Often when I am asked what I am studying in graduate school, my response is not very helpful. My father has taught in the instructional psychology and technology (IP&T) department my whole life, and now I am a student in the same department, but as a kid I couldn't really even pronounce the name of it let alone understand what it meant till I was about 22 years old.
I find it helpful to break it down.
Instruction: closely tied to fields of education, training, curriculum development, and learning
Psychology: a branch of science devoted to the human mind and behaviors
Technology: the application of science through via human-generated tools
For the most part everyone in the IP&T program can point to a key part in the definitions above as to why they are there. Among the current study body I know former teachers, e-learning designers and developers, church administrators and trainers, former business consultants, filmmakers, computer programmers, a social media consultant, and many other wonderful people. It is an understatement to say that this program is made up by a uniquely diverse group of students.
Instructional Design as a field might sound a little grandiose, but most people are much more familiar with it then they realize. Many folks design instruction informally. For example, if you are teaching your child a lesson such as looking both ways before crossing the street or why they should follow the curfew - then when you plan what you are going to teach them you become an instructional designer for a moment. Teaching is interrelated to designing instruction. If any teaching is going on, somewhere at sometime someone designed the teaching experience.
Lots of instructional designs come in the form of extremely boring and painful forms such as required curriculum in k12 settings or e-learning software issued by your HR department. Other forms of instructional designs are much more interesting. Indeed Hollywood has picked up on instructional design in the military setting. In Inception the characters use a technology created by instructional designers for military training purposes to illegally plant ideas in people's mind. In Ender's Game the characters spend the majority of the film going through simulators and drills built by instructional designers to prepare the kid warriors for an alien invasion.
That doesn't mean it is impossible, it just means it must be intentional. Good instructional design doesn't happen by accident, though it is often thought about in that way.
As I start my second semester in the IP&T program I am excited to learn more about simulations and research. Something I want to explore more in detail is empathy in instruction, and methods for encouraging more empathic design in a variety of instructional settings. I am also curious about how instruction in families can be improved, particularly instruction created by professional or government organization for families such as the Strengthening Families Program and others. Additionally I want to better understand the difference between instruction and teaching and how learning can be improved in informal environments on the web and in homes.
I am a graduate student in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. I enjoy writing, hiking, and spending time with my family.