Getting the Right Balance to drive Learning Outcomes – Global v/s Sequential

I have maintained that getting the balance is important while designing a training or learning intervention. And, that the balance comes at many layers. An important balance to achieve is between global versus sequential learning. Global learners are those who need to see the big picture first, before looking at detailed information. On the other hand, specific or sequential learners prefer to learn step by step going through smaller bits of information. While some of the participants may have strong preference towards either global or specific ways of learning, most would fall into the continuum between global and specific. So it’s important to be able to get some balance between global and specific when undertaking instructional design.

Let’s take an example to differentiate between someone who has a strong preference towards “global” versus someone else who has a strong preference towards “specific or sequential” way of learning. Consider that the topic they need to learn is a process. Global learners would prefer to first understand the context for the process, the output from the process and the roles and responsibilities of people involved in the process before getting down to individual process steps. The Sequential learners, on the other hand, would prefer that each step of the process is detailed, with the roles & responsibilities of those involved in step. They would go step by step to arrive at the outcome from the process.

Global learners would be able to associate disparate bits & pieces of content, add it to their existing knowledge base, and figure out a concept. Specific learners will have to be given a definition, examples and contexts to be able to derive this concept. Don’t forget the entire continuum where learners’ preference is somewhere in between.

So, how do you figure out what’s the right balance between the two? How do you structure the content flow to ensure both global and specific learners are equally engaged and don’t feel bored or left out. A good way to achieve this maybe by using alternating strategies. Perhaps a sequence such as this:

  1. Give a broad overview of the topic and establish the value
  2. Give a structured outline of the topics that will be covered
  3. Present the content as per the outline, topic by topic
  4. At the end of each topic, connect the content to larger concepts
  5. Make them solve simple problems that has sequenced steps to be followed
  6. Make them solve a problem where creativity is required

As I have maintained earlier, there is a clear need to ensure there is a good balance in instructional design. This one was about balancing between global and sequential learning. There are other aspects of achieving this balance as part of instructional design that I will address in other posts.

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