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 Designing Conditions

Dr. Robert Gagné and Dr. Leslie Briggs first introduced me to "conditions of learning" showing me that we can design a space for successful learning or, alternatively, just fill it up with unaccountable events.

NOTE: "A Comparative Analysis of Models of Instructional Design" is a presentation and paper that Dee Andrews and I produced in the 80's. It has since been cited in several books on instructional design, included in many graduate courses, and translated into several languages. Dee and I have discussed doing an update and may do so in the coming year.

Strategies for Learning
We use evidence-based decision-making when we choose strategies from research about what works. We use the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), when we reflect on what personal strategies are successful (when our "teaching" leads to intended learning outcomes) and what personal strategies fail (when our "teaching" does not lead to those outcomes).  Both approaches improve our teaching and learning.

Our body of evidence for what works has been described by a wide array of scholars. Some educators have a "favorite" scholar to whom they cling. My own approach to instructional design begins with the teaching model used for studying the content of a discipline (e.g., jurisprudential model for teaching law) and then identifying the learning outcomes that are expected (e.g., analysis of a media law).

  • Using the teaching model gives the context of learning greater fidelity to the real-world context. Dr. Leslie Briggs helped me to think about this relationship when he asked me "What do teaching models have to do with models of instructional design?" Joyce and Weil do not explicitly point out this relationship in their several editions of books on models of teaching. Yet, such fidelity seems to be the reason that the jurisprudential model fits with the study of law, and scientific inquiry with the study of science.

  • Learning outcomes allow us to use research findings to flesh out the explicit strategies for learning within a chosen model of teaching. We can begin with an instructional analysis of outcomes and then align the strategies with the levels of learning.

For example, before one can analyze a media law, it helps to learn the concepts of both "media" and "law." Bountiful research informs us that learning of concepts occurs with presentation of examples, nonexamples, guidance in seeing the differences, and beginning with differences easiest to see before moving to harder ones. When dealing with "defined concepts" as in this case, the definitions also support the learning.

Kalyuga's more recent work on the expertise reversal effect reminds us of the need to make audience analysis a high priority, along with the choice of teaching model and learning strategies.

Rapid prototyping tends to shortcut the design part of instructional development, leaning instead on gathering formative evaluation data to inform revisions. The balance of how much design work to do vs. how rapidly to "prototype" depends on multiple factors such as urgency for having something "ready to run" even if flawed, costs of poor learning, pressures to produce a high quantity of courses, or an institution's measures of "success."

These are my major considerations when working toward the design of instruction.

Content and model of teaching

Name the content and model; elaborate on the implications for the design of instruction.


Identify the audience's level of expertise (keep in mind expertise-reversal effect); identify prerequisites or entry-level skills, comfort and familiarity with technology, what might predispose them to shortcuts such as mosaic plagiarism, or other variables that may influence design of instruction.


Use a presentation design that aligns with findings about what works, with audience capabilities, and with instructor capabilities. Basic presentation choices include font size, organization, color placement, use of space, images, media choices. Presentation and its architecture should support ease of navigation to locate, retrieve, and use information. NOTE: Organization and chunking of instruction has particular importance in that it provides regularity of structure, supports the connection of information into organized wholes, and the learning of logical relationships.


Craft attention in stages. In routine practice, this usually means giving a meaningul short preview to introduce to learners to what's to come and why in order to focus their attention. Then provide continual attention devices such as an overview and questioning strategies (once is not enough). NOTE: Learners pay greater attention to sufficiently challenging (don't make it too easy) but not overly challenging tasks (don't make it too hard).

Targeted learning strategies

Choose the conditions that fit best with learning knowledge/verbal information, concepts, rules, higher order rules or problem solving, cognitive strategies, attitudes, or motor skills.


Give content that is accurate, contemporary or in an appropriate historical context, and relevant to the intended learning - in many situations, it should be sufficient to allow conjecture, speculation, or somehow working with the content to construct meaning, preferably from the student's experiences. In some situations, the construction of meaning is not as important as "burning into your brain" the information needed for rapid and automated retrieval (it is not true that knowlege or verbal information is less valuable than critical thinking).

Practice or rehearsal

Create opportunities for learners to practice targeted capabilities to help the learning, the correction of mistakes, and overlearning of tasks as appropriate for automaticity, efficiency, or accuracy of using what has been learned. NOTE: Learners need "informative feedback" to form judgments about how they are doing and what they need to improve or correct.

Informative feedback

Set up learning experiernces so that learners receive informative feedback. NOTE: Learning the "wrong" concepts or information can proceed without informative feedback - misconceptions are harder to unlearn and will require "deep constructivism" to change.

Assessment of performance

Align assessment with learning outcomes by starting with an assessment plan. Assessment typically requires more than one form of assessment. Rubrics may also be needed to guide the scoring of a performance. NOTE: An assessment that requires recall of knowledge does not test application of concepts or rules.

Presentations and Examples

Visit the following links to view some presentations and examples on the instructional design process.

Module 2, Art  Sample opening page for one of the modules.
M2Q Sample quiz.
             Power of Design A research recap. 

Programs for Faculty Engagement

In addition to faculty retreats, it has been my privilege to be involved in other programs for faculty engagement, including faculty learning communities, reading roundtables, academic and creative writing circles, and new faculty seminars. The Center for Excellence in Teaching shows some of these programs and includes one version of a logo that I developed for the web page.

©2009 Ludwika A. Goodson