Building on Prior Knowledge

One of the things I miss most from my past life as a museum educator is the curriculum design aspect. I used to love holing up in my office, among all the astronomy books and videos, the old planetarium shows at my back, huddled over books and a notebook, and the old Apple they set up for me. The one that barely spoke to the network so I could send finished lessons and workshops on to the Education Specialist. I love the research and the creative process inherent in creating any piece of curriculum. It’s so much fun!

One of the challenges inherent when designing curriculum in an informal setting is trying to draw on the prior knowledge of the students. In the informal setting, the teacher is often confronted with this great unknown. What does the student bring with them when they walk into a workshop or class? Traditional curriculum can anticipate this question a little bit by designing not only the course, but also the prerequisite courses that will give the student the necessary skills to succeed in the current course. For the informal learning environment, this isn’t always possible.

I’m noticing more informal learning situations where a structured class system is set in place to give a student all the skills necessary to walk away from the series with useful skills and information. It’s a great idea because it promotes breaking up important information into relevant and digestible chunks and then creates reinforcing moments.

Inspired by this article from Experienced Designer Network, found via elearnspace

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