Designing Instructional Materials


A summary from Rothwell and Kazanas (1999), Ch. 12 / for your directed study


Given that you know what the training gaps are, what tasks need to be trained, what the work and learner characteristics are, you have a clear idea of the training content and sequence, and you have clearly written training objectives, you have chosen an instructional strategy. Now all you need is to select or create the instructional materials.


The Seven Steps to Designing Instructional Materials

1.   Prepare a working outline (a syllabus)

It is based on the instructional strategy

It is based on measurable, sequenced performance objectives

It should be based on the instructional events .. here’s “cheat sheet” for the standard instructional event culminating from your clever instructional strategy, using the Old Ways of Gagne & Briggs (pre constructivist design philosophy):

  1. Gain the learner’s attention
  2. Inform the learner of the performance objective
  3. Stimulate recall of prerequisite learning
  4. Present stimulus material (is this behaviorist enough for y’all ;-)
  5. Provide learning guidance (in any modality) so learners begin target achievements.
  6. Elicit desired performance
  7. Provide positive feedback to the learners so they know how well they are obtaining the performance objectives
  8. Assess learner achievement (and revisit the instructional design)
  9. Enhance retention and transfer so that learners will remember what they learned. (Gagne, Briggs & Wager, 1992).


2.   Conduct Research

Identify the materials that are inside the organization and outside it.

Identify if you need funding to develop the materials. Sometimes you need to sub contract graphics, video, or educational materials productions. This is particularly the case in distributed learning / training environments.

Identify knowledgeable people as to what they are familiar with as learning materials – and see if they are open to innovations if you require them (example: role play at a remote site via interactive television instead of role play in a classroom).

Consider that companies believe today that they can cut their training travel costs by 70% if they use distributed training systems and learning content management systems.

Ask the knowledgeable people 3 questions:

  1. Have you ever seen any procedure manuals, checklists, descriptive booklets or training manuals on this subject?
  2. Whom do you know in the organization who is especially knowledgeable about this subject?
  3. What department might have needed, in the past, to do special training on the subject?


3.   Examining Existing Instructional Materials


Check out your CBT notes to evaluate computer based training materials and designs (yes you will need to evaluate them to see if they could fit your instructional strategy… not every training program is built from the ground up, you can use existing materials or “chunks” if they fit your strategy – this saves the client a lot of investment (potentially). Materials that depend on delivery technologies of the day, remember, are very expensive because the technologies get outdated quickly.

Expect to make minor revisions

4.   Arranging or Modifying Existing Materials

  1. Secure copyright
  2. Arrange materials for exactly this new training setting

5.   Preparing Tailor-Made Instructional Materials

Traditional Components of an ID package

  1. Learner guide sheets or directions
  2. Instructional materials (books, software)
  3. Tests (pretests, post tests, progress tests, on the job performance tests)
  4. Instructor directions or guide sheets

Formatting ID Materials

Storyboarding helps you figure out a multimode program and sequence .. (all media and personnel are sketched out).

Formatting Modules, guide sheets or web page design is critical for proper independent learning / training materials. Refer to your EDER 677, 673, 679 classes.

Student manuals (online is good, but remember students do not like to have to download them.. and reading online is not some learners’ favorite mode).

Instructor Materials: need to be clear and efficient, always referencing design considerations (goals, sequence, evaluation…. Pacing).  Lessons are the best way to assure that the instruction can occur on design (but this takes a special instructor to use them in a training session ).

Trainer Guides are very effective for group-oriented training. See page 251 for an excellent training guide outline.

Tests should be chosen as you chose the instructional strategy – to match the learning events and outcomes. Use performance tests for performance or skill training evaluation, use other tests for cognitive knowledge acquisition testing. Remember that formative tests and practice are essential to a good design – summative tests only give people an exit grade, doing little to enhance their mastery.

5.   Selecting or Preparing Learner Activities

2 types of activates exist: Individual or Group.

Almost any type of experience can be transformed into an individual learning activity, if:

  1. outcomes are specified in advance
  2. outcomes can be compared to pre-established performance objectives
  3. the experience meets learner and instructor needs


To do this, decide how much instructor involvement is needed – and prepare scaffolding materials too.

A learning contract can work well for self-directed learners (Knowles, 1986). The key parts the contract specifies are:

  1. the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to be acquired
  2. how these objectives are to be accomplished (your learning resources, strategies and modes are known to the student)
  3. the target date (s) for the learner accomplishment
  4. specifically, what performance evidence will be offered to demonstrate that the objectives have been achieved?
  5. tell the student how this evidence will be judged or evaluated


Group Activities

Panel discussions (experts) can be a great addition to performance-based training – (high) competencies and exemplars “meet the learners”.

Case studies work well as simulations of real world problem solving, and cases can isolate specific learning constructs.