Analysing functionally

What? One of the eight Knowledge Processes of Learning by Design. Analysing Functionally involves students thinking about the functions, roles and purposes of the different ideas, concepts and theories with which they are engaging. To appreciate the role or function of something is to add meaning to that something thereby deepening the students understanding, particularly if that function can be linked to their lifeworld or personal experiences – existing or new. This anchors the learning in what learners know or have already experienced.

Why? Analytical skills are highly valued in academic and organisational settings. Such skills underpin diagnostic and problem solving abilities and encourage curiosity and questioning. Functional analysis provides ‘cause and effect’ understanding and is concerned with how things work, or with exploring a things role or purpose – understanding a things role or purpose is foundational to understanding how things work together or how different concepts, when marshalled together, form a theory. Again such skills are valued in many settings – particularly in technical, engineering and problem solving endeavours.

How? Analysing functionally is about posing questions such as ‘What is it for?’ or ‘What does it do?’ or ‘How does it work?’ The teacher might ask ‘What is the purpose of this text?’ or ‘How does the author want us to feel?’ and ‘How are we made to feel this way?’ The teacher could use a Retrieval Chart with a range of headings designed to guide, scaffold and support learners as they explore a text, prompting them to identify and note the different roles or functions of various textual features. In the Retrieval Chart reproduced below the teacher is prompting students to consider the function of different visual features of a graphic novel. The students are learning that the authors of such texts use a combination of different visual clues and techniques to achieve particular purposes. This activity could lead to an Analysing critically activity or prepare students to create their own visual text or graphic novel (Applying appropriately or Applying creatively) .

What do the visuals in this graphic novel do?









Gaze and Line: Demands & Offers


See the Lanyon Tool-kit for additional tools, tactics and references for Analysing functionally.

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