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Webucator's Free Instructional Design Tutorial

Lesson: Analyzing and Objective Setting

Welcome to our free Instructional Design tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Instructional Design Training course.

As you work through designing instruction, the first steps in the process involve analyzing and objective setting. These are integral steps in the process of creating effective and meaningful instruction for learners.

Lesson Goals

  • Learn how to conduct an instructional needs assessment.
  • Learn what a goal analysis is and how to conduct one.
  • Learn how to conduct a task analysis.
  • Learn how to analyze the learner and why it is important.
  • Learn methods for developing instructional goals and objectives.

How to Conduct a Needs Assessment

The most common goal of instructional design is to bring about a change. But what is that change? It is the instructional designer's job to make this determination.

Determining the source of the problem, whether after being told only that there is a problem or the specific change that needs to come about, requires a needs assessment or analysis.

Determine Instructional Needs

The main purpose of the needs assessment is to determine instructional needs. What is it that learners need to know? Do they need to learn a new software program? Do they need to learn how to properly interact with their coworkers? These are some examples of instructional needs.

Typically, there are a number of questions that guide the assessment. The needs assessment should answer these questions:

  • Who is requesting the change?
  • What is the change that is being asked for?
  • When does the change need to be implemented?
  • Is instructional training the best method to bring about the change?

The following is a sample needs assessment chart that the ID would work on filling in during the needs analysis process. This chart is included in the class files for this lesson: ClassFiles/analyzing-and-objective-setting/Needs Analysis Chart.docx

Needs Analysis Chart
Questions Answers
Why? Why is the learning being requested? What issue or problem does it need to address
Who? Who is requesting the learning? Who will the learning be targeted at?
How? How can the issue or problem be addressed?
What? What is the best way to address the issue or problem? What learning format should be used (online, instructor-led, etc.)? What else, if anything, should be considered?
When? When does the learning need to occur? What are the timeframes for it to take place?

Procedure

There are a number of different ways that the needs assessment can be conducted. No matter the method that is used, the results should be the same. Most often, a combination of techniques will be used.

The steps of the needs assessment are as follows:

  1. Planning: In this step of the process, the instructional designer will, possibly along with other members of the project team, define the audience for the instruction and then determine exactly what type of information needs to be collected.
  2. Data collection: In the data collection step, the ID collects data as to what the problem is and how it is affecting learners.
  3. Data analysis: In the data analysis step, the data is organized and then prioritized to determine learning needs.
  4. Reporting on results: The final step, reporting on the results, should include a summary of results and finally a recommended solution.

For example, imagine that you are creating a business writing course. You start analyzing needs by gathering information and collecting data from the client requesting the training, the sales department within your organization. You know that you need more information.

Data Gathering Methods

Data gathering in a needs assessment can consist of the following:

  • Individual interviews: Interviews are beneficial because they allow the interviewer to ask follow-up and clarification questions. Some disadvantages to interviews include that the interviewee may be self-conscious and they require the interviewer to possess interviewing skills.
  • Questionnaires and surveys: If conducted anonymously, these can often provide beneficial information; however, there is no opportunity to ask clarifying questions or for participants to expound on their thoughts.
  • Focus groups: Focus groups can build involvement with learners and may bring up unexpected issues that need to be addressed. Pitfalls of focus groups include that they may be difficult to conduct and the information derived from them may be hard to quantify.
  • Committees: Creating an advisory committee allows visibility into the data gathering from stakeholders and decision makers; however, the data may not be extremely relevant and it may lead to a "group think" situation, where differing opinions are not expressed.
  • Independent research: Researching an issue independently is useful in that the instructional designer can access a variety of data; however, the data itself has the potential to be misleading or irrelevant to the current situation.
  • Observation: Observing learners in their work situation usually yields pertinent and relevant information, but it can be time consuming and logistically difficult to coordinate.

Back to the example of creating a business writing course: what data gathering methods might you use to gather information on needs? A first step would likely be to meet with the sales manager who is requesting the training, in an individual interview setting.

Questions you would want to ask might include:

  • Why is she requesting the training? Has the team encountered writing issues? If so, what issues?
  • Will the entire department be required to take it?
  • What sorts of writing is the team engaging in now? Proposals? Business plans? E-mails?
  • When will the training take place?

Back to the business writing course we are creating for the sales department at our company, the following is the filled-in needs assessment chart from a meeting with the sales manager. This chart is included in the class files for this lesson: ClassFiles/analyzing-and-objective-setting/Needs Analysis Chart-Biz writing course example.docx

Needs Analysis Chart
Questions Answers
Why? Why is the learning being requested? What issue or problem does it need to address The sales manager has been getting feedback from clients that a lot of the communication coming from her team has grammar and spelling issues. She is concerned that this is a reflection on the team and the organization as a whole. The problem that needs to be addressed is the poor business writing skills of the sales team.
Who? Who is requesting the learning? Who will the learning be targeted at? The sales manager is requesting the training. It would be mandatory for her 8-person team to take the training to improve their business writing skills.
How? How can the issue or problem be addressed? The issue can be addressed through training that includes examples and scenarios that are familiar to the sales team, so that they can identify with and incorporate the knowledge.
What? What is the best way to address the issue or problem? What learning format should be used (online, instructor-led, etc.)? What else, if anything, should be considered? The sales manager is requesting that the training is instructor-led, as a one-day class that her team can attend.
When? When does the learning need to occur? What are the timeframes for it to take place? The sales manager would like the training to be delivered before the end of the quarter. She would like there to be a takeaway job aid or quick reference guide for her team to refer to as needed.

Reviewing How to Conduct a Needs Assessment

Duration: 20 to 30 minutes.

In this exercise, you will use your knowledge of conducting a needs assessment to answer the following questions.

Keep in mind this scenario, from the previous lesson: You are working as an ID in your organization, and the head of human resources has come to your group with a specific need for the group to develop some training on working with difficult coworkers.

  1. In determining needs, it is important to realize who is requesting the change and what change is being asked for. Who is requesting the change in this scenario? What is the change being asked for?
  2. What data gathering methods might you use to assess the instructional needs?
  3. If you were to use the observation method of data collection, how might you go about this?
  4. Use the blank needs analysis table to fill in what it might look like after you have met with the head of HR to discuss the training needs. To access the table template, open Needs Analysis Chart.docx. Some questions to consider asking include:
    • Why is the learning being requested? What issue or problem does it need to address?
    • Who is requesting the learning? Who will the learning be targeted at?
    • How can the issue or problem be addressed?
    • What is the best way to address the issue or problem? What learning format should be used (online, instructor-led, etc.)? What else, if anything, should be considered?
    • When does this learning need to occur? What are the timeframes for it to take place?

Solution:

  1. The head of the human resources department is requesting the change. The change is that employees will be able to get along, work with, and be productive with coworkers they may not get along with.
  2. Answers will vary but may include interviewing the head of HR, as well as specific employees about their experiences. Or, you may want to create a focus group of employees to discuss their experience in working with difficult colleagues.
  3. Answers will vary but may include that you will observe one or two employees on the job to see what issues they encounter when working with others in their job.
  4. Answers will vary. To see an example of a filled-in chart, open Needs Analysis Chart-HR course example.docx.

The Basics of Goal Analysis

The goal analysis is another one of the steps that instructional designers take when determining instructional needs.

The Purpose of Analyzing Goals

The purpose of analyzing goals is to determine the goals of the learner, that is, what the learner needs to be able to do after completing the learning. Unlike the needs analysis, the instructional designer is not tasked with determining the problem; rather, he or she is focused solely on the solution to that problem.

The following are some example goals:

  • Perform a calculation.
  • Write a business letter.
  • Print a worksheet.

The Process of Analyzing Goals

Once the problem has been determined by the needs analysis, the goal is often apparent to the ID. Instructional design expert Robert Mager devised a process for analyzing goals that are not clear cut:

  1. Write down the goal.
  2. Determine what behaviors learners would need to demonstrate to achieve this goal.
  3. Analyze the list of behaviors, selecting those that represent the goal that is not clear cut.
  4. Using these behaviors, write a statement that describes what exactly the learner will be able to do.
  5. To ensure you have clarified the goal, look at the goal statement and ask: if the learner was able to achieve each performance, would he or she have achieved the goal? If yes, then you have properly clarified the goal.

Let's say that for our business writing course, we have an initial goal that is too vague.

  • Initial goal: Be a better writer.
  • Desired behaviors:
    1. Use proper grammar and spelling.
    2. Become familiar with the basic rules of English.
    3. Write an effective e-mail, with proper spelling and grammar.
    4. Write an effective business proposal, with proper spelling and grammar.
  • Which behaviors represent the vague goal?:
    1. Write an effective e-mail, with proper spelling and grammar.
    2. Write an effective business proposal, with proper spelling and grammar.
  • Statement describing exactly what learner will be able to do: Write effective e-mails and business proposals, demonstrating proper spelling and grammar.
  • If the learner could achieve this, would he or she have achieved the goal? Yes, so this goal has been clarified.

Setting Goals

The goal setting process can be straightforward or more complex. It is easy for people, including the person or group requesting the instruction, to lose sight of the overall goal.

One technique IDs can use to focus on the goals of the instruction is known as the functional analysis system technique, or FAST. FAST is a simple chart that the ID fills in, working backward, starting with practices that are established, to obtain the larger goal or goals.

The FAST chart uses simple verb/noun pairs. Here is an example FAST chart:

By starting with the action of eating well, you arrive at the final goal of being healthy.

How to Conduct a Task Analysis

Task analysis is another step in the analysis and objective setting process. Task analysis occurs after the needs assessment and the problem to be addressed by the instructional design has been identified.

Purpose

The purpose of the task analysis is to determine the content that will make up the instruction and to also determine in what order the content will appear.

The Morrison, Ross, Kemp approach to instructional design states that the task analysis answers solves three problems for the ID:

  1. What content is required for the learning to take place.
  2. The identification of subtle steps.
  3. The ID gains insight into the learner's perspective.

Gagne describes task analysis as a series of procedures performed by the instructional designer in order to gather information needed for the instruction.

Methodology

There are a number of approaches to task analysis, and the specific approach taken by the ID will vary based on what type of learning is being developed.

The Morrison, Ross, and Kemp (MRK) method says that the goals that are derived from the needs assessment and the analysis of the learner, specifically what knowledge and background the learner has, influence the content that is required for instruction. This information is the starting point for the ID, in developing objectives.

This approach states that there are three methods for task analysis:

  • Topic analysis: Topic analysis works similarly to creating an outline, beginning with major information and working down to secondary information. A topic analysis provides information on the content that will make up the learning, as well as its structure. The content can be procedures, skills, facts, concepts, rules, or principles.
  • Procedural analysis: A procedural analysis aims to identify steps that make up tasks. In this part of the task analysis, the ID will usually work with a subject-matter expert and walk through the steps in the procedure, in as close to the "real-world environment" as possible.
  • Critical incident method: The critical incident method uses an interview format, wherein the instructional designer interviews the subject-matter expert to determine what skills and knowledge are required to complete the task.

The ID will use the three methods, and the information gathered from all three methods is compiled and used by the ID to write the tasks in the instruction.

The following is what these might look like for one of the sections in the business writing course:

Procedures

The procedures in a task analysis process can vary by method; however, all methods have in common the goal of obtaining information about the tasks and content that will form the instruction.

The following are common task analysis procedures, depending on the type of instruction:

  • Document analysis: Analyzing documents used by employees for possible revision.
  • SME involvement: This is a point in the design process where IDs often work with SMEs, who have intimate knowledge of the subject, to help outline tasks.
  • Flowchart or map: IDs can create a flowchart or a map with tasks and subtasks, which can help visualize learner tasks.

Here is a sample mindmap from the business writing course:

Reviewing How to Conduct a Task Analysis

Duration: 20 to 25 minutes.

In this exercise, you will use your knowledge of conducting a task analysis to answer the following questions.

Keep in mind this scenario, from the previous lesson: You are working as an ID in your organization, and the head of human resources has come to your group with a specific need for the group to develop some training on working with difficult coworkers.

  1. What three problems should the task analysis address, according to the Morrison, Ross, Kemp method?
  2. How might you conduct a task analysis in this situation?
  3. What tasks might you determine are necessary in the instruction?

Solution:

  1. The task analysis should address what content is required for the learning to take place, the identification of subtle steps, and insight into the learner's perspective.
  2. Answers will vary but may include working with a SME who has extensive knowledge in dealing with difficult people, as well as analyzing the current policies and procedures that HR has in place.
  3. Answers will vary but may include learn about different personality types, use different forms of communication, utilize feedback, and escalate the situation to a manager if need be.

Analyzing the Learner

Analyzing the learners who are going to be taking the instruction is an important step for the instructional designer. The ID 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 ID would be to create instruction that would be beneficial and useful to both sets of learners.

Learner Characteristics

Analyzing learner characteristics will help drive the instruction. The Dick and Carey model of instructional design outlines a number of characteristics that the ID 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 ID 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 being 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

Learner Environment

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.

Learner environment will affect how the instructional designer both designs and delivers the training. In the example of the business writing course, the learning will take place in a classroom.

For the ID, 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.

Reviewing How to Analyze Learners

Duration: 20 to 30 minutes.

In this exercise, you will use your knowledge of analyzing the learner to answer the following questions.

Keep in mind this scenario, from the previous lesson: You are working as an ID in your organization, and the head of human resources has come to your group with a specific need for the group to develop some training on working with difficult coworkers.

  1. You are going to conduct a learner analysis with a survey. Design a survey.

Solution:

The following are some possible survey questions, although answers will vary.

  1. Have you previously taken a course on working with difficult colleagues?
  2. Do you see an issue in the workplace in you day-to-day life? Do you feel this training will be relevant to you?
  3. Have you taken previous training through the HR department? What was the training? Did you feel it was effective?
  4. What is your highest level of education completed?
  5. Do you prefer web-based learning or classroom learning?

How to Develop Objectives and Goals

Determining and developing instructional goals and objectives are a critical part of the instructional design process.

Difference between Goals and Objectives

Instructional goals differ from objectives:

  • Goal: A general statement regarding the intention of the instruction.
  • Objective: Usually more detailed and specific than a goal; objectives describe how the learning will affect the learners. Objectives should be measurable.

For example, in our hypothetical business writing course, imagine we are working on the objectives for the lesson on proper e-mail etiquette. The objectives for the course could include:

  • When writing a business e-mail, students will be able to construct a subject line that appropriately summarizes the topic of the e-mail in less than five words.
  • When writing a business e-mail, students will use an appropriate salutation for the specific audience when beginning the e-mail.
  • When writing a business e-mail, students will keep the email to an appropriate length of no more than three paragraphs, if possible.
  • When writing a business e-mail, students will use an appropriate closing, with a signature line that conveys their contact information.

One of the most popular approaches in the world of instructional design to setting goals is Robert Mager's approach. Mager identifies three components that IDs need to consider when generating performance objectives:

  • Performance: What is the learner expected to be able to do when finished with the instruction?
  • Condition: What condition or conditions will be present?
  • Criterion: How will the learner perform the action?

In our example of creating a business writing course, these three might look like the following:

When writing a business email (condition), the learner will create a message (performance) that is concise and appropriate (criterion).

Translating Goals to Objectives

Clear instructional objectives, the intended outcome of the learning, are important from both the learner's perspective, as well as the ID's perspective. Clear objectives can make designing the content an easier job for the instructional designer.

An objective should describe what the learner will be able to do after completing the instruction, in a way that is either measurable or observable. Most instructional designers reference Bloom's taxonomy when writing instructional goals.

As you may recall from the previous lesson, Bloom's taxonomy is divided into three domains:

  • Cognitive: Dealing in knowledge and understanding.
  • Affective: Dealing in the emotional realm.
  • Psychomotor: Dealing in physical skills.

Most of the time, instruction is focused on cognition, and so the cognitive domain is used most frequently.

The following table shows the six levels of the cognitive domain, starting from most basic and moving to most skilled, along with common verbs used to describe the intended outcome of instruction.

Level Verbs
Knowledge Identify, describe, define, list, recall, recognize
Comprehension Comprehend, discuss, distinguish, locate, interpret
Application Apply, construct, demonstrate, carry out, use
Analysis Analyze, contrast, differentiate, compare
Synthesis Create, develop, compile, propose, integrate
Evaluation Evaluate, assess, criticize, support, defend

So in our example of creating a lesson on proper business e-mail etiquette, our objective would likely be in the Application level, since the student is applying learning by actually writing an e-mail. Some of the objectives might be, then, using Application-level verbs:

  • Students will demonstrate their knowledge of e-mail salutations by writing the salutation line of a business e-mail to a client.
  • Students will use what they have learned about proper e-mail length to write the body of the e-mail message.

Reviewing How to Develop Objectives and Goals

Duration: 20 to 25 minutes.

In this exercise, you will use your knowledge of creating objectives and goals to answer the following questions.

Keep in mind this scenario, from the previous lesson: You are working as an ID in your organization, and the head of human resources has come to your group with a specific need for the group to develop some training on working with difficult coworkers.

  1. What is the difference between a goal and an objective?
  2. In our HR training scenario, one of the goals is: Given a situation when the learner has to work with a difficult coworker, the learner will be able to resolve conflict and maintain a peaceful working environment. What are some objectives that could be derived from this goal?

Solution:

  1. A goal is more general, a statement regarding the intention of the instruction, whereas an objective is more detailed, describing how the learning will affect learners.
  2. Answers will vary but objectives might identify how difficult personalities affect the workplace, describe the communication process, and list ways to handle conflict when it occurs.