Instructional Design Strategies

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lesson, we'll be learning what an instructional design strategy is and how to use it in your classroom. We'll learn the details about three common instructional designs: Understanding by Design, Bloom's taxonomy, and the ADDIE model.

What Are Instructional Design Strategies

Imagine your first year teaching. Acronyms for tests, teaching strategies, differentiated instructional methods, and English language levels flood your conversations. It's hard to keep track of it all! You also have to think about routines, classroom management, and designing your curriculum. Where to start? Today, we're going to be tackling one of these focuses in teaching, instructional design. Instructional design is the process of creating your curriculum in a purposeful way. Luckily, there are lots of scientifically researched methods of doing this, and they can apply to any content area. Here, we'll look at three commonly used methods: Understanding by Design, Bloom's taxonomy, and the ADDIE model.

Understanding by Design

As teachers, we all have goals for our students. Whether based on our own learning objectives or state and national standards, we have a vision for student success. This is where the Understanding by Design framework comes in. This strategy uses backwards planning, where you start with where you want your students to end up and then plan activities backwards to get them there. Most teachers will start with state-given standards and then create essential questions to frame the unit.

For example, a science teacher might use a standard on identifying parts of the cell. If she knows that students must be able to explain the parts of a cell, her essential question might be about connecting the structure and function of cell parts to the job of the cell as a whole. Essential questions span the entire unit and provide a lens to focus individual lessons.

Once you've identified your essential questions, it's time to identify smaller goals, including skill and content goals students should be able to do along the way. Then, designing assessments, activities, and lesson plans to meet those goals is the next step. Once you're done, you should have a complete unit with small lessons that build content and skills for you to answer essential questions and meet your standards.

Example of a cell unit plan using Understanding by Design
unit plan

Bloom's Taxonomy

If you wanted to evaluate the significance of the Civil Rights Movement and its impact on Black Lives Matter today, could you write a five-page essay without having any lessons? Unless you're a history teacher, the answer is probably no. What would you need to know first? You might want to know some of the dates and the key figures involved in this movement. You might need to learn about race and racism and the history of slavery in America. So, before you can analyze and evaluate information, you have to simply know some basic facts.

This is exactly the strategy in Bloom's taxonomy. Bloom's taxonomy focuses on establishing basic cognitive skills before moving on to more complex skills. Remembering and understanding information come before applying, analyzing, evaluating, and finally creating. As a teacher, you would plan lessons in the beginning of the unit based on helping students remember and understand basic figures in history. Then, you might move on to analyzing the significance of events in a historical text and evaluating different viewpoints. The lessons would be structured so that by the end students can achieve your ultimate goal and the highest point of cognitive development in Bloom's taxonomy.

Levels of cognitive development in learning

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