What is Engineered Learning?
The Trefny Innovative Instruction Center at the Colorado School of Mines promotes a model of course design and implementation that we refer to as Engineering Learning. We engineer learning to ensure the richest possible learning opportunities for Mines students. Learning that is engineered is designed through an intentional and iterative process that is based on decades of education and cognitive research.
Engineering Learning begins by first clearly defining and articulating what are the intended learning outcomes. Once learning outcomes are defined, then you design the most relevant way to assess student achievement of those learning outcomes.
As you continue to refine the learning outcomes and assessments, you step back to consider the learners, their anticipated prior experiences and understandings, common misconceptions, and the context/sequencing of the course. Then you design or select tasks to provide rich learning opportunities for students to be exposed to the content, struggle with the concepts, and work to apply the ideas and skills to master the learning outcomes.
This is a dramatically different approach than most instructors utilize in higher education.
Engineered Learning is not defined by textbook topics or sequence. Rather Engineered Learning focuses on designing experiences for the learner to cognitively wrestle with the concepts, develop professional practices, interact with peers, maximize the interactions between students and the instructor, and supports students as they tackle mastering the learning outcomes.
As the instructor, you are the designer of the tasks and the guide on the side, walking around the meeting space, naming what students are doing well, and asking clarifying and probing questions, or making suggestions to nudge them further down the road toward mastery of the learning outcomes.
You want to maximize the impact of the time students are in the classroom with you – so you are there to support them as they tackle the complex problems, as they struggle to begin a project, as they encounter anticipated snags or barriers to their learning, or when they need you to model an expert’s way of thinking about a problem or concept.
In essence, class time should be where students are challenged and guided. Out-of-class-time should be where students receive, gather and organize information. Most of your work is done outside of the classroom, selecting or crafting the tasks and organizing the resources. Students carry the cognitive load during the class meetings.