What? In the context of Learning by Design coherence is a fundamental design aim.
In order for a Learning Element to be coherent – for both teacher and students – there needs to be clear links – a throughline – between the teacher’s knowledge objectives, the learning activities and knowledge processes designed to achieve those objectives, and the outcomes and assessments designed to demonstrate student accomplishment of these objectives. There also needs to be a connectedness between each activity-knowledge process – building on a previous activity, contributing to the following activity. If asked by students or colleagues the teacher of a coherent Learning Element can readily explain why a particular activity was employed and how this activity related to earlier or later learning activities and to the objectives and planned assessments. This means that if a teacher sets an objective – As a result of completing this Learning Element students will be able to identify positive and negative images and words in a text – she will have designed activities using appropriate knowledge processes to accomplish this objective and the means to see whether students have in fact achieved this aim. In this way the teacher is deliberate and purposeful in designing her teaching.
Why? Designing for coherence means that both teacher and students are more likely to understand a unit of work. The teacher can be clear about her intent and deliberate about the means for achieving that intent. Teachers’ designs can be more easily shared amongst colleagues when those colleagues understand and appreciate the purpose and mechanics of the designs. The designs of one teacher are more likely to be realised in full by others if those designs are coherent and explicit.
How? In the entries for Analysing critically, Applying appropriately and Applying creatively the idea of ‘coherence’ is explored in the ways in which van Haren, in her Learning Element Problematising zoos through Zoo by Anthony Browne, designs activities using the Knowledge Processes. Principally van Haren designs activities and uses tools which activate and mobilise the pedagogical capacities of the Knowledge Processes and which are directed at achieving specific and explicit goals and purposes. She sequences the Knowledge Processes in such a way that each one benefits from and builds on the affordances of the ones that precede it while paving the way for those that follow. The Knowledge Processes are sequenced such that the connections between them are logical and apparent. They are weaved together such that their direction and intent is clear. How can a teacher design for coherence? The teacher should think about the overarching purpose and goals of your design; ; consider the ways in which your activities (Knowledge Processes) address these goals and support and scaffold each other; consider the connections and flow between activities; and seek out and cultivate a Critical Friend with whom you can exchange designs for review, critique and feedback.