Analyzing Learners and Contexts

The Systematic Design of Instruction, by Dick, Walter and Carey.

 

Objectives
1. Name the general characteristics of a target population that are important to considers when developing instruction
2. Name contextual characteristics of the eventual setting in which acquired skills will be performed
3. Name contextual characteristics of the instructional setting
4. For a given instructional goal and context, describe methods and sources for obtaining information about the target population, performance setting, and instructional setting
5. Analyze and describe the general characteristics of the eventual performance and instructional setting
6. Review instructional analysis work in the light of learner and contex information and revise as indicated

Background
The previous chapter have focused on indentifying the skills and knowledge to be taught. Form a needs assessment a goal was indentified that, in turn was analyzed to determine to specific steps included in the goal. Additional analysis was used to indentify (1) the subordinate skills that must be included in the instruction and (2) the entry skills that the learners must have be included in the instruction and (2) the entry skills that learners must have to begin the instruction.
Not only must designer determine what is to be taught, but also the characteristics of the learners, the contexts in which the instruction will be delivered, and the context analysis. They provide the details that help shape both what is taught and, especially, how it is taught.

What do we need to know about the people we are instructing? Answers varygreatly on this question. On approach is to learn as much as possible in order to design instruction that is most appropriate for the learners. Data collection can be expensive and time consuming, and it may yield information that is not very useful. Another approach is to assume that as designers we already know enough about learners to forgo collecting information about them. For some designers, this may be true, but for who are designing for learner populations, assumptions about the learners maybe inaccurate and cause significant problems when the instruction is delivered.
Historically, educational psychologist have examined an array of individual difference variables and their relationship to learning. Studies of intelligence and personality traits fill the literature. Form an instructional design perspective, we want to know which variables significantly affect the achievement of the groups of learners who have common characteristics. In this chapter we indentify a set of variables that the research has indicate affects learning. If you describe your learners in terms of these variables, you can modify your instructional strategy to enhance learning.
Of equal importance at this point in the design process are the analyses of the context in which learning will occur and the context in which learners will use their newly acquired skills. In some instances, a learner is taught a skill in the classroom, demonstrated mastery on a posttest, and is the end of the matter. Likewise, a student may use the mathematics skill learned this year in a mathematics class next years. In these situations, the context for learning and the context for using the skill are essentially the same.
In contrast, consider a course on interpersonal skill for managers. These skills may be taught and practiced in a training center, yet used in a variety of corporate setting. These different contexts should be reflected in the media selected for instruction, in the instructional strategy, and in evaluations of the learners.
Anothers reason for the designers to analyze the learners and contexts is that these analyses cannot be done in one’s office. Designers should visit classrooms, training facilities, and the learner’s worksplace ti determine the circumstances in which learners will enhance designers’ understanding of what is being taught and how it will be used.
As noted in Chapters 3 and 4, the instructional analysis steps and analyses of learners and contexts are often performed simultaneously instead od sequentially so that information gathered from each informs the other
Concepts
Learners Analysis
Lets begin by considering who the learners are for given set of instruction. We will refer to these learners are the target population—they are the ones you wants to “hit”with the appropriate instruction.
Sometimes the target population is also referred to as the target audience or target group. It is referred to using descriptors such as age, grade level, topic being studies, job experience, or job position. For example, a set of materials might be intended for system programmers, fifth-grade reading classes, middle man agers, or high school principals. These examples are typical of the descriptions usually available for instructional materials. But the instructional designers must go beyond these general descriptions and be much more specific about the skills required of the learners for whom the materials are intended.
It is important to make a distinction between the target population and what we will refer to as tryout learners. The target population is an abstract representation of the widest possible range of users, such as college students, fifth graders, or adults. Tryout learners, on the other hand, are those learners who are available to designers while the instruction is being develop. It is assumed that these tryout learners are members of the target population—that is, they are college students, fifth grades, and adult, respectively. But the tryout learners are specific college students fifth grades, or adults. While the designers is preparing sentatives of that group in order to plan the instruction and determine how well the instruction works after it is developed.
What the information do designers need to know about their target population? Useful information includes (1) entry behaviors, (2) prior knowledge of the topic area, (3) attitudes toward content and potential delivery system, (4) academic motivation, (5) educational and ability levels, (6) general learning preferences, (7) attitudes toward the organization giving the instruction, and (8) group characteristic. The following paragraphs elaborate each of these categories.
Entry Bahaviors
Prior to beginning instruction, target population members must already mastered certain skill (i.e entry behaviors) associated with learning the goal. The research literature also discusess other characteristics of learners, categorized as either specific or general in nature, that relate to learners knowledge, experience, and attitudes. These also influence the outcome of instruction. Interested readers may want to consult the works of Richey (1992) for a detailed review of this research.
Prior knowledge of topic area
Much of the importance of determining what learners already know about the topic that will be taught; rarely are they completely unaware or lacking in at least some knowledge of the subject. Further, they often have partial knowledge or misconception about the topic. When we teach, learners may try to interpret what is being said in light of the associations they make with their prior learning. They construct new knowledge by building on their prior understanding; therefore, it is extremely important for the designers to determine the range and nature of prior knowledge.
Attitudes toward Content and potential delivery system.

Learners may have impressions or attitudes about the topic that will be taught and perhaps even how it might be delivered. For example, the target populations may have no interest in mastering the rulers and techniques required for keeping and electronic day planner because they have no interest in entering their old paper and pencil day planner into their deskop computer. They might, however, be interested in learning they new skills if the company provides them with a personal digital assistant the new skills if the company provides them with a personal digital assistant (PDA) that will synchronise files with their desktop computer. The designers should determine, from a sample set of learners, the range of prior experience knowledge, and attitudes toward the content area that will be covered in the instruction. Designers also should determine learner’s expectations regarding how the instruction might be delivered.

Academic Motivation (ARCS)
Many instruction considers the motivation level of the learners the most important factor in successful instruction. Teachers report that when learners have little motivation or interest in the topic, learning is almost impossible. Keller (1987) develop a model of the different types of motivation necessary for successful learning, and he suggested how to use this information to design effective instruction. Keller’s model is called the ARCS model (attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction). The model will be discussed in detail in the chapter on instructional strategies; it will be used here to show how to obtain information from learners during the learners analysis.

Keller suggests asking learners questions such as these: How relevant is this instructional goal to you? What aspects of the goal interest you must? How confident are you that you could successfully learn to perform the goal? How satisfying would it be to you to be able to perform the goal? The answers to these questions will provide insight into the target population and into potential problem areas in the design of instruction. Do not assume that learners are very interested in the topic, find it relevant to their interests or job, feel confident they can learn it, and will be satisfied when they do. These assumptions are almost never valid. It is important to find out how learners feel before you design the instruction rather than while it is being delivered. We will discuss the implications of learner’s academic motivation and describe procedures for collecting motivational data after considering more general characteristics of the learners.

Educational and Ability Levels
Determine the achievement and general ability levels of the learners. This information will provide insight into the kinds of instructional experiences. They may have had and perhaps their ability to cope with new and different approaches to instruction.

General Learning Preferences
Find out about the target population’s learning skills and preferences and their willingns to explore new modes of learning. In the other words, are these learnes seemingly fixated on the lecture discussion approach to learning, or have they experienced success with seminar-style classes, case study, small- group problem-based learning, or independent web based courses? Much has been written about “learning styles” and assessing a student’s personal learning style so that instruction can be adapted for maximum effectiveness. Research indicates that personal styles can be identified, but such styles are often derived from learner’s expressions of personal preferences for listening, viewing, reading, small group discussion, and so forth, rather than measurement of psychological traits that will predict how a student will learn best. We will treat learning style as an aspect of learning preferences until a body of research emerges that confirms pratical gains in learning efficiency, effectiveness, and attitudes through individualizing instruction based on indentification of learning styles.

Attitudes toward Training Organization
Determine the target population’s attitudes toward the organization providing instruction. Do they a positive, constractive view of the both management and their peers, or are they somewhat cynical about senior leardership and their ability to provide appropriate training? Researchers have indicateds that such attitudes are substansial predictors of the success of instruction in terms of the likehood of newly learned skills being used on the job. Those with positive attitudes about the organization and their peers are more likely to use the skills.
Group Characteristic
A careful analysis of the learners will provide two additional kinds of information that can be influential in the design of instruction.
The first is the degree of heterogeneity within the target population on important variables. Obviously, finding ways to accommodate diversity is important. The second kind of information ia an overall impression of the target population based on the direct interactions with them. This is not simply accepting a stereotypical description or a management description of the learners; this requires interaction with learners in order ti develop an impression of what they know an how they feed.
These learners variables will be used to select and develop the objectives for instruction, and they will especially influence various component of the instructional strategy. They will help the designer develop a motivational strategy for instruction and will suggest various types of examples that can be used to illustrate points, ways in which the instruction may (or may not) be delivered and ways to make the practice of skills relevant for learners.
Collecting Data for Learner Analysis
There are various way to collect data about the learners. One method would involve a site visit for structured interviews with managers, instructors, and learners. These interviews might yield valuable information about learners’ entry behaviors, personal goals, attitudes about the content and training organization, and self-report skill levels. During the site visit, the designer could also observe learners in the performance and instructional contexts. Either on site or using distance technology, designers could administers surveys and questionnaires to obtain similar information about the learners’ interests, goals, attitudes, and self-reports skills. In addition to self-report and supervisor judgement, designers could administers pretests in order to indetify learners’ actual entry behaviors and prior knowledge and skills.
Output
The results of a learner analysis include a description of the learners’ (1) entry behaviors and prior knowledge of the topic, (2) attitudes toward the content and potential delivery system, (3) academic motivation, (4) prior achievement ability levels, (5) learning preferences, (6) general attitudes toward the organization providing training, and (7) group characteristics.

Analysis of Performance Context
The designers must be concerned about the characteristic of the setting in which the skills and knowledge will be used. Instruction should be part of the satisfying a need that has been derived from a needs assessment. The needs assessment should be based on the indentification of performance problems that can be solved through instruction or opportunities that instruction can provide for an organization. The instruction must be contribute to meeting an indentified need by providing learners with skills and attitudes that will be used, if not in the workplace, certainly some where other than classroom. Seldom is something learned simply for the purpose of demonstraiting mastery on a test at the end of the instruction; therefore, as designers it is important for us to know the environment in which our learners will be using their new skills. Form a constructivist perspective, a careful context analysis is critical for aiding the designers in creating appropriate elements of the learning environment and enabling the learner to build optimal conceptual frame works for learning and remembering. Accurate analysis of the performance context should the designers to develop a more authentic learning experience, thereby enchancing the learners’ motivation, sense of instructional relevance, and transfer of new knowledge and skills to the work setting.

Managerial of Supervisor Support
We must learn about the organizational support that learners can expect to receive when using the new skills. Research indicates that one of the strongest predictors of new skills in a new setting (called transfer of training) is the support received by the learner. If managers, supervisors, or peers ignore or punish those using new skills, then the use of the new skills will cease. If personnel recoginize and praise those using new skills and then skills will be used, and hopefully their use will address the problem identified in the original needs assessment.
If management support is not present, then the designer (or the training, organization) has an added problems associated with the project, namely recruiting their support. It is often helpful to include managers in project planning, ask them to serve as subject-matters experts, and perhaps ask them to serve as mentors or coachers for the learners when tey return to the workplace.

Physical Aspects of the Site
The second aspect of the context analysis is to assess the physical context in which the skills will be used. Will their use depend on equipment, facilities, tools, timing, or other resources? This information can be used to design the training so that skills can be practiced conditions as similar as possible to those in the workplace.
Social Aspects of the Site
Understanding the social context in which skills are to be applied is critical for designing effective instruction. In analyzing social aspects, some relevant questions to ask include the following. Will learners work alone or as team members? Will they works independently the field, or will they be presenting ideas in staff meeting or supervising employees? Are the skills to be learned already use proficiently by others in the organization, or will these learners be the first.
Relevance of Skills to Workplace
To ensure that new skills meet the identified needs, we should assess the relevance of the skills meet the identified needs, we should the relevance of the skills to be learned by employees currently working in the performance site. This is a reality check to ensure that instruction really will be the solution, or part of a solution, to the needs that were originally identified. Designers should assess wheter physical, social, or motivational constraint to the used of the new skills exits. Physical constraints might include lack of work space, outdated equipment, inadequate time or scheduling, or too few personnel. For example, it would do little good to provide customers, all four telephone lines lit, and a thirty-minute delay for costumers with appointments. Likewise, training in instructional uses for computers is irrelevant for teachers who have no computers or severely outdated computers.

Collecting Data for Performance Context Analysis
Although some instructional analyses can be done in the office, context analyses require designers to observe of the project because they provide critical information not only for direct input to the project but also for enhancing the skills and knowledge of designers.
On-site visit for purpose of context analysis should be planned well in advance, and one or more visits should be made. Ideally these visits should occur at the same time that instructional analysis is being conducted. The sites will be situation specific, and some may have been identified in the need assessment.
The purpose for the visits is to together data from potential learners and managers and to observe the work environment where they new skills will be used. The basic data gathering procedures include interviews and observations. The interviews should be conducted using written questions are situation or project specific and depend on the unique nature of each setting.
Output
The major outputs of this phase of the study are (1) a description of the physical and organizational environment where the skills will be used, and (2) a list of any special factors that may facilitate or interface with the learners use of the new skills.
Analysis of Learning Context
There are two aspects to the analysis of the learning context that determine what is and what should be. The what is is a review of the setting in which instruction will take place. This might be only on site, such as a corporate training centers, or it could be one of many sites that the client has available. That what should be is facilities, equipment, and resources that adequately support the intended instruction.
In the learning context analysis, the focus is on the following elements: (1) the compatibility of the site with instructional requirements, (2) the adaptability of the site for simulating aspects of the workplace or performance site, (3) the adaptability of the site for using a veriety of the instructional strategies and training delivery approach, and (4) the constrains present that may affect the design and delivery of instruction. The following paragraphs briefly elaborate each of these areas.
Compatibility of Site with Instructional Requirements
In the instructional goal statement prepared in the first step of the model, the tools and others support items required to perform the goal were listed. Does the learning environment that you are visiting include these tools? Can it accommodate them if they are provided? The most common “tool” today is probably a computers in the training organization? And, of great importance, are they compatible with those in other training sites that may be used for instruction?
Adaptability of Site to Simulate Workplace
Another issue is the compatibility of the training environment with work environment. In training, an attempt must be made to simulate those factors form the works environment that are critical to performance. Will it be possible to do so in the designated training context? What would have to be changed or added?
Adaptability for Delivery Approaches
That list of tool requirements from the goals statement indicates that what should be with regard to the learning context and, obviously, for the performance context as well. There may be other limitations or requirements that should be noted at this point in the analysis. These related to organizational mandates that have been placed onn your instruction. The organization may have decided that the instruction must be deliverable in typical corporate training centers in the United States, that the instruction must be intended for the “typical” fourth-grade classroom. Determine what delivery approach can be used in the proposed instructional sites.

Learning-Site Constraints Affecting Design and Delivery
For whatever reason an upfront decision may have been made that this instruction will be computers-based and self-instructional. The decision may not have been made on the basis of an analysis of the capability of a computer system to deliver the desired in instruction. In hese types of cases, the context analysis of the learning environment becomes critically important. The designers may find that the computers in various traning.

In an ideal situation, the location of the training and the means of delivering it would be decided on the basis of an analysis of the requirements for teaching the instructional goal. In the extreme, some argue that training should not be delivered until the individual has need of it. It would be delivered, just in time, in the workplace, not in a group setting in a classroom.
We are long way from that vision. An instructor teaching twenty to twenty for learners in a classroom is still the predominant method of corporate training. Public education is a teacher-led with typical twenty to forty students. However more self-instructional approaches and facilities are becoming available, and more instruction is being delivered at a workstation computer that includes an electronic performance support system. As these system become both more capable and more avaible for the training use, systematic design principles will be even more applicable for the development of efficient, effective instruction.

Public School Content
Before summarizing this section, it is worth reviewing learner and context analysis from the perspective of the designers who will be developing instruction for public schools. Designers who support learner and learning environment analyses may believe they are already familiar with them in the public school sector, and no further analysis is necessary. We are encourage you renew your experience base by doing the proposed analyses with learners, teachers, and typical classrooms. We also encourage you to think beyond the accepted textbook and curriculum guide approach to public schooling. That approach has led to the criticism that much of public education emphasized factual recall over conceptual understanding and textbook problems over authentic application. Constructivist theorists have been justifiably sharp in their criticism of teaching/learning activities that are abstracted from, and thus not relevant to, authentic physical, social, and problem contexts. This leads not only to diminution of students’ motivation, but also to inability to transfer learning for application in meaningful, real-life problem situations outside the school walls.
Another analysis of the performance context relates to the use of the skills and knowledge outside the school. Why are the students learning these skills? Do they have any application in the home or the community, in hobby or recreational intereste, or in vocational or higher educational pursuits? If so, carefully note performance context applications and bring them to the instructional strategy stage of design. These applications are exactly what this needed to boost motivation, provide context for new content the examples, and design practise activities that are seen as relevant by students. In essence, we believe that the learner and context analysis step in the instructional design model is just as important to the public school designer as it is to one who will be working with adult populations in diverse training and working with adult populations in diverse training and works environments.
Evaluation and Revision of the Instructional Analysis
Most designers review and revise design analyses before of the first draft instruction is created. One component of the design process for which a preliminary try out can be made is the instructional analysis. The reason we are discussing the tryout in this capther, rather than in chapter 10, is that the tryout can occur at the same time in the designer is conducting the learner and context analyses. Those analyses bring the designer into contact with potential learners, or recent learners, who can review the instructional analysis with the designers.
The instructional analysis diagram indicates the goal, the steps required to perfrom the goal, the steps required to perfrom the goal, the subordinate skills, and the required entry behaviors. In order to review the reasonableness of your analysis, select several people who have the characteristics of the target population. Sit with each person and explain what the analysis means. State the goal and explain what someone would do if he or she were able to do it. You might provide an example in which you go through the steps in the goal. Explain what is mean by entry behaviors, and ask if person knows or can do each of the entry behaviors, and ask if the person knows or can do each of the entry behaviors you listed for your instruction.
You might also explain your materials to supervisors in the work setting to obtain their input. Supervisors can provide insight from both content-expert and context-feasibility perspectives. Input from target the learners and supervisors will sign process, writing performance objectives and assessments, which depend entirely on information from the instructional analysis.
Summary
To begin this stage of instructional design, you should have completed or be working on the goal analysis and the subordinate skills analysis including the identification of entry behaviors. You should also have general ideas about the target population for which instruction will be develop. These ideas usually include general descriptions such as kingergarten children, seventh graders, collage freshmen, ambulance drivers, or automobile operators convicted of reckless driving following a serious accident.

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