Sunday, June 25, 2023

Techniques of Teaching: D of ADDIE: Design


After analyzing the course objectives, learning motivation and issues, and other detailed conditions related to the course, we move on to the second phase: Course Design (Design).

The three main points in the course design phase are: ideation and data collection, process arrangement, and teaching method design. Returning to the "time management" course example we mentioned earlier, let's discuss these points one by one:

1. Ideation and Data Collection

At the beginning of course development, I start by brainstorming. What do I know about this course? Of course, brainstorming without notes can lead to quick forgetting, so I use mind maps or sticky notes to record my ideas.

In this process, it's essential to stimulate ideas with some data. Main data sources include internet resources, slides, and books. For instance, with the topic of time management, just typing "time management" into Google gives you a plethora of online resources, including the five major tricks of time management, six concepts, ten magic techniques... even definitions, recommended books, the urgent-important matrix, GTD concepts... all of these can be found in the first 50 search results.

Moreover, slides made by others can also serve as excellent reference material. By adding "filetype:ppt" to your Google search, for example, "time management filetype:ppt", you can find numerous slides that others have prepared, indicative of their lectures or courses. This is another crucial source of reference.

Books provide more systematic and comprehensive reference material. Any book is the product of an author's careful organization and unique perspective. From books, one can find more in-depth and comprehensive views than from online resources or other people's slides. But remember to refer to multiple books on the same topic. With time management, simply enter the keyword into an online bookstore to find books like "Getting Things Done" (I wrote the preface for the Chinese reprint), "Eat That Frog!", and many others. I highly recommend "The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done" by management guru Peter Drucker. Be sure to read several books to gain a comprehensive and complete view. Of course, at this point, speed reading becomes very important.

Please remember: The goal here is not for you to copy from others, but to stimulate your thinking and ideas through others' materials. You are not starting from scratch, but building a higher edifice on the foundation others have laid. Therefore, instead of copying materials or slides, record these ideas on mind maps or sticky notes. This way, the ideas you borrow are truly just ideas, which you can further integrate with your own thoughts in the future.

2. Process Arrangement

Once the ideation and data collection are almost complete, you can start to arrange the course process. Taking time management as an example, you might divide the course into sections such as "Basic Concepts", "Methods", "Tools", and "Practical Exercises". Be careful not to delve too deeply into basic concepts and theories right away. Professional lecturers focus on key points! It's preferable to start with a case study of incorrect time management and ask the audience to discuss the protagonist's mistakes, rather than initially discussing "Why is time management important?" or "What theories exist for time management?" Those are sleep-inducing topics that waste the precious initial attention span of your course.

Of course, from this stage, the speaker's personal skills and knowledge are tested. Are you truly familiar with this course? Do you have sufficient experience to teach it? Or are you attempting to teach this course just after reading a few books? It starts to show at this stage! When I say "a course with soul", this is what I mean! Because if the knowledge you share or the content you teach can be found on the internet or in books, you are merely a "knowledge sharer". To become a teacher who can bring insight and inspiration to students, you really need a lot of accumulation!

Note: I've seen people who, after less than a year working with a certain teacher, want to go out and teach this professional course on their own. The major issue is: this individual has no other work experience besides being a teaching assistant! This would quickly be revealed in a corporate training setting!

3. Teaching Method Planning

From this stage, the difference between a master teacher and an ordinary one becomes apparent. You can certainly lecture throughout the course. If the course is not long, or if you are as passionate as my partner, Xian-Ge (Professor Xie Wenxian), then you can still capture the audience's attention with pure lecturing. However, when the course time extends, or when you care about learning effectiveness, the focus of instructional design is not just the content and process, but also the integration of teaching methods.

For example, with the topic of time management: you can start by asking everyone to brainstorm about what they usually do at work and have them write it down on sticky notes. Then, you can ask everyone to use the time management matrix to categorize tasks into the four quadrants of "important" versus "not important" and "urgent" versus "not urgent". Through this practical exercise, participants can accurately determine the priority of tasks; or through case study discussions, they can identify the protagonist's time management problems and bad habits, then help them plan a perfect day; you can also ask everyone to do pre-course homework, keep a 1-2 week record of time usage, and then bring it to class for discussion. These various teaching methods can enliven the learning content, enabling students to better absorb knowledge and put it into practice.

Some people say: Inserting too many teaching methods into a course can slow down the learning progress. But consider this: Do you want to get through the course, or do you want to effectively teach the course? If you simply want to get through the course, just read through it (lecture)! But if you want to effectively teach it? Then student attention, absorption capacity, and practical exercises, from your knowledge becoming their knowledge, it's a long journey! (Please refer to cognitive and constructivist learning theories.)


During the course design process, a massive amount of data collection and ideation is a critical step. I often think and simulate how the course will operate while I'm driving, walking, or taking a shower. I think in great detail: How should I say it? What teaching methods should I use? How would the students react? How would I respond? All these process details are carefully considered in my mind. Only after the thinking is almost complete, do I start creating slides and educational materials, which leads to the next stage: Course Development.

You might wonder: Isn't this process too time-consuming for developing a course? My answer is: Yes! Developing a good course requires an accumulation of time! I absolutely do not recommend constantly developing new courses! Because not only would you not have time to accumulate, but you also would lack experience accumulation! Top lecturers are not generalists who know a bit about everything but are specialists in 1-2 courses, teaching them to the best of their ability! They continually accumulate experience and make ongoing adjustments! After being refined over time, sweeter results will emerge!

Note: The attached picture in the article is a slide from a time management course I taught before.

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