"Expect from your learners what you see them DO in training!"
A Simple, Powerful Design Principle
Experts who train sometimes are wrong or incomplete. We've known this for a while now. Much of what experts do, think, and apply in their jobs is what cognitive psychologists call non-conscious. They know they're doing it right but they probably aren't aware of HOW or WHY.
That's odd, right? You'd assume that an expert who knows stuff and is good at their job would be able to explain it to others. Often, they are less than effective.
One common problem is that the expert isn't focused on performance on the job, clear on the learning objective, and doesn't provide 2/3's of the time in practice and feedback. Also, the expert is left to plan their own content-focused agenda, "covering" the material as a way to define success.
This approach risks training and learning that is ineffective and irrelevant to a novice.
What to do instead? I suggest instructional designers and consultants encourage experts to apply the super clever, and aptly named TOPF Secret to instructional design. It's as follows:
To assure that your training results in learners who feel competent and confident in their ability to perform back on the job, remember:
Task = Objective = Practice = Feedback
Let me explain.
The learner's task on the job, the learning objective, the in-class practices, and the learning feedback are ALL THE SAME THING!
(Insert head explosion emoji here. Okay. Maybe not.)
This simple principle has a profound effect on training success and the learner experience. Here's more on that.
The "Task" is the learners' performance on the job. What is it that they must do, care about, and achieve in order to be successful? This is the "thing" that learners should be confident and competent about. You may have to do some analysis to determine exactly what this is. Cognitive Task Analysis is one technique. Interviews of high performers and average performers is another. Observation is a third. Consulting relevant literature on best practice is good too. Or, perhaps you can evaluate work product samples. Lastly, you may interview or survey managers of the work or subject matter experts, but see above for the risks (I'd never use interviews or surveys alone to design training.).
The task is best expressed in a short, clear phrase of an action verb followed closely by a noun. Think: Checklist.
The "Objective" is the learning objective for the training itself. What do you expect the learners to be able to do (or produce) once the training is completed? What are the essential declarative (book smarts) and procedural (street smarts) knowledge for their success?
The "Practice" is what learners DO DURING the training that shows that they are proficient enough, and are confident and competent to apply the learning back on the job.
And, the "Feedback" is your basis of assessment of the training. Did you achieve what you needed to achieve? What encouragement can be offered? When will they know they're doing a good job?
So, for example, here's how this would work from the designers point of view:
Just imagine that your training and learning programs follow this TOPF Secret? Why, you'd almost instantly have:
Imagine that! Applying the TOPF Secret gives you the power to encourage the experts who train to be more performance-driven. I've found this simple yet powerful tool gives designers the confidence to shape how learning is designed and measured for impact.
Coming up in the next post, "The Wall of Reality."
"The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the unanimous views of all parts of my mind."
- Malcolm McMahon
Dan Topf, CPT is Sr. Vice President at MDI, Inc.
Business Learning by Dan: Primers for Trainers
PDF versions of short articles on how to integrate business acumen into all training and development:
The Income Statement
Price and Volume
The Circulation of Capital
The Cost of Capital
Financial Services -- Life Insurance/Annuities