Random Thoughts on Instructional Design
“If there is not an inherent attracting power in the material, then… the teacher will either attempt to surround the material with foreign attractiveness, making a bid or offering a bribe for attention by ‘making the lesson interesting’; or else will resort to…low marks, threats of non-promotion, staying after school…. But the attention thus gained…always remains dependent upon something external…. True, reflective attention, on the other hand, always involves judging, reasoning, deliberation; it means that the child has a question of his own and is actively engaged in seeking and selecting relevant material with which to answer it. –John Dewey, 1915
I like to think about how far education might come if instruction is built more around Dewey’s words and less around standardized testing. We must often build instruction upon the needs of our departments/schools rather than the needs of our learners. As you begin to pull everything together for your project, remember Dewey’s image: the child with a question of his own, seeking answers. Will that describe your learners?
In an idealistic way, is that the basis of evaluation? Did the child have a question and seek the answer? One of my teachers once asked: “If you aren’t going to evaluate it, why teach it?” It’s a simple enough question. And it seems logical. But what is evaluation?
Finally, don’t be afraid to fail. As we all know, we learn an awful lot by making mistakes (although we still feel awful). To promote our ability to rationalize, I’ve added a fascinating article — “The Importance of Failure” — so that we all appreciate what a service we give to humanity when we screw something up. Seriously, I feel Unsworth is also warning us not to get caught up in a euphoria brought on by change, without truly assessing where that change is leading. Is the emperor wearing cloths or isn’t he? How do we know for sure, especially at a distance?