Teachers vs. Instructional Designers- Some Thoughts and a Personal Reflection

Nowadays, schools do their best to appropriately use and teach technology, as a result, many job openings have surfaced, and experienced “ICT instructors” find themselves needing to match their practical experience with their credentials. This has created a flood of new teachers seeking professional development, and many higher education institutions expanding their programs to include more teacher training courses.

So nowadays, what are the similarities and differences between the roles and expectations of teachers and instructional designers?

What are teachers expected to do that instructional designers are not?

Teachers work with students, and their main responsibility is to ensure that the Written Curriculum is properly translated into a Taught Curriculum.

Teachers are not required to see the “big picture” in as much detail and understanding as instructional designers are. They are more concerned with the implementation of the designed curriculum, and they negotiate the curriculum only at their level, often only with their students. In addition, teachers are expected to build and maintain relationships with students (and with parents to some extent), and to ensure their instructional strategies are effective.

What are instructional designers expected to do that teachers are not?

Instructional designers work “behind the scenes” and their main responsibility is the Written Curriculum.

Instructional designers are expected to have a clear understanding the big picture, as they are in charge of the development of curriculum for more than one area. They are also expected to be knowledgeable and experienced in a variety of instructional models and strategies, and to be sort of “guides” for the practitioners of their design. Also, instructional designers are expected to continuously meet with principals, Heads of Departments and teachers in order to ensure cohesion and proper understanding of both how the programs are set up and applied (initially), what the school’s and departments’ needs are, as well as how the newly designed curriculum fits the existing systems.

The major differences between a teacher and an instructional designer are:

  • Instructional designers are concerned with the cohesion of programs rather than with particular implementation of any one program.
  • Instructional designers prepare the grounds for teaching, while the teachers do the actual groundwork and instruct children.
  • Instructional designers must be resourceful in terms of finding information from a variety of sources (teachers, the Internet, books, etc.) and put it all together into a unit of study. Teachers, on the other hand, must take that product and break it down into smaller steps and ensure the written curriculum is taught effectively.

A Reflection

Since I am a practicing teacher with strong passion for technology and design, I guess it would be appropriate to reflect on my own role…

Although I am a classroom teacher, much of my role has to do with both designing instruction and the implementation of the designed curriculum. Deliberately teaching in schools that use thematic and inquiry-based curriculum (International Baccalaureate organization) requires adjustment of the taught curriculum every time a unit is taught. I find this multi-tasking to be both advantageous and difficult. On the one hand, being in charge of deciding what the learning goals would be and how it would take place is extremely important to me. However, on the other hand, the job is very time consuming, and requires teachers to be both resourceful and to continuously work with other educators to ensure the curriculum is designed well.

In my experience, in schools where a curriculum coordinator does his/her job properly, the task of designing and reflecting on curriculum becomes a pleasant experience. It is always a shared process, and good coordinators solicit ideas form teachers, discuss them, and go do their research with the goal of coming back and presenting the teachers with interesting teaching strategies, innovative ideas, and resources to use. They allow the teachers to teach, while they take on the responsibility of ensuring that all the groundwork is ready for them to do their job.

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