Respect the [Content] Flow

hand holding a marker
Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0

In addition to growing an instructional design firm, I am a full-time instructional designer. A couple weeks ago, I was tasked with updating all the presentation slides for a one-week school. I really enjoy those type tasks  as they give me the opportunity to be creative while bringing to bear my knowledge of human learning theory and instructional design practice.

I immersed myself in the existing presentation slides, reading them several times over to gain understanding of the content and to cluster and sequence the content in a logical way (i.e. simple to complex, temporally, spatially, etc.) to make learning easy, no extraneous cognitive load. I consulted with the subject-matter-expert on questions about the necessity of content, terminology, images, and transitions. Then, using Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction as a micro framework, I carefully crafted presentations that were sound from an instructional design perspective and well-scripted, easily picked up “off the shelf” for  any qualified instructor at the school to use and teach with.  I felt good about what I created and believed the updated slides added value to the school. Turns out, what  created was not what the school instructors wanted.

After submitting the project to the project manager, I learned that, as it was, the existing content flow in the presentations had been carefully crafted across several instructors and over many iterations of teaching with the slides. The existing content flow was, to the school instructors, like gold, the impurities or problems of which had been borne out by repeated teaching, and what was left was pure and what worked best for them. The instructors did not want any changes to the content flow.

What I learned:  Talk to instructors about plans to restructure content flow before restructuring content; be sure that updating presentations involves changes to content flow and not something else, like aesthetic changes to make all the slides have the same look and feel (a master slide background, for example); that is what these instructors wanted.

Respect the Content Flow.

Be Extraordinary!

-WB

 

Good Job!

Last week, I started re-reading a classic in the e-Learning literature, Clark and Mayer’s e-Learning and the Science of Instruction. In Chapter 12: Does Practice Make Perfect?, the authors outlined six principles for practice. I will highlight Principle 3: Provide effective feedback.

I have written here before on feedback (see the posts Three Types of Feedback and Practice + Feedback = Improved Learning Outcomes). What I got from Clark and Mayer’s take on practice feedback, that I have not seen, was the tip to avoid phrases that “draw attention to the ego and away from learning” (p. 267), such as “Well Done!” (p. 267), “Good job!”, “Nice work”. The tip struck me because I have been the recipient of such phrases and have written those phrases in feedback to my students.

Clark and Mayer  wrote that practice feedback should be explanatory, assisting learners in building appropriate “mental models” (p. 263). Using a phrase such as “Good job” or “Well done” may make the student feel good about himself or herself; however, when the phrase is used in isolation– without specific explanatory feedback on what was done well or what was good about the response, product, or presentation–it misses an opportunity to provide the learner with information on the specific knowledge, skills, or competencies that are accurate and should persist in future work. Likewise, practice feedback for an incorrect response that does not provide explanatory feedback, that is feedback that stops at merely informing the learner that a response is incorrect but does not tell the learner what is incorrect and how the response may be improved, misses a “teachable moment” (p. 263) for the learner.

In conclusion, telling a learner that the work he or she produced is good is  OK, or telling a learner that his or her work is incorrect is OK, but failing to tell the learner what makes the work good is NOT OK, and failing to tell the learner what is wrong with incorrect practice work and how to improve it is NOT OK. Remember to provide explanatory feedback.

See the post Three Types of Feedback, for descriptions of adequacy, diagnostic, and corrective feedback, from Robert Mager’s book Making Instruction Work.

e-Learning and the Science of Instruction by Ruth Colvin Clark and Richard Mayer

 

Be Extraordinary!

-WB

Create Assessment Items Before Developing Instruction

Assessment by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

Following the Dick and Carey model of instructional design and other prominent instructional  models, the first task, after analyses (learner, context, and instructional), is to create learning objectives. The learning objectives should be measurable and observable; no squishy objectives allowed. One must be able to tell when the learning objective has been reached (observable) and the extent to which it has or has not been reached (measurable).

Immediately after creating  measurable and observable learning objectives, the savvy instructional designer or instructor or teacher will create assessment items that are aligned to the learning objectives. It is all about alignment to the learning objectives. Assessment items should be aligned to the learning objectives, and instructional content should be aligned to the learning objectives- providing content, resources, and activities that will assist the accomplishment of the learning objectives.

Assessment items that are misaligned to the learning objectives will not provide valid measures of the effectiveness of the instruction. Effectiveness of the instruction is determined by the extent to which the learning objectives have been accomplished, as measured by the assessment items. Creating the assessment items immediately after creating learning objectives and before the instruction will ensure unnecessary and irrelevant instructional material is excluded from your instruction as you conduct a constant comparison between the inchoate instruction and the aligned learning objectives and assessment items.

-WB

Be Extraordinary!

Staying Sharp, Always Be Improving

wooden tiles that spell Improve
Improve by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

I am a LinkedIn Premium member. Premium membership has its benefits. One of the benefits of LinkedIn Premium membership is access to LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com). LinkedIn Learning has thousands of training videos and tutorials on a variety of topics. To date, I have completed 24 training sessions, mostly on Instructional Design topics but also on business topics, such as Executive Presence and Body Language. My mantra is “Always be Improving” so I take advantage of opportunities to acquire, develop, and maintain knowledge, skills, and abilities that will profit me vocationally, personally, academically, or spiritually. At least, I use to, on a regular basis, take advantage of opportunities to acquire, develop, and maintain knowledge, skills, and abilities that would profit me in the various areas of my life.

Last month, I suddenly realized that it had been over a month since I completed a LinkedIn Learning course. I could feel myself loosing ground (Well, that may be a bit hyperbolic; I felt like I wasn’t staying on top of my craft.). I had allowed working as a full-time Instructional Designer, growing a business, and teaching online crowd out my professional development time. Last week, I got back to “always improving”; I completed one course on LinkedIn Learning– Agile Instructional Design, and I started another course– Adobe Captivate 2017: Animations and Effects.

I’ve learned that, just like anything else I want to get done, I have to plan/schedule professional development time, set aside a time to do it or it will get lost in the shuffle.   Always be Improving (A.B.I.)!

Be Extraordinary!

-WB

Andrew Gibbons’s Architectural Approach to Instructional Design

 

 

I recently started Andrew S. Gibbons award-winning book, An Architectural Approach to Instructional Design. In Chapter 3, Design Process, Gibbons purported four stages of design thinking. According to Gibbons, the design thinking of instructional designers develops in stages across the career or experiences of the instructional designer, from design thinking that focuses on the medium used for designing (stage 1) to thinking that focuses on the structure of the subject matter (stage 4). Here are Gibbons’s Four Stages of Designer Thinking

Media-Centric– Early in an instructional designer’s career he or she tends to focus design thinking on the medium for which he or she is designing, e.g. a website, computer-based learning, just-in-time resource book, a webpage

Message-Centric– During the message-centric stage of design thinking, the instructional designer focuses on the story- how to best present ideas, examples, explanations, etc. through the use of visuals, text, and clustering and sequencing content

Strategy-Centric– In the strategy-centric phase, the instructional designer focuses on strategies and structures that will provide learning guidance, opportunities for practice, and facilitate the attainment of learning objectives

Model-Centric– In the model-centric phase of design thinking, the instructional designer combines strategy with knowledge of the content to create a model of the content that is dynamic and responsive to the learner and mode of delivery

I believe an instructional designer goes through all of these stages of design thinking, to a lesser or greater degree, in any instructional design project. I take Gibbons’s point, though, that the focus of novice instructional designers is more heavily on the medium, perhaps because story-telling, strategy-development, and model-development are skills that are honed over time, through experience.

Which of Gibbons’s Stages of Design Thinking resonates most with you?

 

Cheers,

 

-WB

I Heart Scripting Content

I suppose every ID (Instructional Designer) has his or her favorite part of the instructional design and development process. As for me, I enjoy scripting content; I feel like the sculptor, and the raw content from the subject-matter-expert (SME) is the clay. I carefully extract the content from the SME, meticulously clarify the content through research and consultation with the SME, then use my creativity, learning theory knowledge, and instructional design expertise to mold content into an efficient and effective instructional unit. The creative energy that ensues is exhilirating, intoxicating, addictive..I heart it.

-WB

Be Intentional About Evaluation

Last month, Extraordinary! by Design finished an elearning project for a national franchise. Actually, it was our second elearning project for the franchise. The franchise contracted with us to convert existing paper-based training to elearning. The timelines were tight as we worked to have the elearning ready to unveil before a new product line was released. We used Rapid Prototyping, working design and development phases concurrently to create a functional prototype for review. We created Level 1 evaluation items to measure what the learners learned from the elearning modules; however, we did not develop evaluation instruments for evaluation levels 1, 3, and 4.

Now, a month after completion of the second elearning module and two months after completion of the first elearning module, we are circling back to engage the client about creating assessment instruments for level 1- reaction to training and level 3- behavior (or transfer of training to the job).

Results from evaluation of the training will reveal areas for improvement and help to determine the effectiveness and suitability of the training for the audience. Training uninformed by evaluation results is like practice without feedback; if it is not conducted, ineffective, erroneous, or inefficient knowledge and behaviors may persist– negatively impacting business or organizational goals.

We are eager to obtain evaluation results so that we may revise and amend training where appropriate and continue to create extraordinary results  for our client.

For more information on evaluation of training programs, check out Implementing the Four Levels: A Practical Guide for Effective Evaluation of Training Programs by Donald Kirkpatrick and James Kirkpatrick.

-WB

Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction

As part of my duties as an eIntern for the Virtual Student Federal Service program, I, along with two other eInterns, had to revise an existing lesson plan used by the U.S. Department of State. Whenever I develop or revise a lesson plan I use Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction as a framework. To me, Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction or G9 consist of good instruction codified; that is, they are what good instructors or teachers already do put down into a systematic series of events. Gagne outlined the external events that would stimulate internal cognitive processes and facilitate learning.  Here are Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction

  1. Gain Attention– in order for a person to learn something he or she must first attend to the thing to be learned
  2. Inform Learners of the  Learning Objectives– this allows the learner to set his or her expectation for learning and direct attention throughout learning
  3. Stimulate Recall of Prior Learning– new information is learned more efficiently when it is tied to or related to something that has already been learned
  4. Present the Stimulus (or content)– the instructor delivers the content
  5. Provide Learning Guidance– the instructor uses instructional strategies such as repetition, mnemonics, and questioning to assist the learner’s acquistion of information or skill development
  6. Elicit Performance– the instructor gives the learner the opportunity to practice the learning content
  7. Provide Performance Feedback– the instructor provides the learner with feedback on his or her performance, coaching to proficiency; this is like a practice test. Practice without feedback is a waste of time.
  8. Assess Performance– this is like a final assessment, used to measure the learners mastery of the content
  9. Enhance Retention and Transfer to Other Contexts– the instructor may provide the learner with job aids, mnemonics, handouts, etc. to increase the probability of the learner retaining what has been learned and using what has been learned in other contexts, such as the performance context

I have had success with developing efficient and effective instruction by using Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, and I use them whenever I have to create micro-level instruction. I recommend you use them too. G9!

Here is a list of books by Robert Gagne.

Cheers,

-WB

Alternative Assessment- Learning is Deeper When Learners Create Something

During my second time around teaching Introductory Sociology, I was well into my program in Instructional Design and Development, and I wanted to tryout the instructional strategies and assessment techniques I had learned about. Alternative Assessment appealed to me.

Traditional assessment aims to verify learning.  Alternative assessment, on the other hand, provides opportunities for deeper learning rather than simply identification. With alternative assessment, learners have the opportunity to engage in domain specific learning activities which require the use of higher order thinking skills. Examples of alternative assessments include short answer questions, essays, exhibitions, and oral presentations Alternative assessment views the learner as an active participant in the construction of knowledge.

I created the learning objectives and assessment items below for a workshop I conducted on Alternative Assessment. Compare the traditional assessment item to the alternative assessment item. You will note that the traditional assessment item does not require the learner to produce anything; it only requires the learner to identify the correct response; that is a low level of learning that does not promote depth of learning. Alternative assessment items engage higher order thinking skills, such as synthesis and evaluation. For more information on levels of learning see Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

 

 

 

 

 

Need help with creating alternative assessment items for your learners? Reach out to me via our Contact Us page, via email at wbrye@extrabydesign.com, or leave a note below.

Cheers,

-WB

Instructional Design and Visual Design

I just finished an outstanding and informative course on visual design in elearing.  The course was by Sally Cox, available on LinkedIn Learning.  Instructional designers analyze learning and performance contexts, learners, and instructional content. The course on visual design brought out the importance of the visual in what we do; we must analyze how content is displayed, not only what is displayed. Not only in elearning but in print based instruction as well, things like the spacing and alignment of characters, colors and shading, font type, and imagery, create cognitive load that may benefit the learner or obstruct learning. As instructional designers we must use principles of visual design to create instruction that makes learning easy and light.

Sally Cox’s course on LinkedIn Learning is Elearning Techniques: Visual Design.

For more information on cognitive load, see  Cognitive Load Theory by Sweller, Ayres, and Kalyuga.

-WB