Mindful design

SO…you’ve been asked by a company to create a proposal to develop a one day training program for at risk teens to learn coping skills for anger, stress, bullying and a whole host of other situations that may cause them to respond in a negative way vs a positive way.  What do you do?

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You create a workshop right?  That’s one way.  A hundred of different ways to broach this subject based on how creative or tech savy you are.  Some people may create a number of videos and animations to engage students, some may create classroom exercises to teach teens practical skills they can use in situations outside of the workshop to cope with these issues.

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So we had a three person team of budding instructional designers tasked with this proposal.  This is what we came up with.

As instructional designers we had to look at the problems and decide what theory was best used to meet the needs of our client.  As a matter of IBSTPI competencies under Design and Development: Use an instructional design and development process appropriate for a given project, we had to come up with a design theory that would best allow us to meet the needs of our stakeholder as well as allow the development to progress logically.  Using a form of Backward Design called UBD or understanding by design, we focused on the objectives of the RFP first, which was teach teens how to cope with stress.  In regards to the IBSTPI Competencies this would fall into the Planning and Analysis area of expertise.  We needed to conduct a needs assessment in order to recommend appropriate design solutions and strategies.  Now while the needs analysis was already pretty much done by the company who requested the proposal, a good Instructional Designer looks at the stakeholders requested need and decides if their view of the product really meets their need.   This is why we needed to make sure that we established objectives of the program first.

Another part of the Planning and Analysis Competencies (Identify and describe target population and environmental characteristics and select and use analysis techniques for determining instructional content) that we needed to focus on was who were we trying to reach and through what means would we reach them in our instruction.  How do you do that?  You do lots of research (Thanks Patty)!!

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Based on our research we came up with a number of activities and learning theories that would best engage these types of teens in the environment we envisioned for this program.  Our research told us that student centered learning where the students played a key role in the information they shared and absorbed would best keep them engaged.  Using the information available to us brought Professional Foundations of IBSTPI into full focus through Apply data collection and analysis skills in instructional design projects.   

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Once we were able to analyze our data and research and decide on a course of action for our workshop, we began to put together a conceptual training plan that would incorporate our learning theories, activities and information on the target audience to best model our program.  This touched on the Design and Development competencies of Organize instructional programs and/or products to be designed, developed, and Evaluated. Develop instructional materials.  

The one key aspect of this plan for our workshop was that it needed to be conceptual and obtainable but also modular enough to fit the needs of the specific target audience.  Part of the UBD design theory that we used to develop this idea included a concept of WHERETO as a design approach that touches on the ability to change the design based on need. Mindful design6 With multiple modules, we change as needed and scaffold the learning based on the parts of the program that are and are not used.  For this project, using UBD and applying these design concepts to an actual program versus the conceptual implementation in a classroom perspective enabled for movement through the Planning and Analysis competency regarding the ability to update and improve knowledge, skills, and attitudes pertaining to the instructional design process and related fields.  I feel there is better understanding of this design model than there was previously simply through application to a real problem.

As mentioned above, we included a number of activities into the workshop to help keep the class participation relevant as well as useful.  The key aspect of the activities was the students ability to learn positive ways of focusing anger and stress instead of acting out or resorting to negative coping mechanisms like drugs, alcohol, as well as harming themselves or others.

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We also did a lot in regards to finding and implementing appropriate learning styles and theories to help build and develop our program.  Keeping in mind that our proposal was a conceptual representation, we offered a level of understanding in the realm of learning theories and styles to show that in the process of developing our program we will have a credible understanding of how to develop a program for a trained instructor to best engage the target audience as well as the tools and capabilities to keep them engaged.

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One of the key observations in regards to this proposal was the team work aspect and how that team worked.  As instructional designers, we must understand the ability to work in a team and leverage the use of the strengths in that team to accomplish the goal.  Not every team gets to pick it’s members and not all team members get to pick the Project Manager chosen to guide the success of the project.  This was a very opening experience in regards to the Management competencies.  All three aspects of the competency: Apply business skills to managing the instructional design function. Manage partnerships and collaborative relationships. Plan and manage instructional design projects, came into play with this project.  Understanding how to work in a professional setting with other Instructional Designers with varying skills and differing perspectives on the project before you is key in a project such as this.  In regards to understanding and reaching the competencies we met the last aspect Plan and manage instructional design projects and learned a great deal about the reasons why the other two competencies are incorporated into IBSTPI.

All things considered, I think this was a very eye opening proposal to work on.  The subject matter was so far out of our realm of comfort that it caused us to have to reorient our focus to something we would not have normally spent time and energy on.  The other piece of it being how do you truly design a program for the target audience.  There are so many different problems and questions that come up when trying to figure out what will keep at risk teens engaged that it threatens to open up very large can of worms.  The key point I think we all learned from the process is that the design theory is built the way it is for a reason to help remind the Instructional Designer to ask certain questions and ensure that certain pieces are in place before moving onto the next piece.  It was an interesting learning process that will provide valuable insight into future products and programs.

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