Robert Gagne is an educational psychologist who provides some very practical guidance for designing instruction that is relevant to instruction we prove here at the Lab. The following is applicable to designing instruction at the Lab as it serves as a basic frammework and reminder of good practices that enhance learning.
STEP 1: Gain Learner’s attention: This is sometimes called priming. In some cases this is referred to as providing an “ice breaker” but it’s more than that. The purpose is to increase motivation to learn by showing how the training provides practical value. It’s important to remember that in many cases students are not attending training because they want to , but rather because thy have to fulfill a requirement. With this as the starting point, you want to turn the tide so that students se value and interest in the learning that will occur.
STEP 2: Explain the objectives
Learning objectives are used by instructional designers to clarify what specifically the learner will be able to do as a result of completing the training. However, they also serve as a way to help students organize their thoughts and cue their attention on the goals of the course. However, you don’t need to use formal learning objectives (“You will be able to evaluate the effectiveness of shielding through visual examination”). Instead you can use less formal language or form the objective as a question. For example, you could rephrase the previous by stating “What are ways you can evaluate the effectiveness of shielding before performing your experiment”). The use of questions can help stimulate thinking and set up expectations for learning.
Marzano (1998, p.94) reported an effect size of 0.97 (which indicates that achievement can be raised by 34 percentile points) when goal specification is used. When students have some control over the learning outcomes, there is an effect size of 1.21 (39 percentile points). This suggest another point of interest which is allowing participants to choose what objectives to focus on. This sets relevance and involvement. For example “Here are five objectives for this training, which three do you think are the most important to your working safely, and we’ll focus on those.”
STEP 3: Stimulate recall of prior (related) knowledge:
Stimulating prior learning and relating this to the new content helps facilitate learning. Comparing and contrasting with existing knowledge helps encode new information as it connects new information with existing mental schema stored in memory. This is a cognitive strategy having to do with information processing and encoding. One method is to use scaffolding which is a way to build/develop understanding incrementally.
It is also helpful to encourage note taking or to use visual maps. This process of note taking has an overall effect of .99, indicating a percentile gain of 34 points. Use of visual maps (connecting concepts) has a 39% percentile gain in achievement (Marzano, 1998). If you think about this yourself, when you take notes you are actively relating the new information to your existing knowledge as a sense-making activity. As the instructor you need to remember to pace instruction so that students are rushed but have time to make connections.
Step 4: Present the material
Sequence and chunk the information to avoid cognitive overload. Sequencing is a difficult process of providing a scaffolded approach to learning (they need to know this before this, before this). It is commonly a challenge, but it is also an editing exercise with the aim of “Less is more” especially when you are presenting new content, or when having to learn how to do something differently that someone has been doing for a long time. Provide feedback often, and guage student understanding by introducing short knowledge checks, or asking questions. You want to validate understanding at each step (don’t assume) in order to determine the correct pace for teaching / learning.
Step 6: Provide guidance
Modeling is key. You should model how to perform a task (skill demonstration), how to solve problems and how perform functions or operations. Modeling is a highly efficient and effective method for teaching and is often overlooked especially with the onset of power point driven instructional paths. This includes “talking outy loud” to explain your thinking as you demonstrate. Modeling eliminates any false assumptions learners may have about how to do something, which reduces frustration that can result when learners practice or attempt to solve something based on poorly understood concepts.
Instead of explaining and showing pictures (using power point) for how to inspect a multi meter, or a radiological survey instrument, simply show and model the process using the actual instruments. We often fall into patterns of using power point out of convenience, when more times than not it interferes with the end goal of instruction. Arranging the learning environment to align to this type of instruction is easy to do and once started you begin to value this approach, and at the same time students become more involved (real performance is better than mental approximations, or visual representations).
Step 6: Elicit performance
Let learners practice the newly acquired skill. This doesn’t mean asking multiple choice questions that abstract or approximate decisions. Better is to provide actual situations (even if scenarios) that help the learner position the learning into the context of real work. This can be to practice problem solving, practice performance tasks, and of course hands-on tasks or procedures. Often this is positioned at the end of instruction as a measure to asses learning, but should be positioned as part of the upfront instructional activities. There is no reason to expect that a person will be able to perform a hands-on assessment when only provided lecture instruction. It is a misalignment of expectation, and practice is best positioned as part of instruction.
It is also important to provide immediate feedback as corrective measures to steer learning and allow person to fine tune. Feedback should be supportive and encouraging throughout. The idea overall is simple and common sense. Practice and supportive feedback is an efficient way to develop new skills and knowledge and the instructor is well positioned to guide practice.
Step 7: Provide Feedback:
This is something that should be ongoing; not just performed at the end of training. Feedback should be specific, not just “you are doing a good job.” Explain why they performed well. Provide specific suggestion to improve “You did a great job of inspecting the harness and donning your gear. The only thing to keep in mind is to perform a few stretches to make sure the fit is still good. Then readjust the harness. Take your time with stretches. A good fit is being able to….”
they are doing a good job and/or provide specific guidance.”
Step 8: Assess Performance:
At this point you have been providing feedback and evaluating understanding throughout the instruction so you now consider providing summative evaluation as a way to tie everything together. Assessment should tie to objectives and be suited to the types of outcomes go here for example.
Step 9: Enhance transfer
his should probably be part of step 6 where you assess overall learning. The idea here is to relate the instruction and performance to the person’s actual day-to-day work. You want to build a bridge between the classroom instruction and its application in the field. You won’t achieve a perfect alignment or match because work varies between the participants in training, but you can promote transfer by representing work situations in the instruction and in the assessment.
Have a person explain a chemical process they perform involving a reaction. Then have them characterize the waste, write a waste label and choose an appropriate container for storing the waste.
Gagne, R. (1985). The Conditions of Learning (4th.). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.