Ethnographic Experiences in Learning Design

I was invited by Jill Stefaniak at the University of Georgia to help edit a special issue of TechTrends on ethnographic experiences in learning design. I think this is an important topic, and I’m pleased that we solicited such high-quality manuscripts to explore the difference modes of life that constitute learning design and instructional design as a professional field. This entry links to the introduction to our special issue, and the full issue is available at the TechTrends website.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

Reference:

Stefaniak, J., & McDonald, J. K. (2022). Introduction to the special issue on ethnographic experiences in learning design. TechTrends, 66(1), 2-3. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-021-00691-9

Expecting the unexpected: A collaborative autoethnography of instructors ’ experiences teaching advanced instructional design

A couple of years ago I wanted to take a deeper dive into instructional design education. Interestingly, most research on ID education has taken place in introductory courses. So we don’t know a lot about more advanced design teaching or learning. Nor have we any really good, qualitative studies of the ID education experience. This article is the first to come out of my inquiry into these kind of issues, conducted with two colleagues who teach advanced ID. This article focuses on teachers and teaching. Our data set includes a lot of information from the student perspective as well, which we will analyze for future articles.

Abstract:

Most of the prior research concerning instructional design (ID) education has taken place in the context of introductory courses. However, teaching advanced ID students differs from teaching novices because advanced students are capable of independent action, but also still need some targeted instruction to develop their own design skills and identities. To increase understanding of advanced ID education, we conducted this collaborative autoethnography of teaching advanced ID courses. Through autoethnographic reflections from two advanced ID instructors, supplemented by interviews conducted by a third researcher, and jointly analyzed by our research team, we studied some of the work involved in teaching advanced ID stu‑ dents. We identified three themes through our study. Advanced ID instructors: (a) helped students reflect on design; (b) helped students recognize and adapt to design challenges; and (c) balanced direct instruction with guidance and coaching. We conclude by discussing implications of our findings for other advanced ID educators.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

Reference:

McDonald, J. K., Stefaniak, J. & Rich, P. J. (2022). Expecting the unexpected: A collaborative autoethnography of instructors’ experiences teaching advanced instructional design. TechTrends, 66(1), 90-101. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-021-00677-7

Instructional design as a way of acting in relationship with learners

Using the philosophy of Hannah Arendt, in this chapter I described a vision of instructional design centered around the relationships between the people involved, rather than considering the field to be a design field that makes things. As I said in the introduction:

My audience in this chapter is designers who have experienced this kind of ten- sion. While they want to see themselves as important contributors to the form that educational experiences take, they struggle to articulate a view of instructional design that does not place ultimate responsibility for learning in the instructional strategies or technological forces that are under their (the designers’) control. It is difficult for them to conceptualize approaches to their work that do not at least tacitly assume that the designer is the primary agent responsible for learning, even though they resist this conclusion and continue to search for alternatives. My pur- pose is to present a view of instructional design that can serve as such an alternative. First, I describe different ways that designers have historically assumed they were primarily responsible for students’ learning. Second, I discuss how similar issues are still a concern even with recent evolutions in the field toward human-centered design practices. Third, I present a view of instructional design, based in the phi- losophy of Hannah Arendt, that considers it to be a type of relationship that design- ers enter into with learners, rather than principally being a process for making instructional products. In presenting this, I also suggest how a reframed view pro- vides new ways of considering designer responsibility, helping designers better understand what they are influencing when they design. This can lead to designers being better partners with learners in pursuit of the unique disclosure of all parties involved, which is a type of achievement that could not be attained without viewing learners as equal contributors to the learning relationship. (pp. 41-42)

I’m pretty happy with the direction this took, but there’s still work to do to make the argument clear and actionable.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

Reference:

McDonald, J. K. (2021). Instructional design as a way of acting in relationship with learners. In B. Hokanson, M. Exter, A. Grincewicz, M. Schmidt, & A. A. Tawfik (Eds.), Learning: Design, engagement, and definition (pp. 41–55). Springer Nature Switzerland AG. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-85078-4_4

Balancing competing goods: Design challenges associated with complex learning

This was another fun little chapter coming out of the playable case study project. We inserted an ethical dilemma into one of the simulations, where a trusted partner in the simulation asked students to violate the contract they had with a client. Would they listen to their partner? Or stick with the bounds of the contract?

After the simulation was over we surveyed students about what they did. In this chapter we report some of those findings along with our analysis of what that means when you’re designing learning environments that are more complex (such as is the case when helping students navigate ethical issues).

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

Reference:

Neupane, A., Gedris, K., Mcdonald, J. K., Hansen, D. L., & Balzotti, J. (2021). Balancing competing goods: Design challenges associated with complex learning. In B. Hokanson, M. Exter, A. Grincewicz, S. Matthew, & A. A. Tawfik (Eds.), Learning: Design, engagement and definition (pp. 181–190). Springer Nature Switzerland AG. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-85078-4_14

Understanding Distinctions of Worth in the Practices of Instructional Design Teams

This is another article about the design practices of the playable case study research team. Here I (along with two graduate students) looked at some of the affective dimensions of design. The philosopher Charles Taylor developed a notion he called strong evaluation. By this he meant the personal judgments we make about whether our participation in life practices are leading us towards a sense of being people who are either noble or base. Using this as an investigative lens, I studied how members of the design team judged themselves as creating a worthwhile form of life (or not) by their work on the simulations.

Abstract:

In this article we report our research into the concerns and other matters of significance for members of instructional design teams. Specifically we studied how members of a design team depicted the quality of their own motives while participating in team pursuits. This is a type of self-evaluation known as drawing distinctions of worth. Our research took the form of a case study, focusing on an instructional design team at a university in the United States. Based on interviews with team members and observations of their work, we devel- oped an account of our research participant’s distinctions of worth organized around three themes: (a) distinctions of worth could guide their decision-making more than did the goals of the project; (b) competing distinctions of worth could be difficult for them to reconcile; and (c) their distinctions of worth could be accompanied by unanticipated costs. Over- all, these themes reflect that distinctions of worth were a real aspect of our participants’ team involvement, and not merely their subjective responses to situational factors. This has implications for those managing teams or otherwise helping teams improve, which we dis- cuss. We also discuss how research into instructional design teams that only focuses on external dynamics team members experience, and not on factors such as their distinctions of worth, cannot fully account for what it means for people to contribute towards team outcomes.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

Read-only copy of article

Reference:

McDonald, J. K., Jackson, B. D., & Hunter, M. B. (2021). Understanding distinctions of worth in the practices of instructional design teams. Educational Technology Research and Development, 69(3), 1641-1663. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-021-09995-2

Objectivation in design team conversation

Part of my work with the playable case study research team is to understand the design processes of the team itself. As part of that I (along with a couple of graduate students) decided to look at the team’s interactions through the lens of objectivation, a concept from sociological research that describes how people turn abstract thoughts into social objects they use to bring certain types of order and structure to their interactions. This is one of the most fascinating studies I’ve done. It was also one of the most intense. I’m very pleased with the results.

Abstract:

In this article we report our study of objectivation in the conversation of a design team. Objectivation is the practical work in which groups engage to produce social objects that facilitate orderly collaboration. We observed how design team members came to agree on specific details about an educational simulation they were designing, as they treated simulation features like independent social facts that could be affected by and have effects on other simulation features, and that had discrete benefits that made them an asset within the product. In our report we describe patterns of objectivation in their conversation that produced these results. We conclude by discussing how our study relates to, and enriches, the findings provided by prior design research.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

Reference:

McDonald, J. K., Bowman, K., & Elsayed-ali, S. (2021). Objectivation in design team conversation. Design Studies77, Article 101045. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.destud.2021.101045

Increasing Cybersecurity Career Interest through Playable Case Studies

I’m a member of an interdisciplinary research group at BYU, studying a type of instructional simulation we call a playable case study. This has been a very fruitful line of research, resulting in publications about the simulations themselves as well as using the simulation design process as a window into some fundamental issues about design itself. This article belongs to the former category, studying student perceptions after using a playable case study in a university course.

Abstract:

In this paper we introduce an approach to cybersecurity education and helping students develop professional understanding in the form of a Playable Case Study (PCS), a form of educational simulation that draws on affordances of the broader educational simulation genre, case study instruction, and educational Alternate Reality Games (or ARGs). A PCS is an interactive simulation that allows students to “play” through an authentic scenario (case study) as a member of a professional team. We report our findings over a multi-year study of a PCS called Cybermatics, with data from 111 students from two different U.S. universities who interacted with the PCS. Cybermatics increased student understanding about certain key aspects of professional cyberse- curity work, improved their confidence in being able to successfully apply certain skills associated with cybersecurity, and increased about half of the students’ interest in pursuing a cybersecurity career. Students also reported a number of reasons why their perceptions changed in these areas (both positive and negative). We also discuss design tensions we experienced in our process that might be encountered by others when creating simulations like a PCS, as they attempt to balance the authenticity of designed learning experiences while also sufficiently scaffolding them for newcomers who have little background in a discipline.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

Read-only copy of article

Reference:

Giboney, J. S., McDonald, J. K. J. K., Balzotti, J., Hansen, D. L. D. L., Winters, D. M. D. M., & Bonsignore, E. (2021). Increasing cybersecurity career interest through playable case studies. TechTrends65(4), 496–510. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-021-00585-w

“I Can Do Things Because I Feel Valuable”: Authentic Project Experiences and How They Matter to Instructional Design Students

I give all the credit for this publication to my co-author, BYU MS student Amy Rogers. She was looking at data I’d collected about instructional design teams and noticed an interesting trajectory one of the students experienced. Applying some close reading techniques we were able to develop it into this case study of authentic projects (internships, work assignments, etc.) in instructional design education.

Abstract:

This paper examines how authentic project experiences matter to instructional design students. We explored this through a single case study of an instructional design student (referred to as Abby) who participated as a member of an educational simulation design team at a university in the western United States. Our data consisted of interviews with Abby that we analyzed to understand how she depicted her participation in this authentic project. In general, Abby found her project involvement to open up both possibilities and constraints. Early in her involvement, when she encountered limitations she did not expect, those constraints showed up as most significant and she saw the project as a place of disenfranchisement that highlighted her inadequacies. Later, in conjunction with changes in the project structure and help from a supportive mentor, she reoriented to the possibilities her participation made available, all of which disrupted the cycle of disenfranchisement in which she seemed to be caught. Abby saw more clearly opportunities that had previously been obscured, and she became one of the project’s valued leaders. We conclude by discussing implications of these findings for understanding how authentic project experiences can fit into instructional design education.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

Reference:

McDonald, J. K.  & Rogers, A. (2021). “I Can Do Things Because I Feel Valuable”: Authentic Project Experiences and How They Matter to Instructional Design Students. The Journal of Applied Instructional Design, 10(2). https://edtechbooks.org/jaid_10_2/i_can_do_things_beca

Design for Learning: Principles, Processes, and Praxis

I’ve never been satisfied with the textbooks available to teach instructional design. So after a couple of years at BYU, I decided to create something I could be happy with. Along with my colleague Rick West, we solicited chapters from both academic and industry experts on a variety of topics, and edited them together into a collection I’m quite proud of. The book is open access, published through EdTech Books. It’s available to read online or download for free. It can also be purchased for the cost of printing. I hope you’ll check it out.

Design for Learning : Principles, Processes, and Praxis (online)

Purchase a copy from Amazon

‘This is my vision’: how students depict critiques along with themselves during critiques

This is another article out of my lengthy study of critiques in the design studio. This one built a picture of critiques as being primarily under students’ control, something that helped them build a life that mattered to them, rather than primarily being a pedagogical technique or tool of enculturation. I was completely impressed with the six students we interviewed for this study. All of them were articulate, bright, and absolutely committed to being skilled professionals in their fields of study. Even the way they carried themselves pointed towards the conclusions we drew in this study. I’m proud of this article and think the discussion is some of the more important points I’ve made in scholarship.

Abstract:

In this article we consider critiques within the design studio as how students press forward into possible forms of the self that are opened up through studio participation. We contrast this with a view of critiques as primarily being a pedagogical or socialising technique under the control of instructors and other critics. We carried out our inquiry using interviews with six studio students, studying how they depict critiques and how they depict themselves when being critiqued. Students’ depictions of critiques included their being: a) signal in the noise; b) windows into their critics’ character; c) a type of text to be interpreted. Their depictions of themselves included being: a) clear-sighted; b) street-smart; c) creative. We conclude by discussing what these depictions might mean about how instructors/critics can frame critiques in ways that facilitate students using them to take up possibilities that are opened up through studio participation.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

Reference:

McDonald, J. K., & Michela, E. (2020). ‘This is my vision’: How students depict critiques along with themselves during critiques. Journal of Design Research, 18(1/2), 57-79. https://doi.org/10.1504/JDR.2020.10033227