One of the important aspects of the class my client teaches, Intro to Biology, is that the students have not been successful with their standardized test in Biology and are in this class to give them a better chance of passing the test and being able to earn their standard diploma. When looking at the analysis, I wanted to address the standards through hands-on activities whenever possible and avoid teacher centered direct instruction as that can be anathema to many students. It has been my experience that having a clear and present end product and outcome provides greater student motivation. In my classes, my students learn best and with the greatest self-direction when they feel they are working with a purpose rather than providing fodder for assessment data and the students that make-up this class are similar in demographic and abilities to those of my own vocational classes. I would say motivation for my client’s class is an even more important aspect of student and classroom success because she teaches a required course whereas most of my students chose my class over other electives. The tricky aspect of this idea is figuring out how to best connect the activities with the objectives in an intuitive way. Much like misplaced engagement, which for me has become symbolic of bright and shiny objects to catch students’ attention, it doesn’t do any good for them to create something and not understand how it relates to the objectives.
“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Carroll, L., Tenniel, J., & Gardner, M. (1960). The annotated Alice: Alice’s adventures in wonderland Through the looking glass. New York, NY: Bramhal House.
Analysis provides the direction to the design. You figure out which way to go, because the analysis makes you look at why, how and where you want to go. When I was in the Career Switcher teacher credentialing program in 2007, I spent my week of teacher observation in my son’s 8th grade science teacher. One of the many things I took away from that experience, besides the meaning of cutting something like a hot dog or like a hamburger, was to not let students work on the cover of the foldable or whatever they are making until they’re done with the actual material. Don’t forget the point of the activity, don’t let them get lost in making it pretty and not have time to actually learn. The student centered “design” elements weren’t benefiting from an analysis and needed direction. It was the analysis that directed the very clever use of design in the Information R/Evolution video (Wesch, 2007) to present the premise that we have developed a different relationship with information as a result of the forces of technology and economics. The use of the evolving media to illustrate how information and communication have evolved organically from the design which influenced the resulting analysis in a cycle of change and innovation that has changed not only how we think of information, but the meaning of the information is influenced by the design. Design is the craft of creating effective learning materials but it must serve the analysis, it must go where you want to get to but the journey never ends and the design will help you decide where you should go next.