IPT Seminar: Nov 20th Emily Castleton

This post is connected with IPT 690, a graduate seminar course in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University.

This week in seminar, we were privileged to hear from Emily Castleton from the Theater and Media Arts Department.  Emily, spoke about her experiences being a theatrical stage manager.  She most recently finished a stint as the stage manager for BYU’s production of the Operetta Die Fledermaus.  In her presentation, Emily took us through some of the systems that she has set up to automate the process of creating a perfectly executed stage production.  She has a notebook that she maintains that is essentially her script to the technical aspects of the show.  She refines this guide, night after night, all in the hope of making the show run as seamlessly as possible.

Dr. Gibbons was asking some questions of the IPT students to try to force some connections between Emily’s process and that of an instructional designer, and I think the parallels were plenty. We discussed whether the stage manager was the equivalent of the curriculum designer or the trainer.  I think this was a tough one to call — and as Emily plays the Stage Manager she is doing a bit of both.  As an instructional designer, our job (as seen by a certain portion of ID) is to create instructional systems that are consistent and effective. This is parallel to the process that Emily goes through as she scripts out the lighting cues, audio, props and other tasks that need to happen in order for the show to be executed flawlessly.  In that sense, she is designing much of how the show is going to run.  On the other hand, she is also responsible for executing her own design on a nightly basis.  She creates a guide because she knows that she will need to reference it to achieve “perfection”.  She can’t expect to just riff every night with the hope that everything will turn out okay.  In this way she is also the “trainer” or the person that executes the design.

What I resisted toward was this idea that every instance of a play or curriculum should be perfectly executed.  While its seems that perfection should be something that we should strive toward when we are building out a system that has a lot of moving parts, I’m just not so sure that is the system that we should always be striving for.  I’m sure that Emily would agree.  There are different levels of control that are exercised over an opera (which has orchestras, lighting cues, actors, etc.) than you would in an improvisation.  Each has a different goal, and as such a different system of cues, rules, techniques, for achieving that goal.

I was once involved in the theater and I loved that world.  Even though I’m sure there is something stressful about trying to execute your plan every night in front of a live audience, I’m sure that there is great rewards when your system actually works.

IPT Seminar Sep 25th: Dr. Ken Plummer

This post is connected with IPT 690, a graduate seminar course in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University.

For our graduate seminar this week, we had the privilege of hearing from Dr. Ken Plummer. Dr. Plummer is a graduate of our program and is currently working at the Center for Teaching and Learning at BYU.  The topic of Dr. Plummer’s seminar was their developed method of “Back-flip” design.  This course design methodology, incorporates Backwards Design, a model originally proposed by Wiggins and McTighe and the concept of a “flipped classroom”.

The backwards design component is something that seems ubiquitous in higher education.  It is basically the idea that when designing a course, we should start out by thinking about the main outcome that we want students to learn in the course.  This main outcome should subsume all other outcomes in the course or as Dr. Plummer put it, it should be “one outcome to rule them all”.  By setting this outcome and working backward, you will ensure that all of the content and formative outcomes will be working towards pushing students toward the main outcome.  The flip part of “back-flip” design comes from using the “flipped classroom model” in working toward those individual outcomes.

While Dr. Plummer’s framework seemed pretty commonsense, I was particularly intrigued by the idea of explicitly stating outcomes to students.  In higher education, we seem to devote a lot of time to the creation and correlation of learning outcomes.  I even recall the several times that I’ve spent at the beginning of a semester reading through course outcomes with a student (I hate to say it, but many times I have skipped through those outcomes with my students in favor of getting to the interesting part of the syllabus).  What do those course outcomes mean to the student however?  Are they simply assumed by the student when they take a class in a particular topic?  Are they only in the class because it is a required credit?

What I appreciated about Dr. Plummer’s examples were how the designed outcomes were tied closely to tangible competencies.  The example that he gave was a groundwater geology class (if my memory serves me correctly).  The main outcome of the class wasn’t assessed by merely taking a comprehensive exam, but it was assessed through the compilation of a detailed proposal and report done by the students, something that would mirror what they might do in the real world environment.  So while the “back flip” model doesn’t explicitly state it, it seems that in achieving the stated outcomes of the course, there is an attempt to create some more authentic and beneficial forms of assessments for the students.  That is always something that I appreciate.