27 September 2013

Determine Your Target

Setting Your Sights

As I begin the process of designing instruction - or more appropriately - a learning experience, I am very interested in finding out what the learner needs to take away from the experience.

This is a critical piece of information that I need in order to do a good job.
Let me explain...

The knowledge or behavior change that the learner should take away represents the target. Knowing the target allows me to set my sights on it and pick the best tools for reaching it. We all do this every day without realizing it or giving it much thought. Let's take a quick example from hunting.

The Right Tools

If I decide to go fishing, for example, - my target is the fish and so I would be sure to grab a fishing pole. Now, that target might be a little bit broad... suppose I just want to catch some sunfish or some crappies. I would then go and make sure I had an adequate supply of bait probably just some worms. If I was out to catch some muskies, however, I would still need a fishing pole but I would need to specialize the bait a little more.

Knowing the target helps you pick appropriate tools

Likewise, if I am simply headed to the archery range I would grab my bow and some arrows because I have a different target. It would be ridiculous of me to take the fishing pole to the archery range because I wouldn't be very successful.

Don't waste time on the wrong activities
If we place activities for the learners to do in our course that do not help them reach the instructional target, we are doing them a great disservice. We must avoid using tools just for the sake of using them.

Multipurpose Tools

Now let's consider the deer. Some of you might grab the rifle and others might grab that bow and both are equally effective tools for this target. It is worth knowing that there are often times many ways to reach an instructional target. This does not make one right or wrong necessarily but in some cases, one might be more effective than another especially if we take the learner into consideration. It is good to have choices but again, the available choices should be based on knowledge of the target.

Why should education be any different than hunting in this regard? Why not identify the targets so that you can properly set your sights on it with the right tools? So don't be surprised if you are working with an instructional designer and we ask questions about goals, outcomes, objectives, learning targets, etc. We want to help you offer up the best activities to ensure that students are successful.

It might be tricky to verbalize or put to paper what those big picture targets are but I encourage you to think about it each time you get ready to share a lesson.

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