In the past, I’ve written about the myths and mischaracterization of instructional designers (ID). I realize that such perceptions (or misperceptions) exist across many fields and disciplines, but I think I found more to add to my growing list of misperceptions about IDs as I work in the field. This post seeks to increase understanding about IDs and filter more silt from the muddy waters.[FYI, I’m not going to tread on contentious turf about learning designer vs. instructional designer. Joshua Kim has written about this and a few others. This post is about IDs working in higher education.]
1. Instructional designers don’t understand the challenges of faculty members.
“Edufolks versus Non-Edufolks.” (Terms coined by a professor).
- Faculty members who have ed psych or learning science backgrounds versus faculty with no learning science backgrounds.
- IDs who work with faculty members who have learning science backgrounds and IDs who work with faculty with no learning science backgrounds (Non-Edufolks).
Some Non-Edufolks think IDs apparently don’t “get” faculty or “understand” them. IDs are too full of theory and don’t teach (can’t teach? no chance to teach?). “What do they know about our challenges?”
I happen to have many of these attributes: I’m an Edufolk with a PhD in IDD&E, (Yes, I can teach, design, develop, evaluate, do research. I’m a social scientist. Quant or qual, I can do both, and write a mean IRB), who has real-world teaching experience in Singapore and in America, in higher education. I’m also trained in a Teaching College in Singapore and certified to teach in the schools there.
I do get you. And I believe a majority of IDs do get you, in the best and worst of circumstances.
2. Instructional design and teaching are two separate responsibilities.
Are we creating a false dichotomy between IDs and those who were hired primarily as Professors?
I’m an Administrative and Professional faculty, not an Assistant Prof. But I’ve spent more than 10 years in Syracuse University working with faculty as an instructional technology consultant/Blackboard LMS administrator, working on e-portfolios, implementation of new software, working in a faculty development center, teaching workshops to faculty and graduate teaching assistants, teaching higher education courses, etc. Does this indicate somewhat (plenty?) that I understand faculty? We seem to see ID as being separate from teaching. IDs are teachers too, and vice versa. They may not teach fulltime but I believe many of them teach and have significant experience working with faculty before attaining ID credentials. (P.S. I also think it is important for them to be affiliated as faculty with the School of Education in the institution they work in. This continues to give them opportunities to teach and enriches them professionally.)
3. Instructional designers are too full of learning theories, mostly stuff that the “average” faculty member doesn’t need to know.
By way of training, IDs are learning scientists. It is essential that we studied and continue to study how people learn so we can offer the best service to our clients. But, have you heard me spout learning theories in front of faculty members? Does any ID do that? Maybe in my blog, I may use a bit of jargon, because I’m writing to and for IDs. If you have written a dissertation before, you do understand that we were trained not to write in jargon because some defense committee readers will come from other disciplines. One of the reasons why I chose to do a qualitative research study is so that I will write and sound more like a human being, and not write in a formulaic way. Also, one interesting tidbit: the first thing we learned in ID grad school is to talk about ID to an audience such as our grandparents. If they don’t get me, I’ve failed abysmally.
Dear Professor, with yes/no learning science background or teaching certification, it doesn’t matter any one way to me if you are Edufolk or Non-Edufolk. I get you. Please let me help you.