Aesthetics Instructional Design

The Aesthetic Experience of Learning

Towards an Emphasis on the Aesthetic Experience

When it comes to learning, much attention is given to the procedures that govern the transfer of information from one individual to another (Gagné, 1985), the structures that facilitate that transfer of information (Gibbons, 2003; Gibbons 2014), and methods that can be used to develop self-regulated learners (Järvelä & Renninger, 2014; Nilson, 2013). Learning as an experience has also been addressed in recent years. Wilson and Parrish (2011) defined a transformative learning experience as one that “leaves a lasting impact on a person’s sense of competence or place in the world” (p. 11-12). Additionally, Parrish has advocated for increased emphasis on aesthetics in instructional design (2005) and has explored the potential that attention to aesthetics may have on a learner’s engagement with an experience (2009). 

But what is the substance of an aesthetic experience? To arrive at an understanding of how aesthetics may enhance an experience, a deeper understanding of both may be useful. Such an understanding may deepen the value an instructional designer places on the aesthetic elements of their work, prompting them to place as much value on them as they do the content to be presented, or the instructional system that transmits it. The purpose of this paper is to review some philosophical principles about the substance of an experience and to explore aesthetic principles from philosophers who have described the phenomena of an aesthetic experience. Approaching an understanding of what constitutes an aesthetic experience may aid a practitioner in recognizing elements that may enhance or detract from the overall learning experience. In this paper I establish a framework for defining what an experience is, provide an aesthetic point of view from which an experience may be evaluated, and present principles of aesthetics from three aesthetic philosophers.