Amy Potthast | Instructional Coach & Designer | Learning Design Studios

To get where you want to go, process is helpful.

by Katy Terwolbeck, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Katy Terwolbeck, Flickr Creative Commons

But process requires patience!

Resist the urge to make decisions about content for your upcoming training event — or the activities to include — or the information to list on your slide deck — till you’ve gone through an instructional design process.

Start with roles & outcomes (what learners will do out in the real world after your learning event) …

Based on outcomes, make decisions about:

  • Learning objectives (assessments that allow you to judge the learners’ ability to achieve the outcomes). Robert Mager has written books on writing strong objectives; Blooms’ Taxonomy is also a useful tool here.
  • New knowledge — concepts, skills (the ones that will help learners achieve the outcomes).
  • Activities (opportunities to master the concepts and to practice the skills that support the outcomes) — consider activities that will support learning, not simply fun or “engaging.”  Ruth Colvin Clark has written a half dozen books on learning strategies grounded in cognitive science.

When you are an expert in what you do, it’s really hard to remember what it’s like not to know what you know.  If you don’t first consider learner outcomes, you’ll have a much harder time narrowing down content to include — and you may attempt to over-stuff (but under-serve) your audience.

Over-stuffing your audience with information will make it harder for them to learn, and your attempts to assess them will be clouded — should they be responsible for all the content you’ve delivered?  Will you resent them if they can’t grasp it all based on your many power point slides and your fun activities?

Outcomes focus your assessment strategies to ensure your learners are on the hook for completing course objectives and not memorizing and repeating all the information you’ve imparted (or tried to!).

Good luck and let me know how it goes!!

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Comments on: "Follow the design process – Get where you want to go" (6)

  1. Erin Neff said:

    I’ve been asked to scale back a class I designed from 27 hours to whatever the minimum is that I would need to teach the content. Of course, I’d rather not scale back at all; there never seems to be enough time to cover the material as it is.

    As I was wondering how to determine what to cut I remembered I created a trusty course outcomes guide. Looking over those strong objectives I created from the outset should help me narrow down. I haven’t had the chance to look at my content yet but I have a feeling that I will need to make some hard decisions about the activities and performance tasks we currently do. Any other suggestions?

    Thank you for the suggestion on Robert Mager. Is there any title in particular that you could recommend? Have you heard of Cathy Moore? I think you would find her interesting as well. http://blog.cathy-moore.com/

    • So going back to your outcomes guide is key. Consider focusing on fewer outcomes if your time is cut short. That will help you narrow down objectives (performance tasks), concepts and skills.

      Then you’d want to redevelop the lesson plan, but hopefully if you reigned in your scope (outcomes, etc.) you may have an easier job of creating a shorter lesson.

      The other thing you might want to do is include more information in the workbook, with references and resources for further study. If there are concepts your students need but you don’t have time to work on them during the session, and your performance tasks don’t depend on them, you might write about them in the workbook — you can also ask them to tackle some pre-reading ahead of the session, and use your time in-session to quickly review.

      George Reese told me about a textbook he’s now assigning (after redesigning/developing the instructional design course at OSU) – Instructional Design (Wiley/Jossey-Bass Education) by Patricia L. Smith and Tillman J. Ragan. Availble from ILL through the library, or from Amazon:

      I have heard of Cathy Moore but I haven’t looked at her work much! Thanks for the reminder!!!

      • Erin Neff said:

        Excellent ideas! Giving some of the topics as homework is likely going to be the solution. We go over a lot of the standards of practice for interpreting, but they could just as easily read those on their own. I also thought of assigning them to different groups and each group could present to the rest of the class.

        Thank you for telling me about the Instructional Design book too. I am going to put that one on my list… Book club? ;)

        Your posts continue to inspire me!

      • Oh right, homework :)!!

        Yes, book club. It’s thick so we should break it into chapters.

  2. Carly Brown said:

    Great thoughts as I start thinking about a conference I’m planning for 2014! Outcomes, outcomes, outcomes.

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