Instructional Design Element 2: Design

🕑 7 minutes read | Jun 20 2024 | By Richard Head, TTA Learning Consultant

In this next phase of Instructional Systems Design, we look at how to design instruction by incorporating all of the information gathered during the analysis you conducted (You performed an analysis, right?). And, from the analysis, let’s say you’ve determined that some training effort is required to bring your employees’ performance up to some new level or bring them up to speed on a new product or service.

The design phase is the key to the ADDIE model because it focuses on the overall approach to training, lists learning objectives, defines learning objectives in rigorous detail, specifies content and content structure, and lists the kinds of instructional strategies needed for the audience we’re working with.  Design helps us make sure we deliver an experience that will be interesting, relevant, and has the desired performance change.

If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s difficult to select a suitable means for getting there—and you may not even recognize your destination when you get there. You’re not where you wanted to be because you didn’t specify where you wanted to be. So, we need to specify where we want to go, how we’ll get there, and whether our destination is what we want. In other words, what do you want the learner to do, in observable, measurable terms? It’s not enough for learners to have head knowledge; they need to be able to perform differently.

In order to get to a new destination, you need a map that specifies what you intend to do and, at the same time, at least outlines how you intend to measure whether what you do produces the end results you want.  Or, to use another common analogy, if you need a new house and you’ve decided to build it from scratch, you need an architectural design.

When I was learning to fly, my “understanding” or “comprehension” of aerodynamics, safety, emergency procedures, etc. was to help me do only one thing: demonstrate to an FAA examiner that I could perform (fly) according to published standards. Head knowledge was important, but being able to fly the airplane safely and competently was critical. The flight examination used a tried-and-true method called Condition, Action, Standard. During my flight exam, the examiner would tell me what to do (establish a condition), check to see that I performed the appropriate actions to deal with the condition and that those actions met the exacting standards published by the FAA.

In business or in not-for-profit organizations we need two major activities during the Design phase: defined objectives and a design document that lists everything we intend to do.

Reasons for Writing Objectives

Without clearly defined objectives, there’s no real foundation for selecting or defining instructional methods or content.

The reason for developing objectives is to determine whether desired training outcomes have been met once the training has been delivered. Tests or exams only measure what the learners can do immediately after the training has completed. The bigger issue is whether the learners will be able to perform differently—and consistently—once they’re back on the job. Classroom performance is one thing; everyday performance is quite another. (We’ll get into how to measure success in the Implementation and Evaluation modules, including what needs to happen after the training is complete so that new learning is cemented and on-the-job performance is consistent).

Terminal and enabling objectives

Terminal objectives

From the needs analysis, a terminal objective should be developed for the new tasks that were identified.

In the case of our instructional objectives, we’ll list the terminal objectives in terms of Condition, Action, and Standard.  For example, let’s say our objective is to safely change a flat tire on a vehicle and return the vehicle to roadworthy service.

The terminal objective has three main parts:

  • Condition: What exists (location, resources, equipment, supports)
  • Action: What the learner will do (the task statement)
  • Standard: What level of proficiency (accuracy, quality, quantity)

Enabling objectives

An enabling objective should be developed for sub-tasks.  Generally, every objective should contain all three of these parts. Realistically, it’s time-consuming and repetitive to list all three for every enabling objective but you should consider it.

Terminal Learning Objectives for Changing a Flat Tire

Condition: For a vehicle with a flat tire, all standard tools required to change the tire are secured in the manufacturer’s prescribed location and available for use, an inflated spare is in its prescribed storage location and available, and the manufacturer’s instructions are available.
Action: The learner will replace the flat tire with the spare tire (and notice we don’t say “be able to…” because they need to demonstrate that they can do it, not just verbally describe how they would do it).

Standard: Each step in the procedure will be performed in sequence for safety concerns. The flat tire will be safely removed. The spare tire will be attached securely to the wheel hub with all lug nuts.  The tools and the flat tire will be returned to their storage areas. The procedure will be accomplished within 15 minutes, restoring the vehicle to a safe-to-drive condition.

Enabling Objectives

  • Assemble the necessary tools and components
  • Safely stabilize the vehicle according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Raise the vehicle using a jack
  • Remove the flat tire from the vehicle
  • Secure a spare tire on the vehicle
  • Lower the vehicle
  • Store all tools and equipment

Enabling Objectives with Associated Steps

  • Assemble the necessary tools and components
    • Locate and remove from the vehicle all tools required to perform the tire change
    • Locate and remove the spare tire from its storage location
  • Stabilize the vehicle
    • Engage the emergency brake of the vehicle
    • Place blocks behind and in front of the three tires that are not flat
    • Remove the hubcap or wheel cover from the flat tire using the flat end of the lug wrench
    • Using a lug wrench, loosen the lug nuts on the flat tire but do not remove them
  • Raise the vehicle using a jack
    • Identify where to attach the jack to the car
    • Attach the jack and lift the car according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Remove the flat tire from the vehicle
    • Completely remove the lug nuts from the hub of the flat tire
    • Remove the flat tire from the hub by pulling the tire and wheel from the hub
  • Secure the tire on the vehicle
    • Place the spare tire on the hub
    • Replace the lug nuts on the lugs
    • Hand-tighten each lug nut (finger-tight, without using lug wrench at this point)
  • Lower the vehicle
    • Lower the car using the jack
    • Tighten the lug nuts with the lug wrench
    • Replace the hubcap or wheel cover
    • Detach the jack from the vehicle according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Store the tools and the spare tire
    • Replace the jack and tools in the trunk or storage area
    • Place the flat tire in the trunk or storage point

While the level of detail immediately above may seem too laborious for multiple objectives in a training course, we must specify in detail the condition/action/standard elements so that every learner and every evaluator knows whether objectives were met.

Create a Design Document
A design document lays out all of the elements referenced in this blog post so that you have a reference guide. It specifies the following elements so that project sponsors and stakeholders know exactly what you’re proposing:

  • Purpose of course
  • Audience (a profile of the audience and where/how they’ll access the course)
  • Topics you’re covering during the training event
  • Detailed learning objectives for each topic
  • Modality you’ll use to teach that topic (i.e., instructor/classroom, job aids required, online self-study, job shadowing, etc.), and media strategy (use of audio, visual/video, Internet, corporate intranet, combinations of classroom/online/independent self-directed study, etc.)
  • Supports required after the training event (time to practice new skills on the job, new resources readily available, management continually supports learners in new behaviors, etc.)
  • If creating online learning, list the courseware authoring tool(s) required
  • Budget & Resources (new money; repurposed budget items; new staff; repurposed staff and how their jobs will be covered during their new work, and how you’ll get their agreement to work with you; signoffs on temporary processes; equipment; software, audio/visual creation, etc.)
  • How success will be measured (describing how you know learners have been successful)

Design for Success

Specifying exactly what you intend to do, why you’re doing it, how you’ll do it, and how to know if you’re successful is essential to making sure your training intervention works. Just as analysis can sometimes be laborious and time-consuming, design can also seem like a very involved process—and it can be. However, if you put in the time and effort now, you’ll maximize the chances that your training is successful and minimize the chances that you’ll have to design something different because it didn’t work.

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