On this page, we clarify our work by responding to the existing literature and then stating some affirmative theories and processes by which we will make our contribution. [this is an ongoing process, as we try to figure out what we are really doing.]
Click on a link to go to a table of contents listing literature references that we have responded to.
Education is a designed experience that provides people with something that they would theoretically not be willing to provide for themselves. In the same way, computer games are merely designed experiences where a game designer crafted intentional boundaries to the experience that they wanted the players to have.
Merrill, M. D. (2007). The Proper Study of Instructional Design. In Robert A. Reiser and John V. Dempsey (Eds.). Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology, 2nd Ed. Pearson Prentice Hall, pp. 336-341.
"Everyone feels that they are a designer. Most of us have been in school for a good portion of our life. We have witnessed hundreds of hours of instruction good and bad. There is probably no other human professional activity shared by almost all members of civilized societies Why shouldn't we feel that we know a good deal about teaching or designing instruction?" (2)
In The Proper Study of Instructional Design, Merrill presents his views for how instructional design activities ought to be rigourously conducted and the realities of how the field is viewed and utilized in common use. Like many fields of design which seek to improve descision making processes, the design of educational instruction is a sophisticated process with intellectual depth. It is an often fallacious assumption when people assume that they will be able to make great instructional design descisions without reading the instructional design literature, learning about the best techniques from the field, treating the task seriously, or relying too much on their idiosyncratic learning style or beliefs about their learning style. I am certainly a victim of this fallacy, which is why I am now reading the literature and formalizing my views and objectives in this field. In addition, I have begun to think about education as a social system that takes a diverse set of people and attempts to provide all of them with an experience that improves their lives. I used to think of education as a personalized system that was meant to teach me the exact things that I wanted to learn and which solves all of my life problems. I now see that I must spend my own time to learn the more specific knowledge that interests me and that educational experiences should be more generalized and provide benefits to a larger audience of people. The same is true for public design, where sidewalks, streets, air quality, etc needs to work for a large percentage of the populance, whereas an armchair designer or traffic engineer may never see beyond what descisions would work best for them and their life.
"Today you are an engineer but your company needs a course in their latest product, so tomorrow you are an instructional designer because you are assigned to be an instructional designer, not because you were trained as an instructional designer. You are a designer-by-assignment." (2)
Merrill mentions that most of the instructional design is done by people who have been assigned to do it, rather than people experience with instructional design. He posits that this mentality means that instructional design educational institutions should be training students who can mentor, manage, and supervise these assigned people, instead of training students in the fundamentals of instructional design.
"When a University hires a chemistry professor do they ask about his teaching experience, the classes he has had in pedagogy, or the training he has experienced in instructional design? Of course not! If professionals have published in their field they obviously know how to teach and design their courses." (2)
I think that many Professors are also instructors by assignment, rather than profession or desire, especially at research focused Universities. Ideally, people interested in research would work at research labs, people interested in teaching would go to teaching colleges, and those interested in both would go to research universities. I think that many research centered people choose to work at universities, because there is a certain social prestige to doing so and they are able to recruit Ph.D. and graduate students to work with them. The downside is that while they can relate to graduate students in more of a mentorship role, they may let the instruction of undergraduates fall by the wayside. I am not a fan of instructors who show up to instruct in class, but have no office hours or time to meet with individual students outside of class. On the up side, there are professors who have dedicated themselves to their teaching. I used to question why some instructors cometimes missed class to go to conferences, but I now see professional activities to be justifiable reasons for skipping a class, because in moderation the activities bring new knowledge and perspectives to the instructor, which then eventually trickle down to the students. The research oriented people are also often beneficial, because they are progressing humanity and having them around often keeps curriculums up to date. Perhaps it is ok to have a few instructors-by-assignment in academia. My corollary, which I will discuss more later, is that we should create tools for technical self-expression that make it easier for these people to provide better instruction even when they lack the motivation or passion to dedicate themselves to instruction.
"When a company needs someone in the training department where do we go? Usually to the folks who have knowledge about the content to be taught. Only rarely does a company seek a professionally trained instructional designer." (2)
In terms of companies, I believe that tasks should be done by people who are interested, motivated, and skillful, because they will do the tasks more efficiently and derive more fullfillment from the task. I once worked at a company that randomly assigned interns to tasks. There were people who loved image processing algorithms that were assigned to make web applications and their were people who loved web applications who were assigned to learn how to do image processing algorithms. Perhaps this was an appropriate strategy from an intern learning perspective, but it resulted in both camps having stressful unfullfilling experiences that were inefficient uses of the companies resources.'
Back to instructional design, I believe that instruction should be done by people who are passionate and experienced in instruction, because both the instructor and the students will derive more fullfillment from the experience.
"Do we need to acknowledge that instructional design is and will continue to be done by designers-by-assignment? Do we need to shift our focus from training instructional designers to the study of instruction? Do we need to shift our activities from the training of instructional designers to the creation of instructional design tools that allow everyone, designers-by-assignment, to be more effective designers of instruction?"
I think that there will never be a shortage of people who are more interested in their content than teaching their content to others. I sympathize with them, because I'm a big fan of learning and the pursuit of understanding. That said, I believe that people paid to instruct and who are responsible for a social experience with developing minds, have a responsibility to provide those people with an encouraging experience that motivates those people to pursue their own intellectual curiosity. I do not expect for those people to become domain experts in the creation of intellectually stimulating experiences, rather I intend to become such an expert in and to work with domain experts to better disseminate fundamental knowledge in their fields. I am willing to dedicate myself to the hard work of expressing abstracted information in a way that is amenable to the concrete experiences of learners.
Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21-29.
[To be written] For now, I will say that Clark makes many convincing theoretical points to me. I will respond to what he has said, but I would argue that economic efficiency is only one of several criteria for choosing instructional methodologies. I believe that much like the manner that drugs enter our body, people have preferences for the methods that deliver knowledge into their brain. I will also argue that people who have a dispassionate experience where the instruction is delivered efficiently to the detriment of all else may indeed satisfy the learning outcomes in the course, but they will be less motivated and less likely to want to join and support the intellectual field of study after the course is over. There has been some research on emotion vs. efficiency which I have not yet read, I will need to read more as I search for ways of articulating my instructional theories in the hopes that Clark is not entirely correct. I also think that media may have a role in fields about rather concrete subject matter that students have experienced the the point of mundanity in their lives, including Computer Graphics and Transportation Engineering.
Kozma, R. B. (1991). Learning with Media. Review of Educational Research, 61(2), 179-211.
Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the Debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19.
Egenfeldt-Nielsen, S. (2011). Beyond Edutainment: Exploring the Educational Potential of Computer Games. Self-Puplished on Lulu.
Barr. M. (2011?). Video Games in Higher Education.