How Instructional Designers Get Paid

The Question

What does it mean to design instruction?

What skills do you think you need to have in order to do it professionally?

I was tasked with answering these two questions in my blog this week.  I would like to begin by exploring my simple definition of learning. To me, learning is the result of one’s ability to receive and process information so that it can be recalled and used later to one’s benefit when they get back home or to work. Let’s go a little deeper. The Center for Teaching (2017) defines learning is “the process of actively engaging with and manipulating objects, experiences, and conversations to build mental models of the world”. The Center adds that learning is most effective when it relates to one’s social environment; has an authentic context within one’s life; and requires the learner to use their thinking abilities (cognitive engagement) to achieve learning objectives (Center for Teaching, 2017).

Let’s go a little deeper. The Center for Teaching (2017) defines learning as “the process of actively engaging with and manipulating objects, experiences, and conversations to build mental models of the world”. The Center adds that learning is most effective when it relates to one’s social environment; has an authentic context within one’s life; and requires the learner to use their thinking abilities (cognitive engagement) to achieve learning objectives (Center for Teaching, 2017).

With learning now defined, we must now explore how instructional design is supposed to convey learning, which leads us back to the two questions: What does design instruction mean? What skills must one possess to claim they are an instructional design professional?

Well. That depends. For professional instructional designers, our designs are driven by what we believe.

In other words, if you are of the behaviorist perspective, like B. F. Skinner, J.B. Watson, and Ivan Pavlov, you would believe learning is to be learned. Period. You would feel that there would be no point in trying to figure anything out. Just learn it. Your learning philosophy is: “Just memorize what you are told and then be able to remember the answer to that question.”

As a behaviorist instructional designer, you should possess the traditional ADDIE instructional design skills and be able to create curriculum based on parts of a whole and you would require that require strict adherence to your lesson plans. You should have the skills to create teacher-centered written guidelines for teachers and students; use the teacher as an authoritative “Teaching Machine” tasked with reinforcing and directing the memorization of intrinsic facts, terms and principles using repetition-based lectures, worked-out-examples, drills and practice; assessments would include tests and quizzes as a means of awards and punishments (grades) and measures of student competence. Your intent would be to change the behavior of the learner so classroom activities would involve students working along to demonstrate competency.  You should be able to use the tried and proven approach to instructional design the “Old Masters” used, which means your curriculum and instructional designs would be like everybody else’s, and therefore, less risky according to conventional instruction benchmarks (Education Bureau & University of Hong Kong, n.d.)  You would include technology in your designs, but, only if the technology does not out teach the teacher.

By contrast, if you are of the cognitive constructivist perspective, like Jean Piaget and John Dewey, you would believe that education should meet the needs of the learner. You would feel that knowledge is created to adapt to the needs of the who needs it and why. Your learning philosophy is: “I consider both your psychological and physiological in instructional design so that I can help you learn.”

As a cognitive constructivist instructional designer, you should understand epistemology, the study of knowledge, and possess the skills to create project-based learning that begins with an outcome then challenges learners to determine how that, or a similar outcome, can be attained. You should be able to create learner-centered questions and lesson plans driven by student interests. Your instructional models would include strategic, constative, normative and dramaturgical demonstrations and teachers would have the role of facilitator and coach charged with helping the learners accomplish objectives. You would create assessments based on reviews of learner works and presentation and teachers’ notes. You would have the ability to integrate technology into your instructional design, learning materials and manipulatives that learners use during interactive small group projects.

Finally, if you are a social cognitive constructivist, like Levi Vygotsky, you would believe that learning is a community event. You would recognize the role of language and culture in cognitive development and that where and how we live plays a role in how we learn. Your learning philosophy is: “We are all in this together. Let’s work together to make the world a better place.”

As a social cognitive constructivist instructional designer, you should have the skills to create personalized learning instructional designs that focus on the collective assimilation of new knowledge. You should be able to create curriculum that requires collaborative group project-based learning. You should understand how to measure the validity and scope of instruction with the intent of creating an instructional design that ensures learners are met where they are and allowed to progress at their rate – not the teachers. You would use teachers as coaches, there to state project objectives, fly-on-the-wall unless needed; and your assessments would be based on what the group produces, how it meets a societal need, and if it is politically correct and inclusive of all of the community’s members. Technology would be leveraged by you to the greatest extent possible in your instructional design because technology is currently shaping and reshaping the world in which we live. Therefore, you would believe that teaching without the use of artificial intelligence would not prepare learners for the real world.

Myself, I was taught under the behaviorist instructional design model but I have been educated as a cognitive constructivist. At heart, I am a social cognitive constructivist. so, all things considered, I guess it would be fair to say to prospective clients: “Hey. Whatever. I got you covered”

I’m just saying, …

References

Education Bureau, & the University of Hong Kong. (n.d.). Cognitive Constructivism – Constructivism – Learning Theories – What teachers should know about learning science theory. Retrieved from http://kb.edu.hku.hk/theory_cognitive_constructivism.html

Open Education Resources of UCD Teaching, & University College – Dublin. (n.d.). Education Theory/Constructivism and Social Constructivism – UCD – CTAG. Retrieved from http://www.ucdoer.ie/index.php/Education_Theory/Constructivism_and_Social_Constructivism

 

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