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 ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive


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.

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