Do No Harm (to the learner)

The phrase “Practice two things in your dealings with disease:  either help or do not harm the patient” is found in Epidemics, Book I, of the Hippocratic school.  I believe this idea can be applied to instruction, in addition to medicine, that is Practice two things in your development of instruction and training: either help or do not harm the learner.  Some instructional or training contexts involve life or death consequences, so the quality of the instruction  is even more important than in situations in which lives are not on the line.  Regardless whether instructional or training contexts involve physical life or death consequences, though, we can do harm (impede learning), making learning cumbersome, delayed, or altogether precluded, when content is structured ineffectively. Avoid extraneous cognitive load, which results when content is structured in such a way that requires the learner to use cognitive resources for tasks unrelated to learning and understanding the content. It may be that the content lacks logical flow, images are used that do not aid understanding or are irrelevant, gaps in content make it challenging for the learner to understand the whole of the content or result in tenuous understanding, etc. All of these require the learner to use finite cognitive resources for tasks unrelated to learning and understanding the content.

As an instructional designer and adjunct sociology instructor, my goal is to make learning easy and light, to do no harm to the learner. How about you? What are some ways in particular that you ensure you do no harm to the learner?

Practice two things in your development of instruction and training: either help or do not harm the learner.

Be Extraordinary!

-WB

 

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