Education as Design

Teaching, Learning and Education are often used interchangeably.  This is unfortunate, because they are distinct things. 

Learning is a natural process that is fundamental to human life.

Teaching is a process where someone presents to a group of people in order to facilitate learning

Education is design for learning.  It's not always understood as that, and the training that T&D professionals get under-values design. 

The instructional design process has an odd quirk - the third step in the process is 'design'. Interestingly, in instructional design curriculums, you find courses in 'Analysis', 'Developing materials' or 'Developing online courses', and  'Evaluation'. But the 'Design' course is an overview of the entire process.  It's not about actual design, but about project management. This is a flaw in the way we think of creating education.

When I was earning my Masters in Trainning and Development, I was perplexed by this and started to look at other disciplines and how they approach teaching design.  Lucky enough, the School of Design was directly next to where I parked my car every day. After some quick, naive conversations, I started looking into design theory. Design of Everyday Things.  How Designers Think. Video game design.  I found out some interesting facts, the biggest being that there was a lot of common trends among the design process taught in design schools and how T&D professionals actually design programs: 

  • Your client isn't who you are designing for, and that causes tensions
  • Designs are never final, but you have to be done at some point
  • Users/players/students will repurpose and essentially redesign your 'finished' product
  • Design is a conversation, not a declaration
  • Constraints necessitate creativity, which enables better design


Over the next few weeks, I'll write some detail into each of these points. (And maybe add some more as I recall them.) The interesting thing for me is that they describe my experience designing programs, and each line is from a source about design theory and Training and Development.  My major take-away: design is design, and T&D professionals would do well to examine how design is done in other fields.