By Ana Marjanovic, Instructional Designer, EdTech & Blackboard Administrator


Consider the following situation: you spent hours preparing engaging lessons and eliciting meaningful discussions; you then received the research paper submissions to find out that some were plagiarized. You are trying to make sense of it… ‘why would some students plagiarize after all the help I provide’?! You are finding yourself deciding how to address the issue and how to prevent this from happening again. In the end, you act by suggesting that the students who plagiarized redo the assignment.

If this situation was familiar to you like it was to me, you might have just gone through the four phases of the SEDA Model. “Originally developed to help learning designers write powerful scenario-based questions, the SEDA Model is a practical tool for multiple learning design purposes” (Thalheimer, 18).

The SEDA model was presented within the larger Learning-Transfer Evaluation Model (2018), which postulates that the purpose of learning is enabling the learner to perform in real-world situations; in other words, the learner is supposed to engage in learning to transfer what they have learned in real-life situations (Thalheimer). Thalheimer used the SEDA Model to measure the learner’s decision-making process and their ability to execute the learned content. He used the term Task Competence to refer to the learner’s ability to make sound decisions and take meaningful actions based on those decisions. According to him, the SEDA Model provides the learning designer with the metrics to measure learners’ Task Competence.

Situation  >  Evaluation  >  Decision  >  Action

The SEDA model simulates what people usually do in the real world; the word is the acronym derived from the following words Situation, Evaluation, Decision, and Action. Thalheimer points out that people are “constantly faced with Situations… they Evaluate these situations – in other words, they make sense of them. Once they understand a situation, they make a Decision about it. Then they take an Action” (19). The model is critical for measuring the effectiveness of learning programs because it helps to learn. Designers define a targeted performance situation where the learner will demonstrate their abilities to make decisions and act.

The applications of the SEDA model are countless. Thalheimer suggests various formats of assessments to measure Task Competence – from scenario-based multiple choice/answer quizzes to more elaborate simulations (22-24).

In further text, I would like to present how I used the Model to evaluate student performance in the Writing About Art class I taught between 2017 and 2021.

Initially, the class had generic short paper assignments that asked students something along these lines ‘Write a 5-page paper on the work of art of your choice, but you should implement formal analysis of art in your essay.’ I got many good essays, but I also received too many plagiarized papers. I decided to implement scenario-based learning and ended up redoing the short paper prompts.

One of them (Figure 1) puts a student in the shoes of an art consultant (which is a real-life possibility for an art student). The assignment created a fictional client – a psychotherapist, Mr./Dr. Talk. The targeted performance situation is that of Mr./Dr. Talk, who specializes in family issues, wants to decorate his office with a work of art that will help his patients talk about their issues. Mr. Talk is thinking about purchasing the Dissolute Household by an XVII century Dutch artist, Jan Steen. Each student was impersonating an art consultant and worked independently. Their job was to analyze the painting and make a recommendation to Mr./Dr. Talk about whether the painting’s symbolism is suitable for his office.  

Figure 1. Scenario-based learning assignment prompt for Writing About Art.

Implementing the SEDA model, the Situation was defined through the interactions between the personas – one was a student taking the role of the art consultant, and the other was the client, Mr./Dr. Talk. A student was tasked to Evaluate whether the painting was suitable for the needs of their client, which required research. They were expected to make a Decision to either recommend a purchase or not based on their research. Students were prompted to Act by writing multiple iterations of their paper; one submission of the outline and the final draft was required, but an additional rewrite for each was allowed.  

Not only that restructuring the assignments to follow the SEDA Model significantly reduced the number of plagiarized papers, but more importantly, this assignment format allowed me to give more meaningful feedback at each stage of student performance. For example, to decide, the student had to conduct meaningful research and locate useful information (not just any information). Formatting a bibliography is not a sign of a successful learning transfer but locating reputable and useful sources that are utilized in the paper is! Moreover, having students formulate and express their decisions benefited them in practicing critical thinking and confidence building. Overall, the SEDA Model helped me anchor my feedback and helped students better understand the skills they were building through the scenario-based assignment.  



Thalheimer, Will (2018). The Learning-Transfer Evaluation Model: Sending Messages to Enable Learning Effectiveness, Retrieved on July 10, 2022, from 

  1. Jim McCarthy 3 months ago

    Your real-world example allowed me to understand the SEDA Model. Thanks for posting it.

    • Author
      ANA MARJANOVIC 2 months ago

      You are very welcome. Please share how you’ve implemented it in your work.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?