These are my favorite instructional design best practices that I’ve strived to implement in the design of my course:
- A clear set of objectives (from overall course objectives to individual lesson objectives) that drives all instructional activity (assessments, absorb/do/connect activities, etc.) and that is responsive to the unique characteristics of the learner.
- Thoughtful, efficient training that provides targeted content and frequent feedback relevant to the learner and their goals.
- Instructional activities that are motivating, fun and interesting and that allow the student to connect to the course content on a personal level and feel inspired.
- Instruction that provides opportunities for practice in authentic ways so as to build confidence.
My Design Process
The design process I engaged in was driven by the topics that we covered week to week. I began in October with a series of terminal and enabling objectives that were tweaked over the weeks as I flushed out assessments, the alignment and absorb-do-connect activities. Creating my framework for assessments early on in the design process (backward design) was important as it allowed me to think more deeply about my students and why they would be taking the course in the first place. My course is all about supporting individual students in their pursuit of health, and I viewed assessment activities as opportunities for them to summarize their learning, get some feedback and be one step closer to their health goals.
Horton’s absorb-do-connect framework for designing and sequencing activities allowed me to choose activities that would lead students to success. Creating absorb-do-connect activities naturally forced me to keep my overall alignment in check. I was new to this lesson design framework and found it to be simple yet powerful.
Since supporting motivated learners to reach their personal health goals is the central focus, I developed a blended learning design. In order to make profound changes in eating habits, students will require hands-on support in addition to web-based activities. Several of the activities involve real-world scenarios (i.e. eating in a restaurant, shopping and reading food labels), and I’ve planned for a trainer to be present in all of the authentic scenarios to facilitate learning, assess understanding, and provide feedback and camaraderie.
I’ve thought deeply about how I could help students be successful in the course. Why might some succeed in making changes to ingrained habits and some fail? I know that many people who end up at the doctor with high cholesterol and are told to start taking statins might think that they were already making healthy food choices. Once they were shown evidence that demonstrates how certain foods exacerbate heart disease, they might be in a state of cognitive dissonance. “How could this be when Time Magazine just said, ‘Butter is Back’?” Because of this conflict, I designed my affective domain assessments and learning activities to include response journal reflections and group discussions that allow students to articulate their thoughts and make connections with support of peers and a trainer.
I added another terminal objective with the goal of giving students the basis for understanding why so many conventional memes about a healthy diet may not be substantiated by a preponderance of evidence. The new terminal objective is supported by a set of activities designed to help students put their cognitive dissonance into context and try to understand why so many conflicting ideas about nutrition could be circulating in public and medical discourse. Students who are informed about the forces that influence public health policy and discussions around the dinner table will be better consumers of not only food, but also medical advice and nutrition information going forward.
Development and Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
My design project feels quite ambitious, however I am excited about taking it to the next level and developing the web-based activities in the next class of the ID Certificate. Over the coming weeks, I plan to develop and implement many of the UDL practices that will support the widest range of learner’s possible.
First, I plan to use a different web-page template that allows me more design options and control. I currently have the site on a free wordpress.com blog that only allows me one or two font sizes. (I’ve had to manually enter html code to get the little bit of color and variety of font size that displays now.) I plan on making better use of contrast, text size, color, and create an overall layout plan that is simple and easy to negotiate. I want to make sure I have transcriptions, or closed captioning, of all the video clips. I want to provide descriptions for all images and animations. I want to create an online resource library for students and allow them a forum for sharing ideas as well as uploading pictures of healthy recipes and food products they have found. I’d also like to design a graphic organizer to unify the course and will work toward eliminating any unnecessary distractions, content or activities that do not support instructional goals.