Thinking Developmentally: Designing Courses with a Progression of Learning Experiences
By Maryellen Weimer
Thinking developmentally is one of those instructional design issues that we don’t do often enough. We understand that different learning experiences are appropriate for students at different levels. We expect a higher caliber of work from seniors than from those just starting college. But how often do we purposefully design a progression of learning experiences?
Consider a course that incorporates several different small group learning experiences. We have opted to use groups because we want students engaged, interacting and learning the content collectively. In addition, we want these group experiences to teach students something about working with others—how disagreements can be handled constructively, how work can be divided equitably, how the group can influence what individual members do. Thinking developmentally means that each of these group experiences should be different. Perhaps each one focuses on a different skill or each one requires more sophisticated use of developing skills. This means the order in which they’re experienced matters. Each experience should build on what happened in the previous one.
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