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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Learning Experience Design Model: Bridge the Gap between Tradition and Innovation

Designing lessons focused on creative development requires a shift from traditional lesson and unit plans.  

Sometimes we want to change but just don’t know where to start; it is often easier to fall back on what we already know.  As I develop my own program centered around creativity and higher level thinking, I often wonder how to best to share what I have learned in a way that people can jump in and explore.   What would be the most essential tool to use when learning to design creative explorations and Genius Hour?  A colleague of mine asked me to help her design a Grade one unit about animals.  As I started to wonder about possibilities, my mind kept veering towards Dr. Robert Kelly’s Learning Experience Design Model. This planning tool aides the teacher in planning units and explorations of any length, while scaffolding for individual student creative development.  It works in tandem with the Seven Strands of Creative Development and helps each student progress towards the production of original work towards the end of the unit.  

Read on for an overview of the Learning Experience Design Model:

This is a planning template that allows the teacher to differentiate for each student right from the beginning of an exploration.  Teachers can easily relate to the familiar framework,  similar in structure to traditional lesson/unit plan design.
Set a pre-inventive structure.  In other words, determine the direction in which you want to guide your students but don’t set an exact outcome at the end.  Creative development is dependent upon the process and time spent cycling through research/investigation and experimentational development.  Final outcomes and representation of learning will become more defined as students build on their knowledge and experience.  What are the questions that you will ask the students to find out what they already know and what they might like to learn and discover?  What activities will you plan to help students with early idea generation?

Type 1 experiences are based on technical acquisition and discipline competency.  

Generate a list of skills and concepts that need to be taught from as many areas of the curriculum as possible or necessary.    Do you need to teach a particular technical skill  or concept that students might need during type 2 or 3 activities?  An art technique?  A writing strategy or genre?  Type 1 activities can be intermixed throughout the learning experience, whenever a mini lesson is required to teach a skill or concept.

Type 2 experiences are co-owned between student and teacher.

This is an opportunity for the student to apply new skills and knowledge.   Set the parameters for the students in a way that encourages choice.   Perhaps start with lessons and conversations about your unit of study.  Progress to other areas such as how to add details to a drawing, or how to create a clay sculpture.   Feedback should be frequent, either on student blogs, in conversation or written in journals focusing on the skills and concepts being developed.  Positive feedback and constructive comments should be embedded into the lesson plans to help the students progress.  Give students opportunities to reflect on their work and the chance to redo and revise to demonstrate their progress and above all, their success.  The experimentational phase of creative development allows students to play and create multiple prototypes.  Here is the perfect opportunity to teach students how to analyze their work and that there is learning in failure.  Students learn an essential life skill when they have to problem solve  and analyze their work.

Type 3 experiences are student-owned with a personal emotional connection.

Students set an inventive structure or blueprint based on the learning exploration that has taken place up to that point, incorporating their choice of representation and materials used.  In lower grades,  it helps to have a bulletin board for students to post their idea generation, questions, plans, and photos of their progress. Remember that all work is relevant to previous student work and that not all students are ready for Type 3 experiences.  This is where personalization and scaffolding comes in.  For those who demonstrate readiness to explore and represent the topic independently, let them go. If students are still learning concepts, or need help creating a plan, offer more teacher support.  The students who are achieving creative sustain will cycle through the idea generation, research and experimentation to finally converge.   A regular feedback loop enables students to reflect on their own and others’ work.    It is the learning process here that is important and the ability to collaborate throughout the exploration.

Assessment should be formative, dialogic feedback based on authentic learning experiences.  

The resources section of has some tools for you.  Balance your assessment of creative development with skill acquisition.  

Constraints and Considerations:

Traditional unit or semester plans are usually teacher-driven with set time frames, providing little opportunity for students to apply their thinking skills within an authentic context.  For students to move on to Type 3 experiences, spend as much time as possible between Type 1 and Type 2 activities to allow for plenty of idea generation, research and experimentation.  Use the space in your classroom to provide lots of stimuli for the students. Stimuli can take the form of books, internet, pictures.  When students walk into a classroom that intentionally displays work in progress and  any extra visuals, their curiosity comes out to play.  This way they can explore many different options and avoid early closure of ideas. Early closure is like writers block:  it sometimes occurs from a lack of stimulus and engagement.  

Now download a copy of the Learning Experience Design Model and try it out!


Kelly, R. W. (2012). Educating For Creativity: A Global Conversation. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Brush Education.