Thesis Thoughts: Intersections, Audiences, Design for Learning

Posted on September 30, 2012 by


  • For my study:  contextualizing the student’s abilities:  Thinking of including a question about how they do with Dummies books, and how they follow instructions in context of assembling something.
  • Really contextualizing the theoretical frameworks that I am working with, I’m at the intersection of navigational capital, situational cognition, cultural scripts, and infrastructures.
  • Thinking of the audiences that my study would appeal to:  textbook designers and writers, technical writers, self-instruction book writers and designers, linguistic anthropologists, math
  • Thinking of self-instruction books, autodidactism, and their construction.
  • My study will speak to open education, distance learners, curriculum developers, technical writers, linguistic anthropologists,
  • Need to catch mistakes;  students need feedback for their mistakes
  • Another research question:  How does the class support them in future endeavors?

I gleaned lots of insight from a book called Design for How People Learn


  • What information does the learner need to be successful?
  • When along the route will they need it?
  • What formats would best support that?Skills
  • What will the learners need to practice to develop the needed proficiencies?
  • Where are their opportunities to practice?Motivation
  • What is the learner’s attitude towards the change?
  • Are they going to be resistant to changing course?Environment
  • What in the environment is preventing the learner from being successful?
  • What is needed to support them in being successful?Communication
  • Are the goals being clearly communicated?

Questions To Ask

There are a variety of strategies to help identify the gaps. Here are a few for starters:

  • Ask “What do they actually need to do with this?” (If you get the answer “They just need to be aware of it,” then ask “Yeah, but, what do they actually need to do with this?” again.)
  • Follow a novice around and see what they do; then follow an expert around and see what they do differently.
  • Ask yourself if the person would be able to do something if they wanted to badly enough. If they answer is yes, it’s not a knowledge or skills gap.
  • Ask the question “Is there anything—anything at all—that we could do, besides training, that would make it more likely that people would do the right thing?”
  • Ask “Is this going to involve changing the way they do things now?”
  • Ask “What is the consequence if somebody does it wrong?”
  • Ask “If someone is getting this exactly right, what would that look like?”
  • Ask “Is it reasonable to assume that someone will get this right the first time out, or will they need to practice to get proficient?”

    So, what do you want to know about your users? First of all, you might want some basic demographic information (such as age, gender, job, or role). You can usually get that information via a survey, or sometimes organizations already have that kind of data on file.

    You may also want to know things like their reading level or how they use tech- nology, if those things are relevant to the subject you are working on. You can also use surveys to find those things out, or you can talk to some representative learners (which is always a good idea).

    In addition to those types of audience demographics, you also want to get the answers to a few key questions:

    • What do your learners want?
    • What is their current skill level?
    • How are your learners different from you?
    • Instead of trying to put all the knowledge into the learners’ heads, try to figure out if some of the knowledge can be put into the environment instead.
    • Activities that are particularly difficult for humans to master are good candidates for embedding into the environment.