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ACTIVITY 1-3: Identify learner characteristics and write a project rationale

Teachers, curriculum specialists, and other members of your partner school district will provide you with key information about your target population. Educational research literature can provide a framework for guiding the information that you gather from your school district. The matrix below presents a helpful framework for choosing learner characteristics that you are interested in exploring in depth through your partner school district and the published literature. Instructional designers typically group learner characteristics by grade level, geographic region, level of inquiry experience, socioeconomic level, ethnic and racial characteristics, and prior knowledge into four categories: cognitive, physiological, affective, and social.

A Sampler of Learner Characteristics, Organized by Category

Information gleaned from your school district as well as the literature can help you to evolve an interesting set of data and ideas about your target learners. Suppose you plan to design for native Alaskan students and have identified a partnering school system, the Juneau School District. One of the science teachers mentions that her students are interested in any lesson that involves stewardship of Alaskan fauna and flora. You read a 2003 review written by Apthorp, DeBassige D'mato, and Richardson (see note), which reinforces the learners’ interest in Alaskan natural history. Its bibliography points out other useful publications, and you begin to develop storylines and themes for making your design engaging. Because NASA designers are developing inquiry-based projects, you should consider an evaluation of the learners’ and district’s level of experience in inquiry-related curricula as part of this activity.

Deliverable 1: Project Rationale
A project rationale is your first deliverable, and it is the first step in creating a design document for your inquiry-based learning activity. In your rationale you include the following items: 

  • Project name.

  • Team members, including partner school district.

  • Targeted learner population and its learner characteristics (grade level, demographics, sociocultural background, level of inquiry experience). You can use the table above to help you.

  • Description of the compelling need your project meets. The NASA Education Enterprise Strategy (2003, pp. 8-10) lists academic trends and gaps in the United States. If your project addresses diversity, identify an existing gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics proficiency between members of your targeted populations and other learner populations. You can discuss your entire population or subsets. You will revisit this item in step 2.

Download the project rationale outline and complete the form, using Microsoft Word

Examples
Review the following examples of deliverables for step 1.  The first is a NASA-sponsored Classroom of the Future example prepared for you. Examples 2, 3, and 4 are deliverables submitted by previous Virtual Design Center participants.

Return to step 1 for debriefing.

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REFERENCES

Apthorp, H.S., DeBassige D'mato, E., & Richardson, A. (2003). Effective standards-based practices for Native American students: A review of research literature. Aurora, CO: Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning.

NASA Education Enterprise. (2003). Education Enterprise strategy. Washington, DC: NASA Office of Education.

Note: The Apthorp, DeBassige D'mato, and Richardson (2003) PDF file is provided courtesy of the authors and Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL). In return, they ask that you please share with them stories of any resultant effects within your perceptions and/or practice.

 

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