are allowing students to make and remake learning tools, learning resources, and learning activities. These acts lead to productive power for our learners.

Student power is cultivated on rich relationships and high quality interactions. Hence, in web-enhanced classrooms, what applications will best help to meet the learning goals while supporting the development of student power, student agency, and student identity?

white-male-1871370_1920Student productive power, is not only having skill and will to achieve goals, but also having independent thought and autonomous action towards self-regulated learning and self-directed learning. Hence, how can instructional-design models tap into student power, student agency,  and student identity? Roger Schank’s Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science can save our schools listed five issues that he claims educators are not effectively addressing. They are ability, possibility, methodology, constraints, and goal alignment.

  • Ability – whether students can learn whatever it is that you want to teach.
  • Possibility – whether what you want to teach can be taught.
  • Methodology – what method of learning actually would teach what we want to teach.
  • Constraints – whether the selected learning methodology actually will work, given the time constraints and abilities of the students, and other constraints that actually exist.
  • Goal alignment – determine a way that will make what you want to teach fit more closely with real-life goals that your students actually may have.

I’ve contoured Schank’s list of issues in order to fit them into the discourse of personalized learning.

  • Ability – what is the students learning profile?
  • Possibility – what is the students learning potential?
  • Methodology – what instructional design model should be employed?
  • Constraints – what are the limitations of the learning environment and what are the constraints for achieving the learning goal?
  • Goal alignment – what are the teacher’s goal for instruction? What are the student’s goals for learning?

Will Richardson reminds us that we should increase student agency over learning. Our current emphasis on improving teaching is not cultivating the student’s agency, the student’s identity, or the student’s productive power. In other words, we should shift from a focus on teaching practices to a focus on student-centered learning practices.

References:

Schank, R. C. (2011). Teaching minds: How cognitive science can save our schools. New York: Teachers College Press.