Teaching is both an art and a science. Teachers design learning just as architects design structures. A structure stands firm and sturdy because architects and their teams thoughtfully designed it for both form and function. They purposefully chose materials to support the ultimate design and functional goals of the structure. They methodically constructed the building, beginning with the foundation and working their way up to the roof. And then they inspected every inch of the building to make sure it met all requirements and codes. To inhabit a functional space in which we can move around and live, work, or play is magical. Yet, it’s the result of the deliberate, time-tested design process of an accomplished architect.
Intentional Instructional Design: A Blueprint for Successful Outcomes
As teachers, our process is not much different. We begin with learning goals—our foundation. We then provide a frame by identifying a real-world issue for students to address. From there, we choose the appropriate learning tools to construct knowledge and skills. And once our lesson is built, we assess the experience to see how well it compelled students toward achieving the learning goals.
In instruction, intentional design can yield impressive gains in student achievement. The secret to realizing these gains is to front-load the lesson design portion of the teaching and learning process. Just as an architect uses a blueprint to know what the actual building will look like, when you are intentional about designing your instruction specifically for student achievement, then you know what the end result will look like. Architects design and oversee the creation of buildings. As learning architects, we design instruction and oversee the creation of futures.
One of the first steps toward gaining an architect’s perspective is to understand the difference between deep learning and surface learning. Preparing students to be future-ready requires us to focus on deep learning. Let’s consider the differences between the two (see Table 1). Surface learners tend to concentrate on facts and memorization. They tend to be more anxious and disengaged as they rush to retain information for a test. Conversely, deep learners use knowledge and skills to interact with content. They create arguments, solve real-world problems, and think critically about information. Deep learners tend to be more engaged with their subject matter, which leads to increased long-term retention. The table below compares the two types of learning.