Education faces many challenges in the changing modern world. Learners are changing in their approaches to education – they use digital technologies, they multi-task, they collaborate and they are becoming less patient with teacher-centric styles of education.
Educators face many changes – such as expectations of adopting innovative teaching approaches, alignment of teaching to external standards, growing requirements for professional development and difficulties in balancing a complex range of demands from different stakeholders.
Government and educational institutions also face many changes, such as the rise of the knowledge economy and the need for different kinds of graduates, a shift from knowledge scarcity to abundance, and the impact of technology – especially the internet via open sharing of educational resources and massive open online courses (MOOCs).
In the context of these changes, effective teaching and learning in the classroom (and beyond) remains central. How can educators become more effective in their preparation and facilitation of teaching and learning activities? How can educators be exposed to new teaching ideas that take them beyond their traditional approaches? How can technology assist educators without undermining them? How can learners be better prepared for the world that awaits them?
This paper describes how the new field of Learning Design contributes to the central challenge of improving teaching and learning. Learning Design can assist educators to describe effective teaching ideas so that they can be shared with, and adapted by, other educators. While the field has primarily focussed on higher education and K-12 schools to date, it also has implications for vocational and professional training. This paper describes how ongoing work to develop a descriptive language for teaching and learning activities (often including the use of technology) is changing the way educators think about planning and facilitating educational activities. The ultimate goal of Learning Design is to convey great teaching ideas among educators in order to improve student learning.
The paper begins with this Introduction, followed by an analogy from music to provide a context for Part 1, which considers the possibility of educational notation. Part 2 describes how this possibility is being realised in the field of Learning Design, illustrated with an example based on a Role Play. Part 3 considers current definitional challenges in Learning Design and its provocative aspiration towards pedagogical neutrality. Part 4 provides a wider conceptual map of education for exploring the place of Learning Design, including more examples of current Learning Design systems/approaches, and how the map can be used to analyse pedagogical theories. Part 5 returns to the relationship between Learning Design and pedagogical theories, and the central question of effective teaching and learning approaches. The Conclusion offers a new synthesis of the ideas discussed in this paper as a foundation for the future of Learning Design, and the Epilogue returns to the music analogy to reflect on the future prospects of this synthesis.
While the concepts discussed in this paper have potentially far-reaching implications for many aspects of education, this paper is written primarily for those with an interest in Learning Design and in pedagogical theories. Future work based on this paper will explore these ideas in different ways for other audiences, such as policy makers and typical educators.