Instructional Design Studios

Here’s an interesting study of using model-centered instruction to create instructional design studios. Model-centered instruction posits that people learn best when interacting with models of the real world augmented by useful instruction. An instructional design studio, like say a pottery studio class, is built around whole-skill practice designing (and displaying and critiquing) real or realistic instruction.

McDonald isolates several principles of model-centered instruction to compare published descriptions of instructional design studios.

  • Design studios have to model an environment. Learners have to participate in making design decisions and they have to be exposed to how experienced designers make decisions. Further, there has to be a mechanism in the studio for learners to receive feedback on their performance.
  • Studios are oriented around problem solving.
  • Problems in studios are often denatured. That means they can be simplified depending on the abilities of the audience, or altered to expose particular interesting facets of the problem. Extraneous elements can sometimes be stripped away.
  • Problems in a studio can be ordered in a meaningful sequence.
  • Problems are selected for the studio to achieve particular instructional objectives. (I wonder if this excludes “bring your own instructional problems”? Or maybe it just means that if learners can choose problems to bring that they have to meet guidelines established by the instructor.)
  • Learners have access to resources necessary to solve problems. I suppose this could be access to software for building online instruction, for instance.
  • And finally, studios include instructional augmentation. That could be access to relevant works by instructional designer thinkers. Or timely direct instruction by the teacher.

2 thoughts on “Instructional Design Studios

  1. wellesley r foshay

    Great commentary, Bob!
    I’m a huge fan of design studios for teaching ID (of course the approach originated in other design-oriented fields). A couple of minor observations:
    1) Sounds like McDonald is misusing “denatured problem.” When teaching ill-structured problem solving, it’s quite common to use simplified problems. However, the problems have to be carefully designed so as to preserve the key decision points involved in solving real-world problems. This means they are NOT denatured. A common error is to denature the problem by turning it into a rote procedure. This is pretty common usage (e.g., Andy Gibbons), so I’m surprised McDonald has it backward.
    2) It’s quite important in this method for the problems to be carefully designed so they embody the design principles and processes being taught. Using random real-world problems defeats this objective. This is one of the reasons why simulations are often more efficient and more effective than reality, especially at the introductory level. Real-world problems often fail to include the desired design principles and processes, and they are vulnerable to formation of misconceptions.

  2. robertmulcahy Post author

    Excellent clarifications, Rob; thank you. It sounds like from your perspective, then, that you wouldn’t make a design studio a “bring your own design problem” environment because, as you say, the problems needs to be carefully designed.


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