Chapter 5: Analyzing Learners and Contexts

“It is important to make a distinction between the target population and what we 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, in contrast, are learners available to the designer while the instruction is being developed. It is assumed that these tryout learners are members of the target population—that is, they are college students, fifth graders, and adults, respectively. However, the tryout learners are specific college students, fifth graders, or adults. While the designer is preparing the instruction for the target population, the tryout learners serve as representatives of that group in order to plan the instruction and to determine how well the instruction works after it is developed.” (p. 96-97)

This idea of tryout learners is not one that I have experienced in the past. Instead what we have done is a pilot delivery of the training, where the students are all people who will be teaching the material. We call this train-the-trainer (T3) for short. Using the trainers as students helps get to the delivery of the final course faster; however, they are not necessarily typical learners. They do, however, give really good feedback especially if there are errors or omission in the instructional materials.

“Many instructors consider the motivation level of learners the most important factor in successful instruction.” (p. 97)

“Called the ARCS model (attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction), the model is discussed in detail in Chapter Eight; it is used here to show how to obtain information from learners during the learner analysis.” (p.97)

We don’t really cover ARCS in this course, however, it is covered in more depth in INSDSG 602 – The adult as learner. It is also an option for the group project.

“Research indicates that personal styles can be identified, but such styles are often derived from learners’ expressions of personal preferences for listening, viewing, reading, small-group discussion, and so forth, rather than measurement of psychological traits that predict how a student learns best.” (p. 98)

Think of this in the context of the Urban Legends reading. I recommend that anyone who needs to replacement for learning styles, take a look at Universal Design for Learning. There is a course in this program (an elective) on UDL that is only offered in the summer. The course is often a highlight for students.

“A sample of the whole group could be taken to develop an in-depth profile of a prototypical learner, known as developing personas ; that is, fictional persons who represent predominant characteristics of intended learners.” (p.99)

The idea of personas are used in other design fields, especially human factors / experience designers such as user interface designers. Creating personas is a good skill to have, especially if you are working in a technology company.

“For higher-order learning, a careful context analysis is critical for aiding the designer in recreating authentic elements of the performance context during instruction and enabling the learner to build optimal conceptual frameworks for learning and remembering.” (p. 99)

“Research indicates that one of the strongest predictors of use of new skills in a new setting (called transfer of learning) is the support received by the learner.” (p.100)

Dick & Carey call it transfer of learning. In my experience it is called knowledge transfer or technology transfer. In a previous life, my job was to teach customers how to use our product (telephone equipment providers like AT&T). I was a Technology Transfer Analyst.

In health care research it is a called implementation research, and the goal is to take knowledge that is theoretical and figure out how to implement it in a real world context.

“The decision may not have been made based on an analysis of the capability of the technology to deliver the desired instruction.” (p.102)

“Most experienced designers have, at one time or another, regretted the omission of constraints analysis in the design process.” (p.102)

This is especially true if you are working freelance. Not doing this analysis up front can lead to significant project scope creep.

“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.” (p.103)

Don’t worry yet about what constructivist is. We will cover that when we look at learning theories later in the course. The important part of this quote is the need to try to get your learning environment to be as close to the performance context as possible.

“As instructional designers do their work, they frequently ‘circle back’ to fine-tune earlier decisions based on new information discovered as they progress through the ID process.” (p.105)

This is important. As we do additional parts of the analysis, we will find that we had made assumptions earlier and we need to change those assumptions or document the assumptions. Often when you get to the subordinate skills analysis (next week), you find thinks like prerequisite skills that may require you to redefine who your learners are. That is OK. It is normal that with each step there is a need to go back and make sure everything previously done aligns. Sometimes that causes you to fix the current analysis, other times it causes you to adjust the previous analysis.


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Foundations of Instructional Design by Rebecca J. Hogue is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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