Defining a set of guiding learning principles and creating a learning design system to help an edtech organisation adopt a progressive new approach.
Traditional educational approaches for school-aged learners worldwide have often been based on the notion of ‘experts’ and ‘novices’. The teacher (expert) leads their pupils (novices) through a curriculum and at the end their knowledge and skills are tested through a formal assessment.
In recent decades, this ‘knowledge transmission’ model has been widely challenged in favour of a more learner-centred, inquiry-based approach to instruction. Learners themselves are encouraged to construct knowledge through observation, evaluation, reflection and revision. Their learning is monitored continually and used to inform the next steps of instruction, rather than only assessing achievement through high-stakes final tests.
But evolving long-established systems of education into more progressive, constructivist approaches like the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) or the 5E model of instruction presents learning providers like Kognity with complex new practical challenges. And in Kognity’s case, they also wanted to ensure any new directions they took were in line with their broader purpose as an organisation and based on sound principles of effective learning.
Through this project, LearnJam worked with Kognity to explore issues such as:
- What does it mean to radically improve education, and what is Kognity’s strategy for doing this? What guiding principles can we establish that ensure Kognity products truly support Kognity’s purpose and vision?
- What do Kognity truly believe is the best way to facilitate student-centred, inquiry-based learning? What do teachers and students need most support with?
- How can Kognity provide a sound framework for teaching and learning, while also harnessing choice and agency as a pedagogical tool? What’s the best way to give learners and teachers carefully designed paths to follow through learning content while still allowing for some freedom and creativity to navigate a more personal route?
- What is the best approach to assessment? The standard, dominant model globally is still based on summative assessment (i.e. tests at the end of a course) rather than formative assessment (i.e. continual monitoring of learning throughout a course). How can Kognity help teachers and learners satisfy the requirements of their national systems while also integrating more formative feedback as an integral part of the learning process?
- How can we design learning content that is flexible enough to accommodate a range of learner and teacher needs? How can we ensure all teachers and learners feel represented and included in a learning experience?
The overall purpose of this project was to enable Kognity to define their own unique approach to education that allowed them to work effectively with more progressive curricula. This meant reviewing not only the existing Kognity learning design processes but also the principles and purpose that underpin them. The intention was to make learning with Kognity more student-centred, more exploratory, more inclusive and ultimately more effective.
Alignment with LearnJam’s purpose
- Remove barriers of access to education and work
- Support learners who are currently underserved
- Develop skills that we need for the future of humanity, such as more effective communication, empathy and understanding
This project involved 3 main phases:
1. Discussing Kognity’s values and purpose and working through some big, existential questions.
LearnJam first carried out a general review of Kognity’s existing product and learning design processes, and on this basis made general recommendations for improvements. We observed early on in the project a gap between Kognity’s vision and their execution of this strategically. It was powerful to be able to have conversations about values, market positioning and the overall purpose of the organisation. This acted as a way to help make decisions about Kognity’s new approach that would inform their learning design, as well as the specific content and functionality needed to live by those principles.
2. Workshopping and iterating on a set of Kognity learning design principles.
LearnJam and Kognity worked together in a very collaborative way throughout this project, based on a genuine joint commitment to making learning more progressive and inclusive. Through a recursive and reflective approach, we were able to check in with each other frequently, making sure our recommendations were consistently in keeping with the principles of enquiry-based, student-led learning and with the broader Kognity purpose.
For example, we focused on removing barriers of access by considering how the product could be shaped in a direction that allows more learners to participate fully in the experience and gives teachers the agency to personalise their path through the materials. We also considered how Kognity could go further in helping students to develop the skills and knowledge needed for their later lives. We discussed at length how to articulate and enact a principle of continual assessment, so that feedback on learning could be more meaningful, impactful, actionable and supportive.
3. Defining a specific approach for NGSS that enacts the Kognity values and learning principles.
On the basis of our work so far – evaluating the existing Kognity product and approach, and helping Kognity articulate their purpose more clearly through a set of foundational learning principles – we concluded the project by developing a practical toolkit for designing content aligned with NGSS.
It was very gratifying to see how Kognity’s vision could be implemented practically by content authors. We were able to recommend and illustrate various possibilities for writers to create engaging, logically sequenced content for a given topic, while making the most of the functionality offered by the Kognity platform, in order to achieve a particular learning objective in the best possible way.
- We produced a set of clear recommendations for making the Kognity learning experience more effective and more inclusive.
- We highlighted some underlying tensions and questions relating to the new Kognity approach, and facilitated a deeper conversation about how they want to be positioned in the world. This led to a new, more purpose-driven value proposition for the organisation.
- We defined a set of clear learning design principles and sub-principles that can act as beacons to guide the Kognity team in the right direction with their product and content decisions. For each sub-principle, we looked at the impact on the teacher, the learner and the platform.
- We created a learning design system consisting of a set of learning design flows (learning sequences) and components (information and activities that learners interact with) specifically related to the NGSS curriculum. Each flow included guidance for how it could be put into practice by content developers, and which Kognity platform features were suitable.