Design Learning To Promote Mastery Rather Than Failure – O'Donnell Learn

Design Learning To Promote Mastery Rather Than Failure

Published by Carrie O'Donnell
on Jan 16, 2019

Too often, learning experiences are designed for failure, or at least to weed out those who fail.  In many college courses, it is expected that students will attend class, read the textbook, complete assignments and then take an exam that a significant portion of the class will fail.

What if we turned learning design upside down and designed for mastery instead of failure? To do this, we would need to focus on students and keep their interests at the center of everything we do—to understand their needs and wants, their constraints, what motivates them, and what keeps them from succeeding.

Two instructional designers, Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, in their famous book, Understanding by Design, created a framework called backward design that the O’Donnell Learn design team lives by.

When using backward design, start by determining what exactly you want your students to master. This becomes a set of big ideas and learning outcomes, which is called the course blueprint. This enables you to ensure that the entire class is on the same page and that students know what’s expected of them.

Next, rethink assessment. In order to assess for mastery, you need to focus less on summative assessment (such as making the midterm and final count for most of the grade) and more on formative assessment—frequent checkpoints that enable the learner to self-correct. Often, and depending on your course blueprint, mastery requires some sort of demonstration or transfer of learning.  So, you may need to move to project-based, experiential or authentic assessments to measure attainment of mastery.

Finally, determine the learning activities that will help your learners succeed. This is where focusing on the students is critical. For example, if you ask students to demonstrate mastery, you might want to focus more on case studies and stories and less on terms and concepts. If most of your students are visual learners, it might be more effective to include a video rather than a lengthy textbook reading.  Also, backward design principles show us that students learn through teaching, so using peer instruction techniques can jump start students to mastery.

All of this may sound like a lot of work, and for many instructors and learning designers, a lot of change.  But, it doesn’t have to happen all at once.  Take a few steps today and see where it takes you tomorrow.  If more learning experiences were focused on mastery, student success and retention would increase and failure rates would decline.

Photo: Mike Grimshaw, Director of the Entrepreneurial Institute at California State University, Dominguez Hills, focuses on mastery as he designs and delivers his courses.​

INSIGHTS

The WOW Factor: Creating Faculty Development That Sparks Interest and Envy

Published By Carrie O'Donnell
on Jan 19, 2021

Imagine our surprise last summer when we reached out to 475 faculty and learned the online courses for nearly half were simply mirrors of their face-to-face instruction. In fact, only 22% were designing their courses differently for online. With all of the faculty development around online learning being offered, why weren’t more faculty designing courses specifically for this type of instruction? As it turns out, faculty weren’t engaging with development options at a level you might expect given COVID-19 and the rapid shift to online learning. Something we’d also learned in surveys and interviews with170 provosts and academic leaders a year earlier. The solution? The WOW Factor.

Purposeful Learning DesignTM – Why People are at the Center of Everything We Do

Published By Carrie O'Donnell
on Jan 15, 2021

I’m often asked why our company is so good at collaborating with  faculty. The first time I heard this question, I didn’t realize clients found this unique to O’Donnell Learn. We’ve always been great partners  because people are at the heart of everything we do. In fact, our entire design philosophy - Purposeful Learning DesignTM - is anchored around people.  It starts with this truth: learning is for people. As such, learning design should be grounded in empathy and it should promote success for both learners and faculty. Purposeful Learning Design is the philosophy we embrace to ensure we never lose sight of this truth. It is comprised of six key considerations.

2020 Reflective: Breathe Deep and Stay Agile

Published By Joana Jebsen
on Dec 22, 2020

While end-of-year survey results are still to come for how enrolled students are evaluating their 2020 college experience, I queried two of our staff, both students, about their overall experience and considered how these compared to what I was seeing with O’Donnell Learn clients. Kellie, our graphic design intern, just completed her Associates Degree in Graphic design. Prior to 2020, all of her courses met on campus. Cathryn, a Learning Design Associate is currently enrolled in an online Master of Education program in eLearning and Instructional Design. As this program was conceived as online delivery, it serves as a benchmark to compare against courses that were forced by COVID to switch delivery modes.