Creation of a Learning Theory Assessment Tool to Improve the Partnership between Faculty and Instructional Designers

Concurrent Session 9

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Instructional designers can tailor their recommendations if they understand faculty preconceptions about teaching and the faculty/ID partnership, but faculty may have implicit ideas about teaching and learning which they can’t explicitly define. This session seeks participant feedback on an initial diagnostic tool for assessing these beliefs.


Mary Ann Nestmann is an educator, researcher, and instructional designer with a passion for making learning fun. In addition to earning an M.A.T. in Elementary Education and an M.S.Ed in Instructional Systems Design, she has 9 years of experience working in higher education, from teaching developmental writing courses to assisting faculty with course design. She has taught workshops on aligning course activities and assessments with learning outcomes, teaching multimodal communication, and incorporating emerging technologies into instruction. Her research interests include using interactive narrative in instruction, developing effective online discussions, and the gamification of learning.

Extended Abstract

Since higher education faculty in most subjects are not required to take courses on teaching as part of their credentialing process, many of them have little exposure to principles of pedagogy. However, all instructors enter the classroom with implicit theories about how people learn which guide the instructional strategies they employ. Faculty may not have thought critically about these assumptions and may not be able to articulate them when partnering with an instructional designer. As a result, instructional designers may encounter a range of reactions from faculty to the suggestions that they make. If the professor’s implicit theories align with those of the designer, they will probably experience a high degree of consensus or at least mutual understanding. If, however, the instructional designer makes suggestions which conflict with the faculty member’s perspective on how people learn, the faculty member may find the suggestion inappropriate and strange, causing the faculty to question the effectiveness of the partnership.

Designers need a brief diagnostic tool that they can use with faculty to quickly categorize the faculty member’s beliefs about teaching and the course design process. This will enable designers to tailor their suggestions to the instructor’s approach toward teaching and to address the instructor’s perspective and concerns when describing an alternate approach. In addition to implicit learning theories, knowing what an instructor beliefs about the role of the designer can help IDs to clarify or match those expectations.

This discovery session hopes to gather participant input on initial development of a tool to assess an instructor’s implicit theories of learning as well as their expectations of an instructional designer. Participants will explore the diagnostic tool and then answer additional questions about their perception of the diagnostic.