Design for How People Learn

By: Rob Cooney 

From iPhones to simulation curricula, the application of design in our day-to-day lives is a hot topic. While there are a plethora of books about slide and presentation design (read anything by Garr Reynolds or Nancy Duarte for more on this topic), little has been published to guide educators through the general process of design and it’s utility for medical education.

Julie Dirksen changes this. Her book, Design For How People Learn, is a useful manual for the novice educational designer. She walks the reader through a multitude of topics including:

  • Analyzing learners

“All the theory in the world won’t help you as much as spending time in your learners world.”

  • Goals setting and the creation of objectives

“Define the problem before coming up with the solution”

  • Memory
  • Attention

“Extrinsic rewards will attract your learners’ attention…but they will distract them from the real goal (of learning).”

As you read through the book, Dirksen applies her skills as a masterful illustrator to bring lightness to the text and proves (via stick figures) that you don’t need to be fancy to get the point across. She also utilizes the latest theories from the cognitive psychology literature to support the process of good educational design. While the book is a textbook, it is written in a conversational style that makes it easy to read and accessible to educators who are just beginning to learn about design. There are pearls in this book for educators at every stage of the game.

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From the EiC: Check out these two other excellent education design texts.