Amy Potthast | Instructional Coach & Designer | Learning Design Studios

Posts tagged ‘instructional design’

Follow the design process – Get where you want to go

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!!


Serving diverse learner needs

Yesterday I had coffee with a new acquaintance. I’ll call her Deb.*

When I explained what I do for a living (design new training programs for adults; coach subject-matter experts to teach and train better; coach writing), Deb told me about a two-day workshop she attended recently. Here are the salient details:

  • The training was a nationally-known program based on a best-selling book, and led in-house by the human resources staff of Deb’s company.
  • The training involved learning scripted conversations, and practicing the scripts during role plays.
  • Deb’s boss arranged for her to attend.
  • Deb’s an introvert — but not shy. She needs to ponder and process her thoughts internally before speaking.
  • Deb’s intelligent, educated (has a masters degree from a U.S. university), and practical.
  • Deb’s from a country in Southeast Asia, and speaks excellent English.

So…Deb really didn’t like the training.

The reasons Deb disliked the training

1. The scenarios she was asked to practice weren’t realistic to her.
For example, one dealt with what she should say to a colleague she suspected of stealing from the company. She said that was not something she would ever address on the job because she’s not in that kind of role.

2. She wasn’t permitted to paraphrase the script.
She was instructed to read directly from the script. And she didn’t think it was (more…)

Subject Matter Experts teach, train + present better as a result of working with me

Greetings! I’m Amy Potthast — instructional coach, training program designer, and podcaster.

Amy Potthast and VISTA trainees, Oxbow Park

Amy Potthast

I work with social justice, nonprofit, and philanthropy professionals to:

  • establish workshop or course goals,
  • plan meaningful and novel activities that support evidence-based learning theories,
  • review & evaluate or design teaching materials,
  • set up pilot workshops to test new materials, and
  • give actionable feedback on rehearsal.

Additionally, I design custom training programs on a range of issues by working in tandem with subject matter experts and the client organizations which sponsor the projects.

This is my portfolio, a work in progress. Feel free to poke around. And contact me by emailing amy.potthast [at]