Tip #518: Lesson Design Distilled Down to Four Key Questions
“Concentrating on the essentials. We will then be accomplishing the greatest possible results with the effort expended. ” Ted W. Engstrom
There are four lesson design questions that can help a trainer design an engaging and effective learning program:
(1) What specific, observable, and measurable results are desired?
(2) What level of learning will be required?
(3) What key content needs to be learned to achieve the desired results? and
(4) What learning activities will achieve the desired learning results, attain the desired level of learning, and meet different learning style needs?
These questions are intended to focus the training designer and the resultant training on what the learners need to accomplish the desired learning. They are discussed below.
1. What specific, observable, and measurable results are desired?
In other words, what do we want the participants to know or do differently when they leave the training session?
When we answer this question, we are also identifying the specific constructive actions or behaviors that the participants should demonstrate during the session.
We’re not talking about having the participants spending their time in an attentive listening mode. We know that participants are much more likely to apply what they’ve learned if they have had an opportunity to practice applying it during the session.
All communication is teleological: it has some goal. When designing a training program, the trainer has to have a clear idea of the end goal. To paraphrase Stephen Covey’s famous mantra, the design needs to “begin with the end in mind.”
If we want the participants to learn how to perform a new procedure, the desired result is that they will effectively perform the procedure back on the job.
If we want the participants to treat each other in a more civil manner, then the desired result is that they will interact in a civil manner, despite provocation by customers or co-workers.
2. What level of learning will be required?
In other words, at the conclusion of the training program, how well should the participants have learned what they needed to learn? Are we aiming for knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, evaluation or creation?
For example, if the desired result of a training program is for the participants to perform a new procedure, then they will ultimately need to apply what they have learned.
If the desired result is for the participants to treat each other in a more civil manner, then they will need to ultimately need to analyze when and how to use civil behavior.
The answer to this question also provides a good reality check to determine whether or not training is even advisable or necessary. Should the desired result be that the participants simply attain knowledge, they could read the information instead of spending time in a training session.
3. What key content needs to be learned to achieve the desired results?
In other words, what information is basic or essential to the participants’ understanding of the content?
For example, the key content for the procedural training would be: what the procedure is; what it is intended to accomplish (or why it is important); and how to perform it (the steps in the procedure).
The key content for the behavioral change might be: what is meant by a “civil manner;” why it is important (or what the consequences are if a civil manner is not used); what constitutes civil (and non-civil) behavior; and how to handle difficult interpersonal situations in a civil manner.
4. What learning activities will achieve the desired learning results, attain the desired level of learning, and meet different learning style needs?
In other words, what should the participants do during the training session in order to successfully acquire and effectively demonstrate their new learning?
- Specific learning results require specific learning activities.
Following through on our two examples, the training will need to include either actual practice (performing the procedure, which is a hands on learning activity) or virtual practice (evaluating how to behave in a civil fashion in given contentious scenarios, which are described in case studies).
- Different learning activities are able to achieve different learning levels.
Some learning activities, such as listening to a lecture or watching an instructional video, can only provide knowledge. If we want to check for comprehension, we might use a questionnaire or a directed group discussion. As we’ve already mentioned, hands on practice will achieve application. Depending upon the type of practice, it can also achieve creation.
Reviewing a case study and answering the questions that follow it can achieve analysis. If the case study is complex and illustrates certain values or standards, it might achieve evaluation.
- Different learning styles have different preferences in terms of learning activities.
Some participants learn best if they can read and absorb information on their own. Some need to discuss what they are learning, while others need to jump in and try it out. We typically have a variety of learning styles in our classes.
For this reason, we need to adapt the learning activities to meet as many needs as possible.
For example, a small group problem solving discussion can be designed to meet the needs of all six of the perceptual learning styles. The print learner will be satisfied by written materials that describe the problem to be discussed. The interactive learner and the aural learner will be satisfied by the discussion itself.
The haptic learner will be satisfied by writing the group’s conclusions on a flip chart, and using different colored markers for that writing will meet the needs of the visual learner. Having the participants stand around the flip chart will meet the needs of the kinesthetic learner.
Trainers who base their training designs on their answers to these four questions are much more likely to create and deliver practical, relevant and effective training programs.
May your learning be sweet.