Analyzing the learners who are going to be taking your instruction is an important step for the instructional designer. The instructional designer should strive to determine the learner's skills, knowledge, and attitude toward the learning before designing the instruction, by creating a learner profile.
Similarities and Differences in Learners
Learners will generally share some characteristics, as well as differ in some ways. It is the job of the instructional designer to analyze learner characteristics and consider these when designing the instruction.
For example, say you are designing a training program for teachers on how to manage their classrooms. Some teachers may be new, having never taught in a classroom beyond their student teaching experience, and some may be veteran teachers with years of experience in front of students. So while all of the teachers would have prior knowledge of teaching, along with education, their experience level would likely differ.
The job of the instructional designer would be to create instruction that would be beneficial and useful to both sets of learners.
Analyzing learner characteristics will help drive the instruction. The Dick and Carey model of instructional design outlines a number of characteristics that the instructional designer should consider:
- Entry Behaviors – What do learners need to know prior to taking the instruction? What is the prerequisite knowledge that learners must have?
- Prior Knowledge – What do learners know about this topic already?
- Attitudes Toward Content/Delivery System – Do learners have preconceived notions about the content and/or the way it will be delivered?
- Academic Motivation – Are learners motivated to take this training? Is it something interesting to them or will it merely be to fulfill a requirement?
- Education and Ability Levels – What are the learners' ability levels and educational background?
Conducting a learner analysis can be done through:
- Surveys – The instructional designer can create a survey and distribute it to a selection of future learners.
- Pretests – A pretest is a series of questions to gauge learner knowledge before training is designed.
- Interviews – Interviews can be conducted with future learners by the instructional designer.
Using the previous example of designing training on classroom management for teachers, the learner characteristics profile might look something like this:
- Entry Behaviors – This instruction will be online training that teachers will take on their own, so they should have basic computer knowledge. They also are certified teachers, so have teaching knowledge and skills, with varying levels of classroom management experience.
- Prior Knowledge – All of the teachers have teaching knowledge, to varying degrees.
- Attitudes Toward Content/Delivery System – Most of the teachers are well versed in using a computer and all have at least basic knowledge in this area.
- Academic Motivation – The teachers are required by their district to take the training, so there may be varying degrees of buy-in.
- Education and Ability Levels – All of the teachers are certified, so all have an advanced degree of teaching, as well as at least student teaching experience.
Another factor to consider is the environment in which the learner will be taking the instruction. Will the learning take place in a classroom with an instructor? In small groups with a facilitator? Individually online? It is important to keep in mind learner environment when designing instruction.
The learner environment will affect how the instructional designer both designs and delivers the training.
For the instructional designer, this means that group activities, such as role playing, can be incorporated. Students can interact with each other and share experiences. There will need to be an instructor who is facilitating the learning.
If the course was an online course, the needs would be different. Activities would have to be created in such a way that they could be completed individually, for example.