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Instructional Design and Materials Development

Instructional design is a set of methods and practices for creating learning experiences that make the acquisition of new knowledge and skills as effective, efficient and enjoyable for learners as possible. A well-designed curriculum is critical to the success of any educational endeavor, but accomplishing the most in the least amount of resources may be especially pertinent in the developing country setting. The classic model for instructional design is “ADDIE”:

  • Analyze: The “instructional problem” is defined and learning objectives and goals are determined; these are based on both learning needs/performance gaps (based on an assessment of the current situation) and available resources
  • Design: A strategic “blueprint” of the materials and methods needed to achieve the learning objectives and goals is created.
  • Develop: Content based on the design blueprint is created and assembled into an instructional package or curriculum, which is then reviewed and revised based on feedback received.
  • Implement: This phase encompasses procedures that prepare facilitators to conduct and learners to participate in the learning event, as well as actions that support carrying out the activities and assessments as intended. The implementation phase is also the beginning of evaluating the overall efficacy curriculum.
  • Evaluate: There are two kinds of evaluation. Formative evaluation aims to improve the quality of instruction—for example through informal observations of learner performance or pilot-testing. Summative evaluation helps verify the effectiveness of the instruction, through means such as a final knowledge assessment of learners or a review of service statistics or on the job changes in practice.

Key characteristics of good instructional design are that it:

  • Responds to actual learning needs of the target group as identified in a needs assessment
  • Only provides “need to know” (rather than nonessential or “nice to know”) guidance
  • Is cyclical – often during the process, for example, the facilitator may need to go back and revise objectives or activities based on observations of learner performance
  • Focuses on desired learner performance based on gaps identified in a needs assessment

Incorporating the instructional design methods and practices, materials development focuses on the “development” phase of ADDIE. In materials development, the following activities take place:

  1. Determine Course Context
    • Describe the general context of the desired technical content course (intended learners, the expectations of their jobs).
    • In simulation, conduct a basic audience analysis, and identify relevant:
      • Learner characteristics
      • Training context/workplace context
      • Learner experience (years on the job, general competencies, reading/writing level and language used, use of computers and other technology
  1. Write Learning Objectives
    • Using identified learning needs, write learning objectives that are specific, measurable, and attainable and include the desired performance, conditions of performance and the criteria for assessing the performance.
    • Given a sample from a skills-course, sequence the learning objectives consistent with the guidance presented in the reference manual.
    • For a given set of learning objectives, identify the prerequisite skills and knowledge that you will not teach but which participants must have mastered to be successful in reaching the objectives.
  1. Select and Develop Assessments
    • Based on identified learning needs, describe options for assessment methods consistent with the guidance provided in the reference manual, including the appropriateness, advantages and limitations of each.
    • Presented with a range of samples, critique and improve questions consistent with the criteria provided in the reference manual.
    • Given learning objectives, create test items to measure achievement of the learning objectives.
    • Given learning objectives, construct checklists to measure competency of communication, psychomotor or clinical decision-making skills.
  1. Select and Develop Learning Activities
    • Given specific learning objectives, select and develop realistic and relevant learning activities and exercises that engage learners in purposeful learning and help them:
      • Master the learning objectives
      • Successfully complete the learning assessments
      • Apply what they’ve learned on the job
    • Using identified learning activities, organize the learning activities to support increasing mastery of objectives.
    • Based on the identified learning activities, select engaging and appropriate teaching methods to help learners accomplish the learning objectives.
    • In a case study, distinguish content that directly supports successful completion of the learning activities from content that is not relevant.
    • Using identified learning objectives, create session plans that address the nine events of instruction.
    • Based on the identified course/learning context, learner characteristics and identified learning activities, select appropriate mode(s) for delivery of instruction.