Friday, April 11, 2008

Problems of Practice approach

For the last several years, I have spent a lot of my consulting efforts working with higher education faculty and corporate instructional designers on appropriate instructional strategies for new and repurposed online learning opportunities (e.g., courses, tutorials, modules). Consistently, the tendency has been to start with what has already been done in the past, especially in a repurposing situation: “This has always worked in the face-to-face course, so why change it?” and “I have all the PowerPoint presentations I use in the classroom ready…can’t we just upload those to the server and call it an online course?” However, from my own experience (as well as from the literature), a problem-centered instructional approach is much more effective. Unfortunately, it isn't easy to develop authentic problems that represent the workplace and/or profession to focus and drive learning. So, over the years, I have developed a simple approach -- very similar to a backwards engineering approach to design -- to help myself, colleagues and clients create problems for problem-centered instruction (for face-to-face or online courses and workshops). I refer to this approach as the Problems of Practice (PoP) approach. The four supporting matrices -- with guided, reflective questions -- provide a roadmap for creating authentic problems.

For more information, please see two articles that describe the PoP approach in detail:

Dunlap, J.C. (2008). Getting to the heart of the problem: Using the Problems of Practice approach as a starting place for creating problem-centered instruction. Performance Improvement, 47(8), 26-34.

Dunlap, J.C., Sobel, D.M., & Sands, D. (2007). Supporting students’ cognitive processing in online courses: Designing for deep and meaningful student-to-content interactions. TechTrends, 51(4), 20-31.

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