Breadth first vs Depth first in Learning Design

It’s been long since I last wrote, as actually this post was supposed to be shared over a month ago, but things got hectic and I wasn’t fully focused or in other words not in a breadth-first mode.


I heard about the idea of breadth-first and depth-first design at a conference. I really liked the concept and searched more about it. That’s when I came across Donald Norman’s articles and videos. What I’d like to share in this post is how to relate and apply it to learning design. You can see Donald Norman’s video here and judge for yourself.

Here’s his definition of depth-first and breadth-first design:

When you’re anxious you squirt neural transmitters in the brain, which focuses you, makes you depth-first. And when you’re happy, what we call positive valence, you squirt dopamine into the prefrontal lobes, which makes you a breadth-first problem solver: you’re more susceptible to interruption, you do out-of-the-box thinking.

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