||Identifying the Problem|
Effective Instructionby Morrison, Ross, & Kemp,
Think back to a class you have had sometime in your life that had a single textbook, maybe it was a history or chemistry class that had one of those 50 pounders that made a great step or doorstop. If you were asked to describe what you learned in the class, you might answer everything between the two covers. In fact, many times we have attended a class where we started on page 1 and continued reading until we either finished the textbook or the semester ended.
This approach is typical of K-12 and university courses. We approach the task of instruction as one of needing to master a body of knowledge, often defined as the content of a textbook. Some educators (e.g., Ausubel) propose that students need to master a body of knowledge as part of a course, but the learning must be done in a meaningful fashion rather than rote memorization. However, think back to a course where you plowed through the textbook starting with page 1 and continued towards the end of the book. Do you remember or understand enough today that you could write the equivalent of even a chapter about the knowledge in the text?
If you do not assign a textbook from cover to cover in your class, what approach would you use? How do you determine what to teach? Consider your first teaching job in a high school. You will probably arrive sometime in August to a nice clean room that is ready for the students' arrival in a few weeks. On your desk are three textbooks you will use for the three courses you will teach. Do you start making your lesson plans by starting with chapter 1 of each book and proceeding? Or, is there another approach? If you take the approach of starting with chapter 1, then you are assuming the textbook author knows what is best for your students. Of course, the author does not know anything about your school's curriculum, your setting, or your environment. Should you follow the plan in the book?
Let's consider an instructional design perspective. There are two general approaches an instructional designer might use. First, is to determine what you need to teach in this particular school district with your students. Your district probably has a set of objectives or benchmarks for your subject area and grade level. These benchmarks provide a general suggestion of what to teach, but leave it to the teacher to design the lesson. Consider the following benchmarks established by North Carolina's State Department of Public Instruction.
Some of these benchmarks are broad, such as assessing the economic importance of livestock, while others, such as differentiating between ocean zones, is very specific. Yet, each needs planning on your part to help the learners master the benchmark. An instructional designer would start with each of these benchmarks and identify goals associated with each, and then determine the best way to teach the goals. A teacher, however, might take the benchmark and associate it with a chapter in the textbook. To design a lesson, we must carefully plan the instruction. Accepting the book as the guide for the instruction may not be the most efficient or effective approach.
Second, instructional designers take the approach of identifying problems with worker or student performance. That is, we try to identify situations where a worker is not meeting expectations, or where a student is not meeting expectations. For example, a company such as Dell, Gateway, or Microsoft might expect their technicians to answer and fix 15 customer problems an hour. If a group of employees at the Research Triangle support center is only solving an average of 8 customer calls an hour, they are not meeting expectations. Similarly, a high school where less than 15% of the students taking the advanced placement (AP) test in psychology are passing, they are not meeting the school and parents' expectations.
We define a performance problem as gap between actual performance and expected performance. The task then, is one of identifying the problem and then designing an appropriate solution.
In this week's lesson, we are going to focus on identifying the instructional problem. There are three instructional design tools we can use to identify instructional problems:
As a teacher, you will probably use goal analysis most of the time for lesson planning. Needs assessment and performance assessment are used to identify performance problems.
assessment is a tool used by a number of professionals. For example, health
care workers use it to determine needs for a clinic or nursing home. Social
workers might use a needs assessment to determine the need of senior citizens
or the need for a drug abuse program. The textbook chapter focuses on training
needs assessment. This particular approach is applicable to businesses,
schools, and universities who are trying to identify problems related to
Read pages 28-40 of your textbook. As you read, consider the following questions.
||The local community
college has heard of your success in developing the agriculture program
at the local high school. They are interested in developing an urban gardener
program for adults in the community. The only related course they have is
on dried flower arranging. To develop this program, they are offering you
a substantial salary for the summer to determine the need and scope for
such a program.
After talking with the provost, you decide that a needs assessment is the appropriate tool for the task. Describe how you would develop your approach by addressing the following questions.
next strategy you will learn is a goal analysis. A goal analysis produces
more detailed information on a specific topic than a needs assessment. However,
a goal analysis requires a specific starting point in contrast to a needs
assessment, which attempts to identify a starting point. Goal analysis is
a very useful tool for teachers to help define the goals for one or more
benchmarks or standards.
Read pages 40-43 of your textbook. As you read, consider the following questions:
The State Department of Education in North Carolina has developed standards for a number of vocational and agriculture courses for the high school level. Use one of the links below to select an appropriate course(s). Select 2 different standards and complete a goal analysis for each of the two standards you have selected. The goal analysis for each standard will include all six steps of the goal analysis process. (The standards are in an Adobe Acrobat format. You can download the Acrobat reader for free at www.adobe.com).
A complete list of vocational standards is listed at http://www.ncpublicschools.org/workforce_development/vocats/blueprints/
http://www.ncpublicschools.org/workforce_development/vocats/blueprints/acrobat_1998/98bp6811.pdf http://www.ncpublicschools.org/workforce_development/vocats/blueprints/acrobat_1998/98bp6812.pdf http://www.ncpublicschools.org/workforce_development/vocats/blueprints/acrobat_1998/98bp6842.pdf
How many goals do you have under each step? How did you compare or differ with how you modified and combined your goals for each course? Last, what changes would you make the next time you do a goal analysis?
pages 43-52. As you read consider the following questions.
Many school programs have apprenticeships, internships, or other programs that allow students to work in a real world setting for part of the day. Assume that you are the director of such a program at high school. Unfortunately, many of your students are not doing very well on the job and you have the task of determining the reason for their poor performance.
Identify three different job environments where you might place students as part of this program. Next, identify one example of each problem from the list below (see Figure 2-2, page 45) that you might find in the jobs you described.
Now, select an example of each cause from your list and describe a possible intervention (i.e., solution) to the problem. Explain your rationale for the intervention you selected and why you think it will work.
instructional design process is based on heuristics. Heuristics are general
rules or guidelines that we follow to solve a problem. They are flexible,
and we can modify them with experience. For example, if you have ever driven
on snow or ice, you quickly learn that your "normal" approach to driving
does not work. And just as quickly, you develop a new set of heuristics
to solve the problem of how to drive. As you work to design instruction,
you will develop and use a basic set of heuristics, and you will modify
and develop new heuristics as you gain experience.
Using the discussion board for Week 2, Exercise 4, post at least 3 heuristics you have learned when identifying an instructional problem.
designing instruction, we must determine the problem. In education, the
"problem" is often defined as a standard, benchmark, or simply a course
title. In business, health care, and the military, the problem is defined
as a gap in performance. That is, the worker is not meeting expectations.
Similarly, we have found many gaps in K-12 student performance in recent
By defining our problem, we can start to determine what actions we need to take. In a high school, the most common solution is to develop instruction. There are times, however, when instruction may not be the best answer. For example, in exercise 3 you identified several problems that were not a result of a lack of knowledge or skill that caused the student to fail to perform to expectations. These problems require some other type of intervention.
In most school situations, a goal analysis will be the primary tool you will use to define your problem. Remember, goal analysis is only as good as the input you receive. You can easily define goals that will not address the problem or teaching task if you do not have a clear understanding of the problem.
In the next lesson, we will examine
how to determine the characteristics of our learners, and how these characteristics
are used to design the instruction.
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