The impact of ‘design’ in teaching

This is an idea that very much resonates with me. I have  spent a long time, playing with the various pieces of this ever-evolving puzzle. I’ve run 25,000+ experiments … and something to say on the topic.

Design - is central to our lives; it is present in most aspects of our lives. Some might think not - for example, when they are ‘surfing’ they are playing with chaos, but there is ‘design’ present in the board they are using. Great design in our living spaces improves our lives and sense of well being. I designed my own house around how I like to move, live, breath, play, study and train. Design in our how we structure our finances can radically alter how we live later on in our lives. 

In my own case, I rely heavily on design to better construct and deliver subject matter when I am teaching. Design, in relation to both content and delivery plays an enormous role in skill-uptake and learning outcomes.

I have been engaged my a number of organisations that require development and/or assessment of their own training models and I have to say, it is very easy to over-deliver as usually - when it comes to Defensive Tactics systems/packages - lack of design is starkly evident.  

One of the most fundamental elements of good design is ‘optimal sequencing’. This is hardly ever discussed in either martial arts academies, gyms or on defensive tactics landscapes. Skills are taught in a seemingly random order; with little to no thought or rationale behind the concept of ‘optimal order’. 

Take two curriculums, each containing the same techniques and drills - but change the order in which these elements are delivered to the students - and we will see that outcomes can be startlingly different.

Think of two chefs using the same recipe - but each adds the ingredients in a different order - the results will not be the identical. If we want optimal results, we need to examine how outcomes vary based on the way we, as instructors, sequence our training. 

This is just one simple example illustrating the important role of design in teaching and training. I remain astounded that this is not common knowledge among the professional training fraternity. 

Optimal design will produce optimal results. There are many aspects to it - it’s not rocket science - but it is science, nevertheless.


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