Role of Vital, Essential, Desirable (VED) in promoting learning

Faculty must learn to differentiate course syllabus into Vital, Essential, and Desirable (VED) for maximizing gains out of their time-bound teaching engagement.

Time is a pure public good. It does not discriminate; neither has it entailed any rival characteristics (rival means a good if consumed by one person can no longer be consumed by others; for example apple, if eaten by one person is no longer available for others). It is available equally to all, in quantity as well as intensity. It has never been about what time does to us. It is always about what we do with the time. There is yet another important characteristic associated with time called non-storability. Time passed is time spent. Unlike all other resources that we use in life, time cannot be stored for later use. More so in the field of education wherein students and faculty equally feel crunch of time. In this scenario, it is important for faculty as well as student to prioritize by differentiating between what is vital, what is essential and what is desirable. The VED framework (Vital-Essential-Desirable Framework) works as a guiding principle to optimize learning given the time constraint. It also helps in setting the desired learning outcomes.

Faculty complaining about shortage of time in the classroom seems almost universal. The complaint generally runs like ‘there is a lot to teach but the time given is too short’.  Delivering high amount of content in a limited time frame of 60 minutes or 75 minutes is a matter of great anxiety. Often, we also see the episode of faculty overstepping the allotted period time. This eats up the break-time allotted between the two periods for students.

In the first place, we seem to be excessively content oriented. As a faculty, we are tempted to teach everything that falls under the spectrum of the course.  Secondly, we do not see the content from VED point of view. All content must undergo VED analysis. This will enable filtering of vital, essential, and desirable. Faculty can decide what proportions of vital, essential, and desirable to be delivered. In order to establish the reasoning for VED, there is a need for backward calculation. Start with desired learning outcome and weave backwardly to differentiate between vital, essential, and desirable. The VED principle is applicable in managing all facets of work where we feel the crunch of time shortage.

Promoting self-learning using VED

Yet another associated benefit is that it can also be used to promote self-learning for students. Part of the syllabus identified as ‘vital’ is brought into the classroom. Vitals are very much concepts and theory-based discussion. There is no compromise on the vital content and faculty engage students in understanding the concept and theories. When it comes to ‘essential’ part of the syllabus, it mostly entails ‘application’ and ‘doing’ part. Such contents can be used for creating short assignments. Topics to fall under ‘essential’ are learnt better in group. The learning outcomes associated with ‘analysis’ and ‘synthesis’ abilities of students can easily be incorporated while setting the assignments based on contents falling under essential. The ‘desirable’ content of the syllabus can create magic if pushed outside the teaching agenda and made into an experiential learning exercise. Such topics are better learnt by students independently without the supervision of faculty.

VED and Bloom’s Taxonomy

VED is amenably linked to Bloom’s taxonomy of learning. The revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (as expressed in term of action verbs) provides cognitive learning process from lower order of thinking to higher order of thinking. The six levels of cognition, ranging from lower order to higher order, are remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and create. Clearly, the vital part of the syllabus should be mapped with the lower order of cognition while the desirable part of the syllabus to be mapped with higher orders. The essential part of the syllabus should be somewhere in between, catering to apply and analyze.

The VED is extremely important for students who are looking for optimizing their time plan. Students need to balance out among vital, essential, and desirable for them. Herein as well, a backward calculation would help. Set your expected outcome first, and then weave it backward to differentiate VED and decide on time bound engagement. However, this also means one must have aim in life and willingness to work towards it. 

For any further elaboration on VED and Bloom’s Taxonomy, readers may write a request in comment with email.

Author: Dr Prabhat Pankaj

Dr. Prabhat Pankaj is a postgraduate in Economics and a Ph.D. in applied economics. He is a teacher by choice and started his career 30 years ago in 1991 from Arunachal University. He has been teaching Economics at postgraduate and undergraduate levels for about 30 years, in Universities and B-Schools in India and abroad, including 7 years in Bhutan. Dr. Pankaj has also obtained his Executive Education in "Management and Leadership in Higher Education" at Harvard University, Boston, USA. Furthermore, He has written for the Times of India and other popular publications. Currently, he is serving as the Director of Jaipuria Institute of Management, Jaipur.

11 thoughts

  1. VED component is critically analysed for designing the course outline and its significance has been reinforced. A catchy beginning with fluid writing style has made this post immensely a joy reading for academic practitioners and a bucketfull of takeaways!

    Rima Namhata

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice description and explanation of the VED framework…much required in planning course planning and identifying the priority areas…..Lovely article

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In today’s competitive exams world, the principle of VED is an essential pathway to be followed for success. Thank you for this enlightening article. Looking forward to many more of this kind.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The importance of VED has been beautifully captured through this blog sir. I think we all need to focus on this framework in terms of planning our courses. This blog serves as the perfect guide to the importance of this framework sir. Wonderfully written and shared sir. Regards

    Liked by 1 person

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