An important new field
Henderson explains the building blocks are just being established to create a formal profession in educational design. One of those blocks is his course his, a Graduate Certificate of Educational Design, a precursor to the development of a Master’s degree in this area. But instead of the course content being aimed at teachers, it’s developed for specialists whose focus is to build effective learning circumstances through teachers and the curriculum.
“This course brings a holistic understanding of what teaching and learning is and the value an educational designer can bring. So, it’s an exciting space to play in; really creative and involving constant problem solving.”
The importance of the feedback loop
Henderson’s work over the past decade has investigated the impact of various educational designs, and educational technologies. Over the last five years he has come to the understanding that feedback is not only one of the most important processes, but it is also one of the most poorly understood.
In fact, his research shows 37 per cent of students find feedback actively discouraging. This is more than simply saying that a student didn’t like the feedback comments. “We’ve got to do better” he says.
Giving students effective feedback is at the core of Henderson’s work. “I’ve come to realize how significant it is. Feedback is recognized as one of the most powerful factors in student outcomes, both positive and negative. Which means that if we get it right, we’re really helping students. But if we get it wrong, it can have disastrous effects. Which is why we need to study it.”
He defines academic feedback as a key moment when students get to understand how they are performing, and most importantly, gain insight into how they can improve. “Really effective feedback is a process when information comes to you as a learner that enables you to take action. It is the most significant mechanism to do that, otherwise, students are working in a void.”
Supporting great outcomes
What’s key, says Henderson, is affirming the positive steps students can take to progress. “It’s about supporting learners to act on the information provided in the feedback process. Our role as educators and education designers is to set up an environment where this becomes a powerful and useful approach.”
He says it’s vital to appreciate feedback is a learner-centred process. “Our role is to empower and give agency to students so they can take action and change what they do to achieve their goals. A key message I am trying to deliver is that we should stop thinking of teaching as telling students what to know, but rather that our role is to create opportunities for meaningful feedback that enable the learner to take action.”
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