Designing for the Half-Known World: Lessons for Instructional Designers from the Craft of Narrative Fiction

  • Patrick ParrishEmail author
Part of the Educational Communications and Technology: Issues and Innovations book series (ECTII)


The suggestion that Instructional Designers design “learning experiences” instead of “instruction” probably raises few eyebrows these days, but the implications of this shift in perspective for our practices and tools are still being explored. Because experiences are inherently fluid, resulting from individual transactions with a shifting world, their natures are never precisely known—particularly in advance. Instructional designers are often taught to understand their learners as thoroughly as possible, through learner analysis or user-centered design processes, yet attempting to gain complete knowledge of the learner may not be as productive as it seems. Complete knowledge is not only impossible, its pursuit could even diminish the potential of a learning experience if it creates too many preconceptions or the illusion of a perfect fit, and allows little room for personalization. Instead, designers might try accepting the half-known nature of the learning experience and using it to make their designs more expansive, to create compelling learning experiences that draw in students no matter what their definable “learner characteristics” might be. This chapter proposes that learning experiences always have narrative qualities, and that by trolling in these narrative waters, which lie just beyond the edge of the knowable world, we can find tools and techniques useful for creating engaging learning designs. Borrowing from tools used by writers of narrative fiction, it explores techniques for stimulating design creativity.


Design process Narrative design Learning experience Learner analysis Fiction writing Practice theory Esthetic experience Esthetics Empathy Design imagination Design creativity Design stories Story paradigms 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.WMOGenevaSwitzerland

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