27 March 2008

3d -- A model for learning and improvement

All learning and improvement begins with action -- with doing. For example, as a child you touch a hot stove.

Action leads to discovery; in this case, the discovery that the action led to pain, burning, discomfort.

Based on this discovery you design new ways of interacting with your environment.

Based on your design you do things differently. Over time this leads you closer and closer to your ideal relationship with your surroundings.

The entire process is called successive approximation.

Successive approximation is the secret sauce that makes methods like agile programming work so well.

It's the same process that is at work when you have a conversation.

You say (do) something, and then, based on the feedback you receive (body language, facial expression, reply) you discover something, based on which you design your next utterance, etc.

Successive approximation works because, unlike many business thinking, planning and execution activities, it's easy and natural; we do it instinctively.

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Anonymous said...

I'm a bit confused by your diagram and explanation, specifically the starting point. You say that the learning starts with the doing, but the arrow's start point straddles "design" and "do".

Unknown said...

My bad -- I'm supposed to be an information designer!

I suppose that, because these activities unfold over time, I think of the diagram as a clock face, with the arrow's motion working like the sweep of a second hand.

So in my mind the line starts at the beginning of the "DO" zone and then starts to sweep clockwise.

But if it didn't make sense then my explanation is no excuse. Communication isn't message sent, it's message received and understood.

My apologies Kyle.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dave. In a way, it does make sense. It could be argued that every action actually starts with the design instead of the doing. A child touching a hot stove is usually not 100% without intent or design.

The starting point is blurry, I suppose, so perhaps it belongs EXACTLY where you put it...

Unknown said...

I love that interpretation Kyle!

Anonymous said...

Learning is cyclical. You design an experience, try it out, learn from that experience and go on learning.

Newman said...


This is spot on! I'm an instructional design grad student at UNCW and when I showed my cyclical ADDIE model (which looks alot like your diagram)a got polite nods.

It's great to see someone I respect validate the idea.

The main difference is that my diagram had the five ADDIE divisions - Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. I figure -
Your Design = Analysis and Design
Your Do = Develop and Implement
Your Discover = Evaluate

Another difference is that my diagram goes from the outside in. - starting from wide circles and crunches down to short iterations. This might be because I created it from the teacher / instructional designer point of view, and yours is from the learner point of view.

Wow! Thanks for the boost this morning.

loyal blog reader,

Unknown said...

Thanks for the note Newman!

I can see why you drew your spiral from the outside in -- anything you are learning might eventually become something you have learned; that is, it's become embedded knowledge that you don't notice anymore.

In this model you could envision the spiral radius getting smaller and smaller until it rounded off into a circle.

I would probably put analysis in the discover category and develop in the design category -- but that's without fully understanding your model.

Also, any model like this is an artificial construct. In real life the lines become more blurred as one activity blends into another.

Anonymous said...

I love this site and the stacks of Flickr photos that go with it. I'm a geography teacher and Depute Head of a large school in Glasgow, and I am fascinated by the whole concept of how we use design to improve the quality of information we give to students, and, how they can improve the quality of their own learning through effective visualisation. Do ou work with schools and educators?

Unknown said...

Hi Jim,

I definitely work with schools and educators. I will be speaking in August at a conference on learning and the brain, and I am working on a book that talks about the need for more focus on visual thinking in primary and secondary education.