When you think of an educational setting, generally the first thing that springs to mind is the picture of a teacher standing in front of a class of students, delivering a lecture while everyone jots down pearls of wisdom. Every so often, the teacher will stop to ask or answer questions. Students who have been paying attention are quick to raise their hands, while the others do their best to avoid eye contact with the teacher. Finally, the teacher will deliver a quiz, a test, or assign some other activity designed to evaluate the student’s progress.
While this visualization is true of the delivery stage in education, it overlooks a significant aspect of a teacher’s job responsibilities. Teachers not only deliver educational content, they must also plan out what needs to be learned, and how the students will learn it. That is the essence of instructional design in education.
Teachers begin the instructional design process by asking some key questions:
- How much do the students already know on this topic?
- What are the students going to be ready to learn at this stage?
- What activities or examples will keep them engaged?
- How can this topic be designed as a meaningful learning experience?
- How will the academic standards of the school be translated into examples that will make sense to the students?
Student-Centered Instructional Design
Designing instruction that only includes activity planning, without regard for learning outcomes, is very superficial. Student-centered instructional design emphasizes not only what students are going to learn, but also how they will demonstrate learning. Classroom activities will still need to be developed, but only after the teacher has planned learning outcomes.
Goals of Student-Centered Instructional Design
Focusing on student needs, rather than activities, can have several benefits. Student-centered learning can:
- Motivate students to start learning more quickly
- Help students persist in the learning process, and continue to learn
- Accommodate multiple learning preferences
- More effectively assess student learning outcomes
The traditional teacher-centered model of instruction is largely lecture-based. In the student-centered model of instruction, many other instructional methods may be used. A few examples include:
- Role Play. This method allows students to “try out” an experience.
- Case Study: Case studies are good for complex issues, such as critical thinking.
- Problem-Based Learning: Students seek to solve problems while the teacher facilitates the solution.
- Competitions: Creating friendly competitions can inspire students who normally might not be that engaged.
These are just a few examples. Each class and topic will lend itself better to some activities over others. Care should be taken to match the method with the nature of the content, and the willingness of the students.