Unit 1 | Designing Instruction – Instructional Design Reconsidered


We will explore a number of models for designing instruction and will examine contemporary approaches for the design of learning environments. We will examine some of the key design approaches that are discussed and used in the literature, their interconnections, their merits, and their critiques. We will experience problem finding through the use of a design thinking process and investigate the attributes and qualities of a design thinking mindset. Through the lens of social justice we will determine how empathic design fosters the development of inclusive learning environments.

Learning Activities and Assignments

  • Week 1-2: Review and analyze scholarly literature and models for instructional design and designing instruction.
  • Week 2: Participate in a design thinking process (partners).
  • Week 3: Due – Assignment 1 (Part A): Design Thinking Process.
  • Week 4: Due Complete Assignment 1 Part B: Critique.
  • Week 4: Due Assignment 2: Reflective Piece of Assignment 1.
  • Ongoing (Week 1-9): Engage in interactive discussions on course and student blog sites. (See Contribution to the Learning Community – after Assignment 4).
  • Complete readings for Unit 1.

Activity 1 | Orienting yourself to the field of instructional design and designing instruction

Exploring instructional design models

Before we can engage in a discussion of instructional design and designing instruction, and consider innovative ways to re-consider the designing of instruction, it is essential that we ground ourselves in some of the literature. During Week 1, please read Bates (2019) and Merrill (2002).

You will be working in partners in Activity 2. You may want to discuss the most appropriate way of engaging in the approximately hour long design thinking process. Please contact Deborah with the name of your partner or IF you have any questions or concerns.

Exploring a design thinking process

Exploring the d.School website using the design thinking process.

Partner Participation Modality Options:

  • Synchronously – determining a time to work together in real time using a communication application such a SKYPE, Facetime, Google Hangout, Zoom, etc.
  • Asynchronously – determining a collaborative online tool such as MURAL or Google docs, or another tool with which you are comfortable.

Activity 2 | Participating in the Design Thinking Process

In Activity 2, we are asking you to shift your focus, with the assistance of your partner(s), to conceptualizing ways of encouraging your students to engage in intellectual risk taking and become more actively engaged in your online learning environments. We will be making these shifts through a design thinking processes adapted from d.School’s design thinking process and a design challenge.

Once you and your partner(s) have determined your participation modality (synchronous or asynchronous) for Activity 2, determine the time frame / date you will actual complete the design thinking process. You need to allow approximately 60 minutes for the process. Please download and review these PDFs before starting:

To understand why it is helpful to develop a design thinking mindset, how we use a design challenge, and the importance of Design Thinking, please read and annotate Section 2 – Designing, Making and a New Culture of Learning, Section 3 – Design Challenges: Prompts for Learning and Hard Fun, AND Section 6 – Why we Need our Students to be Design Thinkers, in Taking Making into Classrooms (BC version), Crichton & Carter (2017). To consider how the concepts of empathy, instructional design, and adult learners come together, please read:

Mattelmäki, T., Vaajakallio, K., & Koskinen, I. (2014). What happened to empathic design? Design Issues, 30(1), 67-77. doi:10.1162/DESI_a_00249.

For further information about empathetic design, you may want to overview the Optional Reading from Vann, 2017.

Overview: Design Thinking

Design thinking is a human-centered process that allows us gain empathy for the points of view of others before we begin the search for solutions. Design thinking processes have been used within companies and institutions to improve products, services and instruction. The design company, IDEO, in collaboration with d.School at Stanford University, have honed their human-centered design thinking process to include five iterative, interconnected steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.

Overview: Design Thinking Process

The design thinking process allows teams to explore a particular concern, issue or problem. Using the five steps iteratively, teams can begin to problem find the roots of a concern / issue / problem and begin to generate ideas and possible options by:

  • Gaining empathy to broaden their perspectives and deepen their understandings of a particular concern, issue or problem,
  • Defining the actual roots of the concern, issue or problem, shifting from immediate problem solving to more complex problem finding
  • Ideating possible opportunities, alternative, ideas, solutions
  • Prototyping models, metaphors, or solutions
  • Testing those models, metaphor, or solutions with actual users, including the individuals they had worked with to gain empathy and deeper understanding.

Overview: Provocations for Design Thinking Processes

Seymour Papert (2005), the inventor of LOGO and inspiration behind Lifelong Kindergarten at MIT’s Media Lab, cleverly observed, “You can’t think about thinking without thinking about something.” The d.School example you explored focuses on re-conceptualizing the gift giving process. As you read in Section 3 of Taking Making into Classrooms, we use a design challenge as the provocation for facilitating a design thinking process.

Participants, whether novice or expert, in a human-centred design thinking process may begin with a seemingly simple statement such as d.School’s “Re-conceputalize the gift giving experience” to initiate the process. Alternatively, they  may be asked to respond to a more structured design challenge. In either case, the results should be similar IF participants honor the steps outlined in any design process, are willing to risk sharing their learning, and engage in the human centred design thinking process.

Reference: Papert, S. (2005). You can’t think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something.  Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 5(3), 366-367.

1 As the word suggests, you “take notes” in the articles you are reading. Unlike reading which is a passive activity, the process of annotating text is an active activity that helps you to stay focused and involved with your reading. Your annotations signal important information to be used later. Some annotations may include key words or symbols that you may use as quotes, categories or tags when you blog on WordPress.

2 Please feel free to send me your first blog post before posting.


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