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A relational model to instructional design

The instructional design model I describe in my books is fairly linear. Although in practice you would be bouncing around from step to step, there is still a sequential flow to the process. What I want to talk about now is a relational model of instructional design that might be helpful in understanding how the basic parts interact.

This model comes from an instructional design consultant from the University of Oklahoma named L.Dee Fink who recently came to the U of Minnesota to talk about course design to instructional designers and faculty.

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There are basically 3 key components to his design model that are influenced by situational factors the designer needs to identify.


Fink’s main point here is that these 3 elements – learning goals, teaching and learning activities, and feedback and assessment are entirely interrelated. Each teaching activity must be connected to a learning goal and an assessment; each learning goal and assessment needs a learning activity, etc..

Despite the non-linear connection of these elements, Fink is a big fan of backward design where you start with the end and work your way back to the beginning.

As a way to make this more concrete, I’ll delineate the questions Fink would have us ask ourselves to get around this model in a helpful way:

1st ask: “What is it that I hope that students will have learned, that will still be there and have value, several years after the course is over??

Next ask: “What would the students have to do to convince me that they had achieved those learning goals??

Finally ask: ‘What would the students need to do during the course to be able to do well on these assessment activities??

These questions should help you get going. You can also get an overview of his ideas in his article, What is Significant Learning.? This is what Fink had the participants in the workshop I attended read before he came.

The questions I poised above are on page 63 of Fink's book on this topic, Creating Significant Learning Experiences.

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