This semester, students in one of my courses are partnering with a local school district to create content to use in a Flipped Classroom pilot program. The authentic nature of the program was what drew me to the project initially. I teach Instructional Technology to preservice teachers and this program will provide a perfect opportunity for my students to see how technology can be incorporated with real students in real classroom settings. My students will be applying our classroom content to authentic environments and seeing how technology can impact learning. The project is the perfect marriage of theory and practice.
To develop their instructional modules, my students are utilizing a standard ADDIE model for instructional design. In the ADDIE model, instructors first “analyze” the needs of students, the learning context and the instructional content to fully examine the needs and conditions of the learner. In the next phases, instructors then design a plan that they then will develop before fully implementing with real learners. Finally, instructors evaluate the learning which informs any modifications for improvement.
Written as a five-stage model, the overall ADDIE process seems pretty linear and clean.
Analysis -> Design -> Development -> Implementation-> Evaluation
The reality, however, is far messier. As instructors move from phase to phase, new challenges emerge that impact the overall process. Maybe the design of a prototype has uncovered some previously unknown constraints. Maybe the development phase hit some technical roadblocks. In my classroom project, the class is beginning to stride knee deep into the first phase of project and the messiness is starting to emerge. Students who typically want to know how many pages a paper needs to be are now facing challenges that don’t have simple or artificial answers. They had to work through the messiness themselves.
While some of the students are starting to stress a little, I’m realizing that the messiness makes the project even more authentic than I first imagined. Sure, my students are developing instructional content for real elementary classrooms and evaluating its effectiveness. More importantly, however, they will also be able to solve real problems and navigate through the challenges that will undoubtedly occur. Real learning can be messy. Learning is not easily defined by page lengths or margin sizes or multiple-choice answers. Learning can go through fits and starts and often identifies more questions than answers. But that’s the value of learning in authentic contexts. It can open our students’ eyes to reality and help them navigate the messy road that lies in front of them.