Learning Academy Blog

Instructional Designer Essentials: Making Learning Meaningful

Posted by Andrew Jackson on Tue, Mar 26,2013

instructional designerYou know the old adage. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

Brutal? You bet. Eight short words that devastate. Teaching, training, learning (whatever you call it) is a waste of space. Anyone involved in it, is a second-rate loser.

Unfortunately, those eight short words contain some truth. Look at secondary education. Why are good schools so over-subscribed? Because there are too many failing ones, chock full of teachers who are - well, not very effective.

Higher education is not that different. It may be overflowing with clever people. But they are largely clueless about how to transfer their knowledge and skills effectively.

And look at the world of work. Plenty of dreadful second-rate training going on there - frequently delivered by subject matter experts who know their stuff - but have no idea how to teach it effectively.

Of course, it’s not all bad. But far too much of it is. And there’s a theme. Lots of clever people. Mostly eager to share their knowledge and skills. Clueless about how to do it effectively. They use a broken model, developed a long time ago, for a very different world.

It’s a model which should’ve been consigned to the rubbish heap long ago. But it’s a model that just doesn’t seem to die. What am I talking about? Good old chalk and talk. Or perhaps more accurately in the 21st century, PowerPoint and talk.

Why this model persists is a mystery. We know more about how to transfer knowledge and skills effectively than we ever did. We have the technology to make this happen more quickly and effectively than ever before. Yet we still struggle along using 19th century methods of teaching and learning.

Here's the real problem. Subject matter experts thinking teaching is about helping people know lots of stuff. Learners usually need to learn to do lots of stuff. And that provides a clue to the problem. Because there's a huge mismatch between the focus of most learning events: all about knowing and the needs of the learners: more about doing.

And the key to re-aligning that mismatch? Meaningful practice.

Which raises the question, why is meaningful practice so absent from so much learning? Because it's hard to do well, if you don't know how. Faced with the challenge, subject matter experts in particular tend to side-step the problem completely. Much easier to throw a bunch of PowerPoint slides together and talk about them - at length.

And why do lots of people involved with training find it hard to create meaningful practice? Because they are largely unaware of instructional design. The very guidelines, principles and techniques that would help them to create learning that has meaningful practice at its heart.

If teaching or training is something you’re about to get involved with and you were thinking about using the PowerPoint and talk model; or, if you’ve been ‘PowerPoint and talking’ for a while now, there is an alternative way ahead.

Our Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Instructional Design Success can’t teach you everything you need to know about instructional design in a dozen or so pages.

What it can do is to set you on that alternative path. Steer you away from PowerPoint and talk. Guide you towards a better way of transferring knowledge and skills. Help turn your teaching, training or learning into something your learners look forward to, because they know it works.

Download your free copy here.

Topics: Instructional Design