Systematic design of teaching and learning

Systematic design of teaching and learning is an important factor for success in the enhancement of teaching and learning and in educational innovation. Design processes are goal oriented; they lead to high quality education, are continuously adjustable and let teachers keep a critical eye on their education. Making these design processes explicit enables teachers to discuss them.

The first steps in successful educational design processes are the analysis of learning goals and student characteristics, the identification of a mutual supported educational vision and the formulation of a clear and accepted educational goal.


In order to be successful, goal-oriented design processes are needed to implement the eight educational themes. This approach should include SMART-described ambitions per process phase.

What are the key aspects?

An example of a general educational design model is ADDIE (standing for analyse, design, develop, implement and evaluate). Many educational design models are based on the ADDIE model (Branch, 2009). This is the case for both micro-oriented models such as the conditions of learning (Gagné a.o., 2005), the Systematic Design of Instruction (Dick & Carey, 2015) and the 4C/ID model (van Merrienboer et al., 2002) as well as macro-oriented models such as the Elaboration Theory (Reigeluth, 1999).

In the analysis phase of the ADDIE approach, the teachers involved study the final attainment levels of their students, the qualities of the students that start the specific course programme and the characteristics of the subject matter. These analyses support teachers to develop their own vision on teaching and learning. Such a vision can contain a number of elements:

  • A vision on teaching and learning in an academic environment. The starting point of such a vision is a clear picture of the knowledge, skills and attitude of the alumni. This picture is used to structure the course programme. Elements of such an educational vision are the integration of research and education and the activation of students’ learning through research activities. Both elements are briefly described below, and in more detail elsewhere in this guide.
  • A vision on how to activate students’ learning. A vision on activating students’ learning starts with an idea about organising the interaction between teacher and student and the interaction between students in order to stimulate students’ learning processes. The nature and content of the interaction should connect to students’ interests and should stimulate further development of students’ interests. Examples are Problem-Based Learning, the Harvard case-based method, Project-oriented Learning and Peer tutoring.
  • A vision on graduate attributes. The attainment levels of many course programmes do not fit with the qualities alumni need in their first jobs. These course programmes aim at delivering scientific researchers, but many graduates start working in other jobs. They do not become scientists, but rather become professionals. Programmes need to answer the question to what extent the course programme is organised to support the students to acquire the required knowledge, skills and attitude for this type of career.
  • Constructive alignment of learning goals. When designing learning activities based on an explicated vision, the course programme should be aligned in terms of interrelated learning goals. The knowledge and skills that students acquire in one part of a course programme should be built upon in the next part of the programme. All parts eventually lead to the adoption of knowledge and skills that students need to have after completing a specific programme. Flexible learning paths through the course programme can be used to align with and to stimulate the development of students’ interests. (see Flexible learning pathways)

When implementing an educational vision, the analysis phase is the more crucial to see through the enhancement and innovations. The results of the analysis inform the direction the next design phases will take. These phases are described in more detail in the tip concerning curriculum design.

Educational change is carried out by a group of teachers and supported by educational leadership and provision of facilities by the educational management. These two aspects have been proven many times to be crucial in educational change processes. It is impossible to underestimate the importance of both of these aspects. More details in how to involve all teachers and practice educational leadership will be described in the tip concerning change management.

Further reading

  • Branch, R. M. (2009) Instructional design: The ADDIE approach (Vol. 722). Springer Science & Business Media. – This book offers a practical guide for the use of the ADDIE-model in instructional design projects.
  • Gagné, R. M., Wager, W., Golas, K. C., & Keller, J. M. (2005) Principles of instructional design (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson. – This model of instructional design is basically an information processing model. Applying Gagne’s nine-step model in a lesson plan is an excellent way to ensure effective and systematic learning.
  • Dick, W. & L. Carey (2015) The Systematic Design of Instruction. Pearson Education Limited. – This model uses nine phases to describe an iterative process of instructional design.
  • van Merriënboer, Jeroen.J.G, Richard E Clark, Marcel B M de Croock, (2002) Blueprints for complex learning: The 4C/ID-model, Educational Technology, Research and Development. 50 (2);39-64, DOI: 0.1007/BF02504993 – This Four Component Instructional Design Model (4C/ID) prescribes instruction for learning in a complex environment. This model focuses on incorporating prerequisite skills with learning.
  • Reigeluth, C. M. (1999) Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory (Volume II). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. – According to Reigeluth’s elaboration theory, instruction should be organized in increasing order of complexity for optimal learning

Example: curriculum development

BA Archaeology

Audrey Aijpassa (Archaeology) and Daan Romein (ICLON)

What is this example about?

In 2014 the Faculty of Archaeology started preparing for an international BA Archaeology. Until then, the Faculty had only accepted international students in their Master’s programme. Based on experience, the Faculty recognised that both teachers and students need certain skills to make an international classroom successful. These skills are best learned by practice.

Several lecturers had positive experiences in the International Classroom workshop (ICLON). A logical next step was to include this workshop for all teachers in the preparation for the international BA Archaeology. Considering the large number of teachers, a shortened version of the workshop was offered at several moments in 2015. Since 2016, the workshop is a part of the University Teaching Qualification programme for new teachers at the Faculty of Archaeology. Furthermore, a student version of the workshop is included in the introduction activities for new BA as well as MA students.

What are the objectives?

During the workshop, international classroom skills are developed and practised. Both teachers and students experience that the workshop works well in creating awareness, receiving tips and tricks, and sharing and learning from experiences about cultural differences. As the workshop participants typically represent different nationalities, the international classroom already offers an international experience.