Instructional Design Newbie Needs Pointers

Subject: Instructional Design Newbie Needs Pointers
From: "Blount, Patricia A" <Patricia -dot- Blount -at- ca -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 12 Feb 2009 09:52:21 -0500

Hi, Mark,

On Digest and saw your post from yesterday... I worked as an ID for many
years, developing SAP curricula as well as courseware for home-grown

For books, Robert Mager has a series of ID books (Preparing
Instructional Objectives, Measuring Instructional Results, Analyzing
Performance Problems, etc.) I highly recommend them. Though I no longer
work in that role, his books are still on my desk, a gift from one of my
favorite managers before he was let go. I miss him...

Another valuable resource is the ASTD (

If you have the time for training, research Langevin Learning Systems.

Also, look up Kirkpatrick's Training Evaluation Model and Bloom's

In a nutshell, develop the subject you're teaching with the job tasks
your audience must perform.

Here is a brief outline on how to do that, born over the past decade
when I first began developing curricula - first as a tech writer and
then, as an ID. (To others on this list, your mileage may vary and you
are free to disagree with me. Just kindly keep the personal insults out
of it, please.)

1) Know your audience. What you are teaching is use of a tool...that
tool may be software, hardware, both or even a new business process. The
members of your audience have a job to do. Further, those jobs may vary
among the members of your audience. (Example: suppose you are teaching a
new Contract Processing application. Contract Coordinators may create
them, Contract Admininstrators may be responsible for ensuring legal
requirements are met, Contract Approvers well...approve them, etc.,
etc.) Your goal here is to analyze the job responsibilities of your
target audience - outside of the subject you're teaching. What tasks do
they perform? How are those tasks triggered? What skills and knowledge
are needed to perform them? Come up with a list of tasks.

2) Now analyze the subject you need to teach. If you're teaching
software use, your goal is to identify how the software supports your
audience's job tasks. Note: this is NOT the same thing as describing the
menus, options and commands. Describing the GUI is NOT training. You
need to put the software into a job-related context and you need to do
that for your entire audience. List all the software menus, commands,
wizards, screens, etc., etc., that support each task you identified in
the first step. You will likely be able to categorize tasks by job
role... sort of a Class 101, 201, 301, etc. hierarchy, with 101 being
for the first rung of employees in a given business process (i.e.,
contract coordinators)

3) The tasks you've identified need to be ranked somehow according to
how important each task is to the successful performance of your
audience members' jobs. This information is necessary so you can
determine the best training methods for your target audience. Sometimes,
just having a broad understanding of a topic is fine but other times,
physical practice is required to master a certain task. If you're
teaching surgeons to perform a new surgical technique, then your course
MUST offer opportunities for hands-on practice, but if you're teaching
medical administrators about a new surgical procedure, perhaps a lecture
or a demonstration is sufficient. Here is where Bloom's Taxonomy can aid
your efforts. Your goal is to identify what level of task mastery is
sufficient. Verbs like Do, Design, Perform, Analyze, Discuss...each
infer varying degrees of task mastery. Choosing the right verb can help
you identify appropriate assessments later.

4) Assessments are not just tests. Multiple choice questions do little
more than assess a student's luck. They're okay for learning objectives
such as Discuss, Choose, Identify, Select... But for learning objectives
in which mastery is described as "Perform", then your assessment method
must involve the act of performing.

5) Constraints... Not all tasks can be physically assessed due to
budgets, timing, or even practicality. (Hence the creation of the flight
simulator) Here is where technology can aid you. Consider web-based
demonstrations or simulations, instructor-led classroom training, or
even small group 'teach-backs' in which the students instruct each

Putting it all together: The successful performance of a task requires a
bit of background information (why is performing it important? Who needs
it? What happens if it's done wrong?), a demonstration on what
successful performance USING THE SUBJECT TOOL looks like, and then
opportunity for practice to the level of mastery you identified, plus an
assessment. The assessment is also tailored to the level of mastery. It
could be a simple test or an elaborate practical lab or something in

I'm happy to help you off list if you need more info.

Off to my next mtg...

Patty B.


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