As an instructional designer you have carefully designed and developed useful content, engaging learning activities, and challenging assessment items for a project. You have ensured that everything is well correlated to stated learning objectives and that they measure knowledge and skills at the appropriate level of Bloom’s taxonomy (or Depth of Knowledge level). You have spent considerable time chunking the presentation content for readability and digestibility and have provided sufficient opportunity for user interaction in your lesson design. Discussion questions, if used, have been written to encourage critical and creative thinking and real-life application. You feel good about what you have created but So What? The important question is does the instruction actually address the learning need?
To answer that question you need to engage in a process of project evaluation and reflection. Project evaluation and reflection are essential aspects of instructional design.
Project evaluation is a process used to determine whether the design and delivery of a project were effective and whether the proposed outcomes were met. To begin the process, you should consider conducting both formative and summative evaluations.
A formative evaluation is a method for judging the worth of the instructional project while the content and activities are in development or in progress. This type of evaluation focuses on the process. Remember the goal is for learners to master new skills and knowledge. Thus a formative evaluation is a useful tool for instructional designers, teachers, and students to use during the design, development, and implementation of the project. It’s main purpose is to monitor how well the content, learning activities, and assessment items are aligned to the learning objectives so any deficiencies can be determined and appropriate changes can be made immediately.
A summative evaluation is used after a project wraps and focuses on whether or not the intended outcomes were met (e.g. effectiveness of the instruction). Questionnaires/surveys, interviews, observations, and test results sent at the end of a project can all provide valuable data to analyze and should answer questions such as:
- Did students meet the learning objectives? Did they learn what they were supposed to learn?
- Did students gain new knowledge and skills?
- Can students transfer the newly learned knowledge and skills to real-life situations?
- Can students demonstrate other tangible results of the learning process in terms improved thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills?
- Did students like the learning process? Were they satisfied?
- Does any of the content need to be updated?
- Are there any changes needed in method of delivery?
- Did learning activities and assessments measure what they were intended to?
Reflection is also a valuable practice to engage in during and at the end of a project. Reflection is thinking about something and giving careful consideration to how to learn from mistakes and improve both product and process. Tools you might employ during reflection include a daily journal and notes from discussions with colleagues and others. Again, So What? Who Cares?
Targeted and thoughtful reflection can help the instructional designer refine processes by thinking about the strengths and weaknesses in each instructional design phase. Effective reflection can facilitate improvement in current projects and necessary actions leading to smoother projects in the future.