DSCN0761When I was working for the Red Cross, the Reference Lab Manager asked me to design a unit that would help SBB (Specialists in Blood Banking) students prepare training materials for their staff. The chief skill (and also one of the most difficult) in preparing effective training is to create sound performance objectives. My goal was to provide classroom training and practice on Writing Effective Performance Objectives. So I scoured the internet for resources and put them together in a document that included links to web sites for more information and exercises to practice in class.

Recently, I received Lee Lefever’s newsletter and started surfing his Common Craft site, looking at some of his explainer videos and discover this one on creating Instructional Objectives. See: https://www.commoncraft.com/video/instructional-objectives He breaks the process down to the point of near-oversimplification.

This alerted me to one of the dangers of training design.

If my child comes in and says, “What’s for lunch?” they get a different answer depending on context. If they ask while we are in the middle of setting up a grand reception for their sister’s wedding it’s going to be different from what they get when I’m standing in the kitchen staring at an open refrigerator. Same question. Same person. Completely different answer depending on the context.

Common Craft is the right answer for introductory/overview material. It introduces the concept, provides a basic cognitive structure for further learning, and gives both neophytes and experts the most essential information in a memorable way in the briefest time possible. It achieves a great deal with the narrow format constraints under which it is operating.

The long-form is the right answer (or at least a stab at it) for a classroom setting where people get to practice and evaluate their skills as they progress from simple to complex problems.

Our challenge as instructional designers is to identify the best form for presenting the information based on the topic, the anticipated end results, the audience, and the way the information is going to be used. We need to be acutely aware of how the information is going to be employed by the end-user so we design our training at the level appropriate to the need. My natural tendency is to include as much information as possible. I am an instructor, after all, and fairly compulsive about my desire to instruct. It’s in my blood. Sometimes, however, the best instruction is often the least instruction because all the audience needs is a conceptual understanding of the topic. Knowing the difference is what sets the good IDs apart from the not-so-good ones.