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New Year's Resolutions for Learning Designer 3.0
Three evidence-based, AI-driven design practices guaranteed to supercharge your learning design powers in 2023
As we all start making plans for 2023, here are three, easy-to-apply learning design practices guaranteed to increase your impact in the year ahead.
1.Use Analogies to Teach Foundational Concepts
Stop: Delivering content - e.g. lectures, video content and knowledge checks - e.g. quizzes - in the hope that it will develop your learners’ understanding of core concepts.
Start: Using analogies to connect existing understanding to new understanding and, in the process, develop meaningful, lasting understanding of new concepts.
What? Analogies require learners to find underlying similarities between two or more concepts, ideas etc, despite differences on the surface.
Why? Analogies are proven to help people to learn new concepts and apply those principles to new situations. It does this by connecting existing conceptual understanding to new understanding, aka positive transfer.
Analogies are proven to deliver deep conceptual understanding and drive both critical and original thought. For example, Johannes Kepler used of the theory of gravity to understand and explain planetary orbits (Gentner et al., 1997).
How? First, explain a novel idea by linking an analogy to a more familiar one. Then, provide learners with two or more analogy pairs and ask them to deduce the underlying similarities and structures of each. Once they have provided an answer, resolve the analogy through explanatory feedback.
Phil’s Top Tips:
Quantity matters. Gick & Holyoak (1983) found that providing two analogy pairs doubled learners’ conceptual understanding Vs. using only one.
Try using ChatGPT to help to generate analogies. If you don’t like what it suggests at first, regenerate the response or add more criteria (e.g. simplify it; make it a music analogy etc).
2.Use Elaboration to Enable Memorisation
Stop: Using knowledge checks - e.g. quizzes - in the hope that your learners will memorise information.
Start: Using elaboration to enable learners to process information in a way that leads to meaningful memorisation, i.e. the ability to recall the right thing at the right time to the right level of complexity.
What? Elaboration requires learners to re-structure information in a way that is proven to lead to meaningful memorisation.
Why? Elaboration makes connections between memories, making it easier to find and make use of that information in the future. Elaboration strategies are proven to significantly increase the memorisation and ability to recall the right information at the right time.
How? To remember a long speech or complex process, ask learners to:
associate each section or step with stop points on a journey they make regularly;
write a story that captures each step;
write an acronym that summarises the key steps.
Phil’s Top Tips:
Elaboration takes time. One of the reasons that elaboration is underused is that we don’t build in time to do it meaningfully within the learning process. Make sure sure you build in time for elaboration and - where possible - require learners to share and receive feedback on their elaborations.
Use ChatGPT to help you and/or your learners to generate examples:
3.Use Comparison to Drive Deep Understanding
Stop: Trying to drive deep, complex understanding by increasing the complexity of content.
Start: Using contrasting comparisons to enable your learners to understand what something is by understanding what it is not.
What? Comparison requires learners to identify similarities and differences between concepts, ideas, objects etc.
Comparing contrasting examples improves both the precision and usability of knowledge; it helps learners to see similarities and differences which in turn enables them to understand and explain concepts with a meaningful degree of nuance (i.e. not just recall / regurgitation).
Why? Humans learn what something is by understanding what it is not. Consider this classic example provided by Bransford and McCarrel (1974).
If you show learners only a single pair of scissors, they will likely notice some basic features like the number of blades, handles etc.
If you show a learner the same pair of scissors in the context of other scissors, they will identify much for nuanced and complex similarities & differences. For example, they might identify the common themes in form but also how the size of a pair of scissors impacts its force and function.
How? First, identify what you’d like your learners to understand. Then:
Start by providing a single example and a question about key features, structures, steps etc.
Next, put the object, process, concept etc in its broader context and ask a comparative question to develop more detailed understanding.
Finally, use an “almost identical” example to draw out additional layers of nuance and complexity.
Phil’s Top Tips:
Do your research and understand your learner. If contrasting cases are too complex, they will not achieve the benefits of comparative exercises.
Work with ChatGPT to generate examples of contrasting features of an object, process, concept etc to accelerate your process
That’s all, folks!
If you want to dig into the research I cited here, you can find the references below.
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Happy designing & happy new year,
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Bransford, J. D., & McCarrell, N. S. (1974). A sketch of a cognitive approach to comprehension: Some thoughts about understanding what it means to comprehend. In W. B. Weimer & D. S. Palermo (Eds.), Cognition and the symbolic processes. Lawrence Erlbaum.
Gick, M. L., & Holyoak, K. J. (1983). Schema induction and analogical transfer. Cognitive Psychology, 15(1), 1–38.
Gentner, D., Brem, S., Ferguson, R., & Wolff, P. (1997). Analogy and creativity in the works of Johannes Kepler. In T. B. Ward, S. M. Smith, & J. Vaid (Eds.), Creative thought: An investigation of conceptual structures and processes (pp. 403–459). American Psychological Association.