Final Paper for UMB INSDSG 602: Towards an Instructional Design of Emotional Experiences

This was my third and final written assignment for the course INSDSG 602, The Adult as Learner at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Master of Education, Instructional Design program.  While I’m a bit embarrassed about posting it here on this blog (on account of it being uber-mushy to the point of indulgence), this paper contains some concepts that I intend to explore in the months ahead and so it gets a spot in the “idea scrapbook.”

CONTEXT:  For my first semester in the program, I took two courses with two excellent instructors: Introduction to Instructional Design (“601”) with Jane Buckley, and The Adult as Learner (“602”) with Canice McGarry.  601 focused on the Dick and Carey instructional systems design model, and 602 focused on adult learning principles, as expressed by such educators such as Malcolm Knowles and Raymond Wlodkowski. Each instructor was a great role model of the subject they taught:  For 601, Jane Buckley was well structured, organized, considerate, diligent and practical in her approach.  For 602, Canice McGarry was all about The Love… and all about having us students reflect deeply and personally and to express ourselves freely… in others words, be as touchy-feely as possible in an effort to recover from our past traumas as victims of the traditional classroom educational system.  Well, that, and she wanted us to use the word “I” as much as humanly possible in our writing (my misgivings duly noted here).

Is 602 Just Another Cog in the 601 Dick & Carey Grinding Wheel?

Reflections on the Semester and Looking Forward

INSDSG602 The Adult as Learner

Written Assignment #3

Dan Spira

December 10, 2009

What a great introduction to Instructional Design and Adult Learning!  I’ve had a fabulous semester and am very grateful to my instructors and classmates for providing such an enriching experience in both classes 601 and 602.  I was told going in that the two classes would offer a study in contrasts, two very different sides of the instructional design field. As someone who has always been “dual-mode” creative and analytic, I welcomed the opportunity to tack back-and-forth between two mental modes while navigating through these waters… though I’ve found myself paddling against the currents at times (and that time is usually around 9pm).

One of my tendencies is to consciously and subconsciously connect (over-connect, really) the things that I’m studying or working on – as I’ve come to understand this about myself, I’ve used it to my advantage for solving difficult problems… basically, drag out the creative process and give myself opportunities to “bump up” against other content that will yield fruitful connections (yes, this is a very elaborate, and almost credible, rationalization for procrastination!). So it’s come to no surprise to me that I keep thinking about how to merge 601 and 602 conceptually and practically.

What I’ve heard at times is, “Everything you learn in 602 fits into the Dick & Carey model’s Step 6 (Develop Instructional Strategy).”   Of course, there is a nod to 602 in the mention of the learner’s motivations and attitudes as part of the Dick & Carey model’s Step 3 (Analyze Learners and Contexts), and maybe, just maybe, an element of it in Step 1 (Identify Instructional Goals). But overall, the overarching Dick & Carey approach (and similar ADDIE-based ISD models) is such that the ISD model is positioned as a meta-concept to the “smaller” matter of being an effective instructor.   Oh, and by the way, we’re told that instructor-led training is going the way of the dinosaur, so really, it’s all going to be about subordinate skills analysis, writing performance objectives, and creating assessment instruments, formative evaluations,  blah, blah, blah…..   Really, 602 is just a small, increasingly diminishing piece of the much larger puzzle.  Right?


Several months ago, I was part of a large training team delivering a multi-day program for recently promoted Associates at [LARGE GLOBAL INVESTMENT BANK]. A small army of the “best and brightest” were flown in from all over the world to learn about presentation skills, handling tough conversations, building empowering beliefs, cultivating mental toughness, creativity, and all kinds of other good stuff.  For several sessions, I was paired up with a senior Partner of my firm, and as I practiced the opening “pitch” of a particular session, he stopped me cold and gave me some great advice.   He said something like this: “Dan, all this stuff with the WHAT and WHY and HOW and OUTCOME and the AGENDA… just forget about it.  Ask yourself, what is the JOURNEY that the participants are going on?  What is POINT A? What is POINT B? What are the points in between?   Think about what is happening to their attitudes, their energy, their beliefs, during this journey. NOW you can think about how you’re going to open the session, and think about what you’ll talk about at different points during the 90 minutes.”  I’ve heavily paraphrased his words, but the gist of it was:  It’s not about the sequencing or chunking of Subordinate Skills or even about the Learning Objectives.  It’s about a learner’s Experience and Change Journey.

ADDIE has a habit of making instructors lose the forest for the trees. Even as people acknowledge that the Dick & Carey Model is far too painstakingly detailed, soul-crushing and mentally grinding to be fully and completely followed on a regular basis in the real world, there is a subtle buy-in to the notion that, yes, THIS would be the ideal… if we had the time and money, we’d break everything down into component molecules and build The Perfect Lesson.   Bah.  No way!

Here is something I came across recently online, on a blog posting by Clark Quinn ( ) : 

I was talking about learning games a year or so ago, and mentioned a concept that’s slowly been percolating since. The idea was based upon the notion that we don’t design content, we design experiences, and therefore it could be useful to think of a learner’s emotional trajectory through the experience.

In words I described it as “wry recognition (of the necessity), followed by some slightly apprehensive anticipation, which would segue to growing confidence and finally a feeling of growth and then closure.

I’ve take my first stab at capturing it:

The notion is that, as you progress, your confidence should increase and your anxiety decrease, while motivation develops for the learning from the beginning, and then is maintained until the end. Your feedback solicited.

When Quinn writes, “we don’t create content, we create experiences,” and draws a graphic trajectory of learner motivation, confidence and anxiety, I’m reminded of that great advice I got from my mentor in that [LARGE GLOBAL INVESTMENT BANK] session.  In truth, none of the ADDIE-based ISD models claim that our job is to create content.  They want us to create measurable instructional goals or “learning objectives.”  Key word is measurable. Furthermore, while advanced ADDIE-based model (such as Dick & Carey) include obligatory references to “attitudes” as a possible element of the learning objective and learner analysis, in reality, Auntie ADDIE wants us to focus our attention as designers on the rational analysis, on the psychomotor and verbal skills, on how we’ll be constructing rubrics on our assessments and assessments on our rubrics.

What is so powerful about this notion that “we create experiences,” is that it means that the “emotional touchy-feely” stuff is not just an afterthought in an otherwise reductivist, analytical, military-industrial system.   We can direct the entire ISD process to support and nurture the transformative experience that is effective instruction.

I’m tempted to propose a new ISD model that uses a 602-ish /Knowles/ Wlodkowski/touchy-feely-based approach to considering the totality of the instructional development process, from performance analysis right through to evaluation, and not just the in-the-moment learning strategies.  But I’m mindful of something I’ve often read in the ISD literature, which is that this field has almost as many models as it has practitioners!  Also, from what I’ve read so far about the Gagne and Briggs approach, the answer may already be out there, codified and ready for use.  As a fairly concrete learner, I can’t really tell by reading about it, though… I’ll need to do a project or two using their approach.

So that’s what I’ve got to look forward to.  That, and applying more of this good ‘ol 602 flavor to webinars, podcasts and other, non-instructor-led learning “interventions.”

Thank you Canice for being such a wonderful, dedicated and caring teacher. You really walk your own talk.

Enclosed below is a little “parting gift” for you, something that I thought you might appreciate. I’ve taken a quote from the ancient Tao Te Ching [Dao De Jing] and adapted it based on a translation by Dwight Goddard and Henri Borel (1919):

 When great teachers teach, students know little of their existence. Teachers who are less great win the affection and praise of their students. Common teachers are feared by their students, and unworthy teachers are despised. When a teacher lacks faith and conviction, you may seek in vain for it among their students. How carefully a wise teacher chooses their words. They perform deeds, and accumulate merit! With such a teacher the people think they are teaching themselves.

– Tao Te Ching (3rd-6th century BC), Chapter 17


About danspira

My blog is at: My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on December 10, 2009, in Instructional Design, Learning and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Glad you found my site! I talk a lot about learning experience design (and wrote a book about it: “Engaging Learning: Designing e-Learning Simulation Games”,

    I think we can do a lot by focusing on what the learners need to be able to *do* after the learning experience, and guiding their emotions *and* their cognitive aspects towards that goal. With that, you can use a very minimalistic approach.

    I hope you carry forward this recognition of focusing on the learner experience, and I wish you the best of luck with your program!

  1. Pingback: Capstone Milestone — Submission for Masters | Meme Menagerie

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