Expansive framing as pragmatic theory for online and hybrid instructional design
This article explores the complex question of how instruction should be framed (i.e., contextualized). Reports from the US National Research Council reveal a broad consensus among experts that most instruction should be framed with problems, examples, cases, and illustrations. Such framing is assumed to help learners connect new knowledge to broader “real world” knowledge, motivate continued engagement, and ensure that learners can transfer their new knowledge to subsequent contexts. However, different theories of learning lead to different assumptions about when such frames should be introduced and how such frames should be created. This article shows how contemporary situative theories of learning argue that frames should be (a) introduced before instructional content, (b) generated by learners themselves, (c) used to make connections with people, places, topics, and times beyond the boundaries of the course, and (d) used to position learners as authors who hold themselves and their peers accountable for their participation in disciplinary discourse. This expansive approach to framing promises to support engagement with disciplinary content that is productive (i.e., increasingly sophisticated, raising new questions, recognizing confusion, making new connections, etc.) and generative (i.e., supporting transferable learning that is likely to be useful and used in a wide range of subsequent educational, professional, achievement, and personal contexts). A framework called Participatory Learning and Assessment (PLA) is presented that embeds expansively framed engagement within multiple levels of increasing formal assessments. This paper first summarizes PLA as theory-laden design principles. It then presents PLA as fourteen more prescriptive steps that some may find easier to implement, allowing them to learn as they go. Examples are presented from several courses from an extended program of design-based research using this approach in online and hybrid secondary, undergraduate, graduate, and technical courses.