Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Transitions and Reflections

Instructional Design Basis – Motivational Theory

Hi All:

I am about to enter into a new phase in my life, retirement.  This is a time of ambivalence.  I am looking forward to more freedom and yet feel a sadness of leaving the profession I be been devoted to.

Emptying file cabinets and bookshelves was like experiencing a time capsule of my career.  I found antiques like overheads, number spinners, manual clocks and dice used to facilitate games designed to  withstand the heat generated by an overhead projector, hundreds of articles (now scanned into digital form) and copies of the various articles I have written; some published and some rejected.

I found it curious how the value of items has varied over time.  It reminded me of the importance of keeping in mind the “Hype” curve as trends such as mobile-learning, social-learning, and gamification will and have come and gone.  This is even more important in our world of rapidly evolving technology. It is my belief we humans change at much slower pace. Therefore, we as instructional designers always need to remember technology is our tool not master.

The packing process also reminded me of the wonderful depth and breadth of our profession.  How it could be possible to spend an entire career in one of the major theory bases that is a part of the field of instructional systems design, and then, maybe never make a significant contribution. (Refer back to the last post on the ISD InfoGraphic).

I reflected on of the many times I would feel an inclination of confidence just slightly above the subliminal level and a new challenge would emerge.  For example:  How are you skills in designing or implementing “propaedeutics”?  Yep propaedeutics!   I was first introduced to the term when reading an article by Marilyn Garber on The Dialogic Classroom: Strategies of Discussion in the Humanities which I discovered, again, while packing.  The term means “pertaining to or the nature of preliminary instruction” (1).  As I continued down this rabbit hole I discovered: advanced organizers, WWIIFM, YCDI, scaffolding, effectiveness grids, formative evaluations, how to share objectives effectively, enhancing adult motivation to learn, group think and group dynamics, and the pre attentive perceptual processing related to instructional message design; just to scratch the surface.

I also found a series of mini-posters I created and adorned my office with just like the alphabet letters in an elementary school classroom. After reviewing them, I will declare they have served me well and I think the wisdom, guidance, and challenge are timeless regardless of what ID model, theory of learning or technology you adhere to.  Here they are:

“Designed instruction must be based on the knowledge of how human beings learn.” Robert M. Gagne’

“Instructional design assumes that instructional interventions result in learning outcomes, and that the correct sequence of instructional interventions or events will make learning more efficient.” Jonassen & Harris.

“Over decades, the results of media comparisons studies have shown that learning outcomes are a functional of instructional methods, NOT of delivery media.” Ruth Colvin Clark

We can only transmit verbal and pictorial symbols from which you construct your own meanings.  The most we can hope for is that our messages are in such a manner that your skills and knowledge can be used to decode and interpret them as closely as possible in the way we intended” Heinich.

“If the course or training is required, then the motivational goal of instructional design is to make this learning worthy of the adult learner’s choice – to help that person eventually to think “I may not have wanted this to being with, but I do want it now.”” Raymond J. Wlodkowski.

I’m not sure of when my next blog post will be, or if this is my last one.  If it is my last, there could not be a better way to close then by sharing the above.

Thank you to all of you who have guided me on my journey and especially to those of you who have challenged me with constructive comments and criticisms.

Success in all you endeavors.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

InfoGraphics - My Experience

Theory Basis:  Communications Theory

The eLearning Infographic Group have been doing some pretty great work creating info graphics. I submit that infographic are a form of mapping. IMHO, mapping is a great learning and retention strategy. You can check out my blog post on mapping here. 

I have found that for me, the best way to find out the strengths, weakness, and keys to implementing a strategy is to try it out.  Therefore, I have tried to consolidate my Instructional Design posts into an infographic and offer it to you for your viewing pleasure, and any constructive feedback you would care to offer.

My infographic was created using PowerPoint.  I found it a little harder than I envisioned, but no so tedious that I gave up.  In addition, the process of building the infographic affirmed what I have believed are some of our human realities intertwined with instructional design tasks, or for that matter, any worthwhile endeavor.  Specifically:
  • Creativity comes when the mind is tranquil
  • Being creative is an iterative process
  • We tend to more critical on ourselves than others
  • If at first you don’t succeed, you’re probably average.  Most of us don’t succeed on the first try of anything substantial
  • Success is 2% inspiration and 98% perspiration
  • Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence
  • A designer knows his or her design is complete, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away
Look forward to your comments

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Peer Teaching a Social Learning Strategy

Instructional Design Foundation – Learning & Motivational Theory
Communications technology is now being leveraged in what our profession is calling “social learning”.   I think of it as opening channels for us to find information from our peers, cohort, or our personal and professional networks. Another form of social learning you may have encountered may have been in the form of tutoring. Tutoring has a long and rich history in higher educational institutions. And, the value of this learning strategy has evolved into “peer teaching”

Peer teaching is a learning strategy where learners obtain skills or knowledge with the intent to teach other learners. The popularity of this strategy has fluctuated time; last peaking in the mid-seventies. Goldschmit & Goldschmit (1), in 1976 wrote a review on the state of “Peer Teaching in Higher Education” looking at it from socio-psychological, pedagogical, economic and political considerations. Currently, you don’t hear much about it.  IMHO, it is because it is difficult to implement effectively.

Peer-teaching has a sound basis. Social psychologist, Albert Bandura laid the foundations for the effectiveness of this strategy in his description of “reciprocal determinism” (2).  As applied to this strategy, the person preparing to teach another is changed by the process of preparing to teach; he or she learns and retains with significant results.

More recently, applications of neuroscience have given us another reason to consider peer teaching as a useful strategy. Prof. Matthew Lieberman author of the book “Social, Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect” has been making the circuits with the like of webinars and NPR’s Science Friday (3) sharing the results on how our brain functions in response to socially oriented environmental situations.  Our social brain has high motivational factors and even a specialized social memory.  Dr. Lieberman shares that, when activated, “social motivations to learn” results in more inclusive learning with longer retention, using areas of the social brain. 

Contrary to a recent comment in a LinkedIn discussion concerning the learning model of Heutogogy, to “Just go teach”, I submit to successfully implement any strategy requires supportive and appropriate tactics.  I hope you find the following useful if you choose to include peer teaching in any of your instructional designs.

Strategy Application

It may be helpful to think of using the peer teaching strategy as the method to implementing Gagne’s “events of instruction”(4): as a method of presenting the stimulus material and providing learning guidance.

Peer teaching is at its best when instruction requires emphasis on providing feedback about the correctness of performance in situations where the learning deals with sufficient complexity do to multiple variables that can affect performance.  Situations to consider are:

Cognitive Domain: Heuristic problem solving; problem solving for which no clear procedural rule exists. Examples: designing a peer teaching activity, resolving a political situation, trouble shooting, predicting human behavior.

Psychomotor Domain:
Learning of “continuous skills” (5) which the beginning and ending points are subtle and performer-determined. Examples: dribbling a basketball, swimming, steering a car.

Learning of “open skills” (5) in which the environment causes the performance to make continuous adjustments. Examples: playing basketball or hockey where the opponent’s interactions change the dynamic of the situation.

Affective Domain:
Situations where attitudes can be changed when the leaner becomes involved with a human model. This will be most likely at Krathwohl’s “valuing” category. (6)  Examples: instilling a “safety culture”, being environmentally conscience, driving defensively

Considerations for Implementation:

As I alluded to above, addressing the tactics for using a peer teaching strategy is an exercise in heuristic problem solving.  Following are some (definitely not exhaustive) items you might consider for successful implementation:

·  Do the potential learner-teachers have the communication skills to be effective?

·   Are the potential learner-teachers sufficiently motivated to follow through with peer teaching?

·  What teaching skills will the teacher-learner need?

·   How will the learner-teacher(s) be prepared to teach: self-study, group instruction and or tutoring?

·   Do the learner-teachers have the requisite cognitive skills?

·   This strategy is rather time intensive. Will there be sufficient time and flexibility to adjust for variances in the level of success?

·   What are the necessary direct and ancillary material for the topic to be taught; for both the learner-teacher and the students?

·   Would a job aid be appropriate for the learner-teacher to prepare for teaching?

·   Will you need additional learning space to allow for the learning and preparation?

·   What will be the learner-teacher to learner ration: one-on-one or one to many?

·   Will complementary activities for those not preparing to teach be appropriate?

Current findings via neuroscience have suggested peer teaching is worth another look; especially where long term retention is desired.  I hope you add the peer teaching strategy to your ID’s toolbox.




1.   Goldschmid, Babra & Goldschmid, Marcel L. (1976). Peer Teaching in Higher Educations: A Review. Higher Education Vol. 5 Pages 9-33. Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

2.   Hergenhahn, B. R., & Olson, M. H. (1993). An Introduction to Theories of Learning, Fourth Edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

3.   Science Friday – Ira Flatow. Logging Into the Brain’s Social Network an Interview with Dr. Matthew Lieberman.  National Public Radio aired October 18, 2013.  Recording available on line @
Webinar recording available on YouTube @ (10/22/2013)

4.   Gagne, R., Briggs, L., Wager, W. (1992).  Principles of instructional design (4th Ed.).  Orlando, FL: HBJ.

5.   Smith, P. L. & Ragan, T. J. (1993) Instructional Design. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Prentice-Hall.

6.   Foshay Wellesley, R., Silber Kenneth, H. & Stelnickie Michael B. (2003).Writing Training Materials that work. How to train anyone to do anything. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, CA

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rating Task – Using Task-to-Duty Relationships

Instructional Design Foundation – Systems Theory

Tasks are statements of what people do.  This blog post is going to narrow in on how to rate tasks based on Task-to-Duty relationships and applying a numerical rating system.

Application:  Tasks are at the heart of most behaviorally-based systematic approach models.  These models are used extensively by government agencies and the power producing industries.  


Once the decision has been made in the Analysis Process that training is a viable solution to a performance problem (or future performance need), it’s all about determining the relevant task, and then deciding which tasks to train on.    In a job analysis process investigative techniques are utilized to determine what tasks are completed in the performance of a duty.  Refer to graphic below for a typical work breakdown structure.


The task statement is considered the single most important element of the task analysis process because it provides a standardized, concise format to describe worker actions.

Decision Continuum

There is a continuum of ways to choose which task should be trained on; running in degrees of subjectivity to objectivity.   The method you choose will probably be driven by your customer’s demands or your work processes and procedures.   You can apply a “graded approach” to aid in determining which method to use.  (Refer to my blog post on Applying a Graded Approach)


One of the classic methods for an objective base decision process to determine what tasks to train on is using numerical averaging criteria.    This process has subject matter experts (the more the merrier) rate tasks in relationship to its corresponding duty.   The average rating of the task is applied to established criteria.  Depending on its rating, a task may:  not be trained on, trained on, or trained on and require periodic retraining.   See the graphic below for a typical process.

Task –to-Duty Relationships

Not all tasks were created equal.  Tasks have varied relationships to its duty and each relationship has a relative affiliation to its duty that can be defined and quantified.   For example how “important” are the consequences if the task was performed incorrectly; it may not really matter or it may be catastrophic.

Following is an example of a rating scale for the importance of a task. Note: There is a numerical value assigned to each level.  For example:  Serious = 3.

Rate task importance using the following guidelines:

1 = NEGLIGIBLE—Improper task performance does not result in exposure to a hazard nor does it make any difference in plant operation (no lost production). Neither does it pose any personnel or environmental safety consequences.

2 = UNDESIRABLE—Improper task performance may result in hazards exposure or cause some undesirable consequences to plant operation (reduced production capability or some potential environmental impact).

3 = SERIOUS—Improper task performance may result in exceeding plant or equipment operating limits, which may require moderate corrective action.

4 = SEVERE—Improper task performance may result in equipment damage or personnel injury requiring extensive corrective action.

Selecting Task-to-Duty Relationships

The nature of the duty will dictate which relationships are relevant.  You can use the relationships on a Spider Map I created to help guide you.   In addition, here is a list of NumericalRating Scales you can use for the relationships on the Spider Map.

These scales are meant to be a starting point and probably will and should be modified to your specific needs.  Consider this my permission to use them freely.
Setting Criterion

Setting the criteria requires reasoned judgment and integration of the rating values.  For example:  A task that is rated  high in “difficulty” and performed “frequently” may be designate for initial training but not included in periodic refresher training. 

The criterion may be relatively simple; all tasks with a “safety hazard severity” rating of 3 or greater will be included in the training intervention.  The more relationships used in the decision process, the more complicated the decision process.  For an example see a Decision Tree used by the Department of Energy (1).   You just have to find what works for you.

Tasks are at the heart of most behaviorally-based systematic approach models.  I hope you find it a little easier to apply an objective – numerical rating system if and when the need arises.




(1)    Department of Energy Handbook 1078-94, Training Program Handbook: A Systematic Approach to Training.  U.S. Department of Energy, Washington D. C. 20585 Available on line @

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

You Can Do It !!!

Design Basis: Learning Theory
You probably have either experienced or seen the following scenario: A group of people are gathered for an orientation. The auditorium is buzzing with chatter of anticipation. A commanding figure enters; a hush prevails. Without introduction the following directions are given: “Look to your right and to your left. Know now that only one of you three will succeed in this program!” Dramatic? Yes! A good introduction? No!! Well at least not for designing purposes. Why? Isn’t competition motivating?
Overall it is a poisoning formula for learning.  Let’s look at the mixture.

One Part Adult Learning Theory
One of the fundamental principles of adult learning theory is that “Adults have a greater volume and different quality of experience than youth”. (1)  Consequently, adults have a different perspective on experience: it is our chief source of self-identity.

One Part Psychology
Our self-identity is directly allied to our social status. And, situations that place our status in peril physically elicit an emotional “threat response”. Status is like all other emotional experiences, the threat response is stronger and more common than the reward response.

One Part Biology
The threat is visceral, including a flood of cortisol to the blood and a rush of resources to the limbic system that inhibits clear thinking. The body is readying for conflict.

One Part Learning Theory
If you were to apply this situation to the SCARF Model I think you will agree it would definitely push the brain’s goals of status away from what is best for learning.   (See my blog on The Brain – Yesterday and Today)


So after a good dose of this formula you end up with a learner ready for conflict and not clearly thinking.

The Antidote

Knowles (1) recommends “a learning climate of collaborativeness rather than competitiveness. In some ways, I think Knowles was ahead of his time in regard to the effectiveness and application of what we refer to as “social learning” today.  Knowles suggest strongly, the first question in the design process should be to answer the question “What procedures should I use with this particular group to bring this desired climatic and conditions into being”

An element you can design into your introductory material is a You Can Do It (YCDI).  Learners are more likely to learn new knowledge they believe they are capable of mastering than knowledge they believe they will never comprehend. Further, learners are more likely to use the knowledge after training if they have confidence in the skills they have learned.

Foshay, Silber & Stelnicki (4) suggest the following strategies:

  • Use research results or testimonials from role models or other learners to explain how people like themselves have succeeded in learning this new knowledge.

  • Point out that the learners have already succeeded at learning something similar to what you are teaching.

  • Emphasize the support resources in the organization (people money, facilities, equipment) that are available to help them.

  • Be honest about the initial difficulty of learning the new information and skills.

  • Separate their ability to learn the new knowledge (danger of task failure) from their worth as a person and work (danger of personal failure).

  • Have learners compete with themselves rather than with others.

  • Make sure your training ends with practice in realistic contents with realistic difficulty levels, distractions, stresses, and so forth.

  • Be sure to tell the learner in a believable way what is “reality” and that they succeeded.

In the future, as you develop your WIIFM explanation (as you have done so effectively in the past) consider adding an YCDI element to prepare your learners for the challenge and set them up of that “ah ha” moment when he or she achieves success.

Best regards,



1.      Knowles, M. S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy (2nd ed.) New York, NY: Cambridge Press.

2.      Rock David (2009). Your Brain at Work - Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long. Harper-Collins. New York, New York.  NeuroLeader Institute – Home Page

3.      Smith, P. L. & Ragan, T. J. (1993) Instructional Design. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Prentice-Hall.

4.      Foshay Wellesley, R. Silber Kenneth, H. and Stelnicki Michael, B. (2003) Writing Training Materials that Work; Hot to train anyone to so anything. Jossey-Bass/Pfeifer. San Francisco, CA.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Applying a Graded Approach to Training Projects – A Systematic ID Process

Theory Basis: Systems Theory and Tools

We live in a resource limited world.  How to determine the best allocation of resources has been a challenge for leaders and management since we evolved the ability to make choices.

The “graded approach” is a management tool used to determine where to assign appropriate resources using a risk-based approach.  In theory it seems pretty simple:  The greater the risk the greater the amount of resources allocated in order to achieve a level of interventions sufficient to mitigate the risk or reduce it to an acceptable level.

What does this have to do with instructional design?  There is a continuum as to the rigor we can perform our tasks within the design process you use; ADDIE for example. The level of rigor can vary in the amount of documentation, involvement of others, and levels and number of approvals.  The continuums expands from designing a course entirely by ourselves with not documentation, while on the other end of the continuum every step, every decision and every document is approved and maintained as an auditable, quality record with heavy stakeholder involvement ( Diagram of Possible Stakeholders ).

I have often read questions on social media sites and professional society discussion boards asking how to estimate the amount of time and effort to complete a training project.  My first thought is, that it depends. It depends on a lot of variables one being the level of rigor to be applied during the process you choose. WHY?  More rigor = More Resources à More Cost + More Time

By defining the level of rigor, you can make a better estimate of time and cost to complete a training project, better define your deliverables, and clarify expectations.  At the very least it can’t hurt to be prepared with a methodology to help answer the question.


What is Risk?

The graded approach is based on risk. The level of risk, the expose to the chance of injury or loss, can be quantified by weighing two factors: probability and consequences, or


Probability is a measure or estimation of how likely it is that something will happen or that a statement is true. The higher the degree of probability, the more likely the event is to happen. It helps me to think of probability in the context of two factors: history and prediction.  That is, has it happened in the past and at what frequency, and what is the chance a consequence may happen?


The array of things that might happen based on the turn of events is only limited by your imagination.  Leaving creativity aside, I have found it practical to categorize consequences into the following types:

·        Personal – Health & Safety Professional, Bureau of Labor Statics, OSHA (What are the physical realities that result in injury)

·        Equipment/Facility – Incident Reports & Lessons Learned

·        Political – Hot topic – News worthy, Weekly Safety Start, Company Weekly Message, Recent all employee briefing, Recent general delivery e-mail,

How Much Rigor is Enough

The goal is to determine an appropriate level of rigor to be applied during a training project based on a “graded approach” that will provide sufficient return on investment such that the training provided will enhance employee performance and impart an increase in event prevention.

You can decide the level of rigor for the overall process or break it down to a level reasonable for your situation; for example, each phase of the ADDIE process (analysis, design, development, implementation or evaluation).

The factor that has the greatest influence on time and resources is the level of involvement of the various stakeholders.  This is a kind of balancing act because you need sufficient involvement to cover all your bases but, in general, the more stakeholders involved the increase of time and logistical effort. 

 Methodology Overview:

This methodology has four steps:

·        Quantify the level of consequence. Determine a “consequence factor” based on the average of the numerical ratings assigned to the types of consequences.

·        Quantify the probability by selecting a numerical value from a chart.

·        Multiply the two values to determine  the “rigor value”

·        Locate the “rigor value” on the Rigor Level Chart to find suggest application guidance.

Please note: The instructional design tasks to be performed will vary based on the instructional design model you use and the rigor guidelines will change based on your specific work conditions.  You can use the tables as created and/or modify them to represent the steps (tasks) in your process. 

Methodology Details:

It is usually prudent to involve resources such as interpretive authorities (IAs) subject matter experts (SMEs) and safety professionals for guidance and information about the potential consequences.

1.    Determine the “Consequence” factor:

a)   Applying reasoned judgment and weighing information from reliable source(s), select a rating value from the Risk Determination Chart ( Full Chart) for each consequence category (Personal, Equipment/Facility and Political).

Questions for Consideration
Using the descriptions of injury consequences what is the worst case scenario for an immediate event?

·        No injury or health effects not affecting work performance or causing disability

·        Slight injury or health effects (self-treat) or first aid

·        Recordable Injury

·        Lost work day, restricted work days

·        Is a production facility going to apply the training?

·        Is the training related to any safety systems or safety basis?

·        Is there a possibility of a release of hazardous substances (chemical/radiological)?

·        Is there a possibility of information of an event being directly fed to personnel outside of the organization?

·        Has an “event” related to the topic within the last 30 days?

·        Have there been recent (last couple of weeks) company safety bulletins, all employee messages, mandated briefings related to the topic?

·        Would an event make the local news broadcasts?

·        Would an event make national news broadcasts?

·        Could any laws been broken (state/federal)?

b)   Record the values in the Consequence Table below.

c)    Total the category values and record the total. 

Rating Value
Divide Total by 3
Consequence Factor

Consequence Table

d)   Divide the category total by 3 and record the answer. This is the “consequence factor”. 

2.    Transfer the Consequence Factor into the Rigor Value Table below. 

3.    Quantify the Probability Factor from the Risk Determination Chart ( Full Chart) by considering the current barriers to prevent an event and the previous history of events, if any.  Insert the value into the Rigor Value Table below.

Determining Probability - Considerations

Probability is affected by the quantity of past occurrences balanced with the change of future occurrences.

·        Seek out your Health & Safety professional and get advice

·        Look for statistics from the following sources:

o   OSHA Commonly used statistics -

o   OSHA – Chemical Exposure Health Data -

o   EEPA – Toxic Release Inventory Program -

·        Have there been recent changes to the facility, procedures, or processes to prevent occurrences?
4.    Determine the Graded Approach Rigor Value by multiplying the Consequence factor by the Probability factor.

Consequence Factor
Probability Factor
Rigor Value

Rigor Value Table 

Using an appropriate Rigor Level Chart (Full Set of Charts) find the graded approach application guidelines based on your “rigor value” by locating the value in the top row.  The guidelines for that value of risk are located in the column below.

When making decisions that will impact the overall time and cost of a training project, I suggest getting management or client concurrence to implement the application guidelines.

Summary and Closing

Whether or not you choose to use a systematic approach to determine the level of rigor to be applied in your design is in itself the application of a graded approach.  Will it be worth the time and effort to implement a process?  That is for you and your management to determine.

It can be a good tool if you are bidding on a contract or negotiating the processes and end products of your efforts.

Outside the world of academia, when having to answer to outside regulators and audits it can be a lifesaver when having to justify your process.

In the limited-resource world we live in it can also be a vehicle to obtain the sufficient budget to support training excellence.

Best regards,


I would like to thank Dr. Rick Zimmerman, a safety professional who I work with, for his guidance in developing the Risk Determination Chart.