How to Design an Educational Program

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Program design offers opportunities for educators, students and the community to create educational experiences. An educational program designer stands as the hub to the wheel. The designer brings resources such as learning theories, research studies and program results. The stakeholders bring insight into the program goals, objectives and classroom activities. Design the educational program to reflect the ideas and ideals of the participants.

Compile Goals and Objectives

  • Brainstorm educational outcomes, goals and objectives. Consider the program goals, the general and often unmeasurable statements that guide the design. Some educational programs have the goal of enhancing literacy skills and strategies. The goal is supported by specific program objectives. The objectives for improving literacy skills may include learning to write expository essays and reading a selected book a week. Record the brainstorming of goals and objectives. Keep a notebook and pen handy and begin a word processing document. Spreadsheets, or worksheets, help to categorize goals and objectives, with spaces for dates, goals, objectives and sample activities to implement the design.

  • Add research elements to the educational program design process. The framework of theory, research and practice can link the program's educational assumptions, goals, objectives and activities to educational scholarship. Educational program pendulums historically swing between Plato's rationalism and Aristotle's empiricism. Like the Greek philosopher Plato, some educators emphasize the knowledge that students bring to the educational experience. Other educators consider Aristotle's belief that students learn primarily through sensory experience, such as watching the teacher demonstrate a process during class. Current educational research trends emphasize research-based course design informed by educational researchers. Strategy research shows writers and readers benefit from the process of previewing the material, monitoring progress while engaging in the material and a review upon completing the material. Prepare your design with references to educational research findings.

  • Implement the educational design through a pilot or initial program. Begin a log to note regular events and progress. Conduct surveys regarding the students previewing of the material, monitoring their progress while engaged with activities and reviewing their progress upon completing a section or unit. Record the students' progress through direct and frequent measurements appropriate to the goals and objectives. In the log, note modifications to the educational design. Which activities did you remove or postpone? Which activities did you add to the course design? Also note observations regarding the research-based instruction. Were any of the research studies validated in the classroom? Were any of the research studies challenged? Regularly record your observations and learner feedback on the documents and spreadsheets. Expect that not all the design will go as planned.

  • Create a report and reflection on the educational design process. Funding sources may require the designer to report on the educational program progress and effectiveness. Future funding may depend on clear, measurable data showing student progress. Prepare quantitative data on a spread sheet for measurable assessments, such as projects and tests. Prepare qualitative data in the form of student responses to the educational design and activities. Re-read your log for additional observations and reflections. While the information is fresh in your mind, finalize the report for informal or formal presentations. After some time has passed, revisit the report to note additional observations or information that will inform future educational program design projects.

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