The design of holistic learning environments


instructional design; holistic design; learning environments


One of the factors that makes a design compelling is when it has a sense of harmony and completeness. When we experience the design, it does not feel like a collection of individual parts that just happen to be together. Instead, they “fit” together. In fact, we likely do not stop to consider the discrete components making up the design at all. But if we do notice the individual parts, we typically can sense how each belongs. There is a sense of balance and resonance that emerges from the precise configuration we experience. We see the design as a whole, meant to be experienced as a whole. And in the best cases, the sense of completeness and balance somehow extends into us—we feel more complete and more in balance because we have encountered something as complete and in balance as this design.

Original Publication Citation

McDonald, J.K. (2021). The design of holistic learning environments. In McDonald, J. K., & West, R. E. (Eds.), Design for learning: Principles, processes, and praxis. EdTech Books. Retrieved from

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Permanent URL


EdTech Books




David O. McKay School of Education


Instructional Psychology and Technology

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor