Tip #272: Three Learning Design Principles

Last week, we discussed the fact that there are apparently three different types of memory: working memory, sensory memory, and long-term memory. So, how does that affect learning design? There are three design principles identified in Multimodal Learning Through Media: What the Research Says:

1. Recognize and address learner preconceptions.

Learners have stored prior knowledge, preconceptions, and experience about an area of study in their long-term memory. It is important to help the learners become aware of this prior knowledge. This can be done with learning activities that will cue it from long-term memory into working memory. These activities will enable the learners to correct any misconceptions, build on prior knowledge, and create new schemas of understanding abut the topic. “Learning is optimized when students can see where new concepts build on prior knowledge.” It seems to me that this relates directly to the concept of transfer, in which the learners’ prior knowledge and experience transfers into the classroom. Positive transfer means that this information is useful as a base on which to build any new learning. Negative transfer means that this information can get in the way of the new learning. A good learning designer makes sure to incorporate learning activities that enable the learners to identify and build on positive transfer- and disconnect negative transfer. For more information about learning activities that handle transfer, see Tip #3 and Tip #39.

2. Make concepts personally meaningful to learners.

In order for learners to develop useful schemas about the topic, they need to participate in learning activities that show them the topic is relevant and meaningful to them. A long-identified adult learning principle is that learning is more likely to occur if learning is made meaningful by relating it to the learners’ experience, goals, or interests and values.

This second principle differs in that it introduces the concept of “authentic learning,” which is defined to include three key concepts: depth of academic concept or deep learning, relevance to person(s) outside the classroom, and student use of the key ideas in a production. [I believe production refers to an application activity.]

Learning designers need to incorporate learning activities that engage the learners both emotionally and intellectually, and then give them a chance to apply what they have learned. These activities will, therefore, draw on working memory, sensory memory, and long-term memory.

3. Develop learner metacognition.

Learners need to be taught how to think about what they are thinking. Then they will be able to approach problems by “automatically trying to predict outcomes, explaining ideas to themselves, noting and learning from failures, and activating prior knowledge.” This third principle directly relates to learning strategies that create germane cognitive load in working memory. In order to help learners form new schemas, learners need to be encouraged to provide their own explanations of work examples. There are three ways to promote productive self-explanations: (1) train learners how to productively self-explain, (2) use faded worked examples (where they have to complete portions of the example and explain their rationale), and (3) add questions to the worked examples that will stimulate self-explanations. This concludes our discussion of multimodal learning. Next week, we will begin a look at some very useful gadgets, strategies and resources for trainers!


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