Instructional Design Principles

Some key points about instructional design

1. the key differences between developing learning resources for children and for adults

Adult learning, first and foremost, is voluntary. Learners can walk away - physically, mentally, emotionally - if their needs are not being met in terms of perceived relevance [adults sign up or look up when they need to know  - they do not bother to wait for the learning experience to come to them because they do not need to wait]. In sharp contrast,  children are essentially a ‘captive audience’. The content, direction of learning development and range of activities can all be planned and implemented by the teacher. Acting on her knowledge of her class and her beliefs about how children learn, what they need to know at a given instant every day and which learning style/s can be accommodated by selected activities, she designs for a very different type of  Instructional Design.

As active learners, adults look to apply their learning to the job they are immediately interested in. When that is work-based training then the content needs to inform an obviously relevant activity.

Because adult learners may be coming to their job with unsuccessful or unsatisfying academic backgrounds, they are far more likely to seek resources that cater to their preferred learning styles. If they are visual learners, the resources will be selected to meet that need. If they are kinaesthetic, the resource will provide opportunities for them to engage physically with their activities. As a result, the design of the resource needs to be job-focused and activity based to ensure relevance and therefore maximize motivation. And it needs to encourage successful completion by catering to a range of learning styles.

Ideally, a blend of on-job facilitation, e-learning and  accessible paper-based resources is most likely to be successful. Because we cannot be sure that a trainer will be available, or effective, the paper-based learning needs to be designed to take in as many of the broad range of adult learner requirements as is possible [preferably with IT support for the auditory and visual learners].

2. adult learning principles that form the basis for designing materials for potentially distance learning application

Following on from Knowles’ work about adult learning, Jarvis suggested the difference between adult and childrens’ learning was about the level of control each had over their learning. Jarvis labelled classroom based learning as Formal and most adult learning as Informal because the adult had control over whether to continue or not. This need to accept that the adult is in control means that Instructional Design has to maintain motivation while it provides relevant learning opportunities.

Three basic principles help to structure the learning resource for an adult more particularly than may be necessary for the child in the classroom with a skilled teacher.

First and foremost, the intended learning outcomes are clear and obviously related to the job as it is required in the workplace.

Second, the activities are job specific and demonstrate the learning outcome they are designed to encourage growing expertise with

Third, the supporting content describes or explains how or why the job needs to be done as it is – or provides the theoretical basis for explaining the job.

Fourth, the resources provided to support the content are accessible through a range of learning styles, immediately relevant and encouraging or supportive of improved on-job performance.

A lot more could be said but I would expect any Instructional Designer to be able to lead with these because they control the principles for designing instruction.

Use of layout – space, colour, images, etc may support good instructional design but they are the task of the graphic designers. The same instructional design will look significantly different from place to place and from designer to designer without changing the underlying integrity of the instructional design or the quality of the learning experience

As Instructional Designers, we are educational leaders. As a result, we need to be clear and confident about what we are doing, how and why. Because we are in the position of designing for unseen learners in largely unknown workplaces, we must be quite clear about what we are doing for those learners. More importantly, we must be able to articulate that clearly and concisely for our peers – both as consultant/advisors and as models through our own design work.