Critically Evaluating Our Learning Designs: What Research Tells Us

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session Equity and Inclusion

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Brief Abstract

As instructional designers, we are well-positioned to advocate for more balanced, respectful, values-driven learning designs when developing new courses, but how can we effect change in existing courses in our portfolios? We will discuss what critical learning sciences research can tell us about evaluating existing learning designs.


Katrina is an Instructional Designer at Penn State University and recently began her journey to obtain her doctorate in learning, design and technology. She has instructional design experience in industry, K-12 and higher education. One of her core beliefs is that technology can transform education for both learners and instructors through the careful selection and application of educational technology solutions with respect to specific course outcomes and objectives.

Extended Abstract

As Costanza-Chock (2020) points out in the concluding chapter of Design Justice, “we urgently need more critical analysis in every design domain.” What critical analysis might look like for an instructional design, however, is unclear at present. While existing scholarship in this area offers a variety of approaches and considerations, the literature does not point to a single ideal framework or list of steps for assessing instructional design in terms of inclusivity, power, equity, or justice.

It’s not unusual for an instructional designer to inherit at least a few existing courses as part of their scope, whether it’s due to taking on a new role or helping out when a teammate leaves. Critical design strategies are best implemented when these goals are prioritized from the beginning of the design process, but what does that mean for those courses that were developed in the past? This session will bring practitioners together to think about how we might critically analyze existing instructional designs in an effort to develop a more robust framework for implementing critical instructional design principles in our courses. 

During this session, we will discuss themes from critical learning sciences research and collaborate via virtual whiteboards such as MiroBoards and note-taking apps like Google Docs to brainstorm ways we can effect course design changes in our existing curriculums.


Costanza-Chock, S. (2020). Design Justice: Community-led practices to build the worlds we need. Cambridge: MIT Press.