Instructional Analysis- Working with SMEs


Analysis is one of my favorite parts of the instructional design process. Today, my team and I worked with a group of subject matter experts (SMEs) to conduct task detailing- a step in task analysis. The aims of task analysis include (1) enumerating the steps involved with completing a task and (2) stating the prerequisite knowledge for each step. The prerequisite knowledge is where things got a bit fuzzy for the SMEs today. Prerequisite knowledge in task detailing refers to what the learner must already know in order to learn a particular step. Prerequisite knowledge  is not general knowledge about a concept, process, or procedure; it is specific knowledge the learner needs to possess in order to learn a step required to complete a task.

When conducting task analysis be sure to ask the SME what the learner needs to know in order to learn a step required to complete a task; ask it specifically: What does the learner need to know in order to learn this step?

Subject Matter Expert vs. Accomplished Performer What’s the diff?

Today, as a colleague studied some Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) she paused and asked, “What’s the difference between a subject matter expert and an accomplished performer?” I explained the difference this way– a subject matter expert is like a coach and an accomplished performer is like the MVP (most valuable player). The subject matter expert knows the material; the accomplished performer, on the other hand, is performing the behaviors. Another example would be a math teacher and the best math student in a class, a subject matter expert and an accomplished performer respectively. The subject matter expert is highly knowledgeable in a domain and the accomplished performer is applying the knowledge in an authentic context that is of interest to instructional designers and curriculum developers. Context matters when designing instruction.

There is a caveat. Sometimes the subject matter expert and the accomplished performer are the same person; my colleague is accustomed to that dynamic.

Note- accomplished performers are sometimes referred to as exemplars