I recently read an interesting Op Ed piece on why university student experience surveys are inherently flawed.

A few sentences about designing learning stood out for me as I grapple with the balance between spoon feeding students and reducing their cognitive load.

“It is patently counterproductive for students to struggle with understanding the curriculum, with the requirements of learning and assessment tasks, or with the reasons why they are being asked to do what they do. These should be as straightforward as possible and made perfectly clear to students. The acquisition and updating of deeper conceptual understanding, on the other hand, does often require grappling with new ways of thinking and synthesising knowledge. This is hard cognitive work for most people.”

As a learning designer, I want to create an environment where there is just enough challenge. As a learning designer for adult learning, I want to provide authentic learning experiences and challenge people to be problem solvers.Is providing the reason why they are being asked to do an unmarked task, then outlining a procedure and describing the result spoon feeding when that doesn’t always happen in a workplace?

Over my work life I’ve been under-managed and provided next to no brief and over-managed where the manager all but wrote things for me and translated for me in meetings (“I think what Kerry is saying is…”).

Would we be better breaking down the steps into what the output will be (what), the learning outcomes (reason why) and then providing them a planning tool with some suggestions of how to accomplish the task?

I must admit the last of this – unless we are talking about a highly technical task – is where I start biting my lip. How much detail do we put in here?Do we provide SOME resources or ALL the resources?

I am concerned if we provide ALL the resources, we end up with students who are lacking in one of the most important aspects of information literacy – the discernment necessary to find and recognise credible sources.

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