Teachers: Don’t Get an Instructional Designer Job, Transform the Teaching Role with ID

assorted-color cowboy hat lot

I am subscribed to the r/instructionaldesign forum on Reddit, and this year it is positively overrun with teachers trying to figure out how to get out of the classroom and into the field of instructional design. This NPR article “More than half of teachers are looking for the exits” shows just how un-sustainable conditions have become within the American classroom in 2022.

As a former classroom teacher myself who made the transition to ID in 2009, I’m not trying to gatekeep the profession, but hopefully to show teachers what their experience in the classroom didn’t prepare them for. I’d like to see teachers stay put and advocate for more instructional design WITHIN the K-12 context.

I’d like to see teachers stay put and advocate for more instructional design WITHIN the K-12 context.

The pandemic forced classroom teachers to move their classrooms online, but they tried to re-create the classroom experience with synchronous tools like Zoom rather than embracing the power of asynchronous learning that modern LMSs and eLearning afford. I think this was a mistake, borne of the culture around classroom teaching and a failure to prepare teachers for a fully online school experience.

I completed my Master’s in Ed completely online in the early 2000s, when asynchronous learning tools were all we had, and we were taught the distinct advantages of asynchronous learning over synchronous. I implemented as much asynchronous online learning in my classroom as possible, and saw how it solves several common classroom challenges teachers face. This prepared me well for my switch to the world of ID, but I was surprised at how resistant most of my teacher colleagues were to embrace the technological tools of the time (by then it was the mid-late 2000s when the cloud, smartphones, and social media were becoming widespread among teachers and students alike). As I entered higher ed (and gained a deep knowledge of the LMS and eLearning packages’ power to transform teaching and learning, a lot of K-12 stayed mostly the same, live, in person, but maybe now with touchscreen devices and a galaxy of free apps to smash together in whatever ways they could manage to figure out.

Teachers Wear Too Many Hats

I wrote this post years ago, arguing that modern teachers are actually wearing too many “hats” that need to be separated into distinct roles in the age of online learning. Teachers are called to serve as SMEs, IDs, interpersonal mentors/coaches/therapists, and psychometricians — too many roles to do any of them well. I didn’t add “entertainer” or “disciplinarian” to this list, but those are other hats that every teacher has had to wear, whether it fits or not.

An article I wrote after moving out of the classroom, into higher education instructional design, where I could see how effectively we could be using a modern LMS to improve student learning and teacher effectiveness.

I’d like to see the teachers who are technically and artistically skilled at building and designing online learning experiences focus their time on ID, highly educated SMEs to work with those IDs to plan inspiring curriculum with effective pedagogy, the LMS used fully to capture frequent data points about student learning and that data used to remediate gaps and prevent failure, and the teachers who really love being with kids all day and being involved in their lives to serve more as a “guide on the side” to motivate learners through a well-designed online-first curriculum.

I realize this would be a transformational change that would upset much about the way schools operate. However, In light of the impending mass exodus of teachers from schools as they are in 2020, it may be the best way to re-tool schools for the future.

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Ted Curran is a Learning Experience Designer/Developer for Autodesk. He is committed to empowering educators and learners to create transformational change through effective pedagogy and technology integration. You can follow Ted on Mastodon, LinkedIn or learn more at my 'About" page. These thoughts are my own.

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