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

The Skinnerian teaching machine (1953-1968)

I wrote this design case based partially on my thesis research from 2002-2003, and original research conducted earlier this year. One of the reasons I wrote it was because I’m getting more interested in the design knowledge that can be communicated through means like design cases. And I used this chapter as a chance to explore this further: how far can we go in generating real and unique forms of knowledge in a design case, that make a meaningful contribution towards designers’ practical judgments? In particular, what does it really look like when theory has been intentionally and rationally applied to a design? I couldn’t think of a better example to illustrate this than the work of B. F. Skinner. Even though I don’t endorse teaching machines as an educational technology, it’s hard to deny that Skinner was one of the better examples the field has produced about how to operationalize theory. And while the purpose of a design case isn’t to pass judgment on the design (so I didn’t discuss this in the chapter directly), I think one of the lessons we learn from Skinner is that using theory as an explicit guide to practice creates some real difficulties. Designs may be theoretically pure, but functionally inelegant or even counter-productive. That’s one of major lessons of the teaching machine movement, at least for me.

As I said in my chapter introduction:

This design case describes B. F. Skinner’s teaching machine, an educational tech- nology developed in the mid-twentieth century, commonly viewed as a precur- sor to later innovations such as computer-based instruction (Niemiec & Walberg, 1989) and eLearning (McDonald et al., 2005).The value of this case is not only as historical precedent, however. Although it does provide insight into the design of later approaches, Skinner’s device was only one antecedent of modern educa- tional technologies, and, in fact, was not even the first mechanical apparatus that could be referred to as a teaching machine (Benjamin Jr., 1988). An additional benefit of the case, then, is found by examining how Skinner made design deci- sions to intentionally apply his behavioral theory of operant conditioning in the development of his machine. Even today, despite how Skinner and his behaviorist approaches have fallen out of favor, his work is still an important illustration of how a psychological theory has been operationalized for practical implementation in a specific technology.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

Reference:

McDonald, J. K. (2021). The Skinnerian teaching machine (1953-1968). In Boling, E., Gray, C. M., Howard, C. D. , & Baaki, J.(Eds.), Historical instructional design cases: ID knowledge in context and practice (pp. 85-103). Routledge.

Design considerations for bridging the gap between instructional design pedagogy and practice

This is an article with colleagues Jill Stefaniak from the University of Georgia and Rebecca Reese from the Colorado School of Mines. Our purpose was to capture some of the practical wisdom that we’ve developed about teaching instructional design in different contexts. There’s more than there’s a difference between schooling and practice. There’s also a difference between schooling and particular types of practice. That diversity is what we were drawing attention to in this article, along with some suggestions for coping in various kinds of situations.

Abstract:

Research indicates there is a gap between employers’ expectations of instructional designers’ roles and responsibilities, and what designers actually do. The purpose of this paper is to explore the unique nuances inherent in instructional design practices from a variety of work settings. Our paper is grounded in a practitioner’s perspective utilizing long-standing careers in the instructional design sectors and informal discussions with many practitioners. The goal of the paper is to highlight constraints and contextual considerations that instructional designers must address while working on projects. We also discuss how instructional design educators can support instructional design students to better prepare them for real-world instructional design contexts.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

At the journal website

Reference:

Stefaniak, J., Reese, R. M., & McDonald, J. K. (2020). Design considerations for bridging the gap between instructional design pedagogy and practice. The Journal of Applied Instructional Design, 9(3). https://edtechbooks.org/jaid_9_3/instructional_design_pedagogy

Instructional Design for Learner Creativity

Another chapter for the 5th edition of the Handbook of Research in Educational Communications and Technology. This is a broad survey chapter about the importance of designing learning environments in a way to nurture the habits and dispositions of creativity in learners. One of the big challenges in writing this chapter was the scope of the topic. Not only does creativity have a deep body of literature in a number of different fields, but it’s thought of very differently, and approached from a very different set of assumptions, across cultures. We chose to address it mostly from the perspective we’re natively familiar with, while also recognizing that there were a number of other ways we could have taken our writing.

To give a sense of how we treated the topic here’s a paragraph from our introduction:

Our discussion is structured as follows: first, we briefly review the literature of creativity, both to describe some attributes that are important to nurture when foster- ing learner creativity, as well as to identify common conditions for promoting cre- ativity in learners. Next, we examine some examples learning environments that foster learner creativity, particularly as related to helping people develop an inte- grated creative identity and not just the acquisition of intellectual or skill-based components of creative action. Third, we discuss implications from the research and examples and offer recommendations for the practice of instructional design and technology, to help designers better address learner creativity through the instruc- tional environments they create.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

Reference:

McDonald, J. K., West, R. E., Rich, P. J., & Hokanson, B. (2020). Instructional design for learner creativity. In Bishop, M. J., Boling, E., Elen, J., & Svihla, V. (Eds.), Handbook for research in educational communications and technology(5th ed., pp. 375-399). Springer Nature Switzerland AG. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-36119-8_17

A Design Case of an Enterprise-Wide Learning Management System

This is a design case chapter for the 5th edition of the Handbook of Research in Educational Communications and Technology. The challenge in this chapter was to describe the case honestly, while still being diplomatic and generous to all those involved (needed because the project was not an easy project!). Here’s how we introduced it:

In this case we describe the in-house design and development of an enterprise learn- ing management system (LMS) at Brigham Young University (BYU). The purpose of the project was to replace a commercially available LMS that was becoming too costly as well as unresponsive to the interests of faculty and other stakeholders. In the case we discuss why administrators made the decision to develop a complex piece of software using university resources instead of relying on other commer- cially available products. We also describe their goals for the project and how we attempted to meet those goals by designing the new system on a foundation of exist- ing components and by focusing on the most frequently used functions from the previous LMS. A central feature of our discussion is how we and other participants made decisions in a high-stakes environment of multiple stakeholders and a com- pressed timeline, which had an impact on the emerging design of the product. We also examine some of the challenges that arose among members of the design and development teams during the course of the project as pressure on the team became more intense.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

Reference:

Johnson, M. C., Seawright, L. L., & McDonald, J. K. (2020). A design case of an enterprise-wide learning management system. In Bishop, M. J., Boling, E., Elen, J., & Svihla, V. (Eds.), Handbook for research in educational communications and technology (5th ed., pp. 675-688). Springer Nature Switzerland AG. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-36119-8_31

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