Learning Context Analysis/Needs Analysis

1.  In Chapter 3, Smith and Ragan talk about two major components in the analysis of the learning context: (1) determining instructional needs and (2) describing the learning environment. Please identify the needs assessment condition your ID project falls into (See S&R p.44 for details). And discuss the steps you will take to conduct the needs assessment for your ID project. 

The needs assessment condition of my project (after 2 hours of instruction, high school juniors will be able to create a 2-4 minute digital story as a reflection of their understanding of the novel, Huckleberry Finn using iMovie and present it to their peers) falls into the Discrepancy Model because it is based on a gap between what learners should be able to do and what they are currently able to do.  The first step I need to take to conduct the needs assessment for my ID project is to list the learning goals.  The following are the learning goals for this project:

  1. Learners will be able to produce clear and coherent analysis based on the prompt they choose in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task and clearly reflect understanding of the novel.
  2. Learners will be able to use iMovie to produce and publish auditory analysis, textual evidence, and graphics that communicate a clear understanding of the novel.
  3. Learners will be able to draw evidence from the novel to support their analysis, reflection, and connection to the novel.

The next step is that I need to assess how well the learners are already reaching these goals and identify where the gaps are.  According to Smith and Ragan (2005), there are several ways in which to determine this, whether it is through observations, tests, self-assessments, or a combination of determinants.  Because school is not in session, I need to be creative here.  I know that I can collaborate with my co-workers via e-mail at the sophomore, junior, and senior levels, and together we can determine “what is and what should be” as stated in the third step of the Discrepancy Model.  One aspect of this step that really stood out to me was to be careful to assume that the learners do not know or haven’t had instruction on something.  This is where the vertical collaboration will perhaps benefit the ID the most.

Next, I will need to prioritize goals based on the gaps that we determine exist.  In the bulleted list of gaps provided by Smith and Ragan (47-48), I believe, from my experience with this age level, at least two of the gaps will need to be addressed.  For example, I think I will need to design this project based on closing a gap that affects the largest number of students first, though I do not want to jump to this conclusion until I am able to collaborate with my co-workers.

Finally, the Discrepancy Model requires that I determine which gaps are instructional and which are not.  This step echoed Dr. Rieber’s Youtube video, “Introduction to Needs Assessment” in that he stated, “Instruction solutions can only solve instructional problems.  In other words, adding more instruction doesn’t work all the time because  instruction isn’t always the solution to performance problems. Therefore, I will want to collaborate with my co-workers on this so that I do not fall into that particular design trap.

         2.  Briefly describe the learning environment where your ID project situates. 

      The learning environment is a student-centered environment where students sit at tables in groups of about 5-6.  The class size is 25-27.  A typical teacher using this ID has knowledge of using a Mac and is familiar with iMovie; however, step-by-step instructions will be provided via both video and text.  Students have some prior knowledge of iMovie, but this will vary, and may be addressed as a gap, depending on what is determined during collaboration.  The laptop ratio is 1-1; the teacher’s computer is connected to a projector that will display not only the step-by-step instructions, but will also have a student example to view. In addition, the laptops can be plugged into the projector for easy viewing when sharing. This high school seeks to integrate technology to support understanding and expertise because it appeals to multiple learners, and the administration supports a constructivism approach in that this ID will also reflect the 5-E Model.

     3.  In Chapter 4, Smith and Ragan discuss different characteristics of learners and how these characteristics can influence the design of the instruction. What learner characteristics are important to assess in the context of your ID project? What are some questions you plan to ask to obtain the information from you learners?

Through collaboration, I hope to identify prior knowledge of story-telling and technology use to assist learners, but this ID will have to go a bit further to identify the characteristics of the learners.  Because the targeted students are 16-17 years old, the motivation for this project will stem from not only using engaging technology to support understanding, but also a differentiated learning approach that allows students to choose from several prompts to complete this project.  The prompts that I have created so far are listed below:

1.  Narrate a personal experience that mirrors an event in the novel.

2.  Explore racism in Meridian, Idaho and compare/contrast it with the novel

3.  Teach satire in and use examples from the novel to enhance understanding.

4.  Explore superstition in society today and compare it to the novel.

5.  Compare/contrast and historical event in the novel and today’s society.

In addition, Affective Characteristics, including anxiety level and beliefs as well as Social Characteristics, including racial/ethnic backgrounds and relationships to peers (since this project is intended to be shared) will need to be considered, and modifications can easily be built into the ID if deemed necessary.   If I could survey students, I would include something similar to the following survey:


This survey is just preliminary, but it is a start, and I feel like I am getting a grasp on this, which leads me to my initial reflection on module #2.

Initial Reflection:  This is a difficult process for me.  I have to keep reminding myself that for this particular project, I have to assume a role of an instructional designer; I am not the one delivering the instruction even though I am using my high school, my classroom, and literally, my students.   That is not to say that I won’t use this project!!!  I guess what I am saying is that it is difficult to be objective!  To be honest, I didn’t realize how much front-end analysis was necessary to begin an ID.

Thanks everyone!



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