How much learners learn will depend largely on how they were trained. That’s where instructional design comes in. Instructional design aims to develop effective instruction in order to bring about maximum learning experiences. There are many theories and frameworks behind instructional design, but here are the basics to help you in understanding its principles:
- Identify the general factors to consider when planning for instruction. Two different classes may have exactly the same module to be taught but they will have entirely different modes of delivery. That’s because how the training will be delivered will be based on these four key elements of instructional design: the learners, the objectives, the methods and the evaluation. A brief treatment of each factor will be given below.
- Know your learners. First of all, remember that when designing your methods for facilitating learning, knowing the learning styles and the general characteristics of the learners is very important. If the learner pool is mostly consisted of fresh graduates then it’s generally recommended to pepper your instructional delivery with cases and examples derived from pop culture; middle-aged people are more inclined towards group-style learning. When possible, you could give learning style questionnaires so you’d be able to better gauge how your learners learn best. Some of these questionnaires can be found at learning-styles-online.com, shaw.ca, and vark-learn.com.
- State your objectives and work with them. When creating your instructional design, you should at the very start know what your detailed purposes are. In simplest terms, your objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (think SMART). It’s also recommended that you write your objectives starting with a verb (for example, by the end of the training, the learners should be able to communicate effectively with customers using key customer-relations phrases). Also, your objectives must be learner-centered, not trainer-centered (correct: the learners should be able to input data on appropriate program file; incorrect: the trainer should be able to establish rapport with learners). Remember: the entire course of your training should be absolutely parallel with your objectives. Think of your objectives as your mission, and the other components of the training program must be suited to fulfill your mission.
- Determine your delivery methods and instructional materials. How the training will be carried out will depend on your objectives (see number 3), your resources, and your learners (see number 1). Be advised that recent educational studies show that most learners learn best when presented with a variety of opportunities to put the lesson into practice – that is, if the training is interactive and hands-on. Make sure also that the instructional materials you use are updated.
- Conduct your formative and summative evaluation. When creating the evaluation, you should always have the objectives in mind. In other words, the evaluation should effectively measure whether the objectives have been met and if the learners were able to learn the skills that the training was designed to teach them. Two types of evaluation are usually given: the first is formative evaluation, which refers to short, (as much as possible) daily quizzes to help the trainer see if the previous lesson is sufficiently understood (and to plan for early intervention if necessary), and summative evaluation which is given at the end of the course.
There you have it! These are just some of the principles of instructional design. To help you gain more in-depth understanding of this topic, you may want to check out websites such as instructionaldesign.org, or purchase relevant books such as one by Robert Gagne et al’s “Principles of Instructional Design,” available at amazon.com.