"Doing more things faster is no substitute for doing the right things.”
- Stephen R. Covey

Today’s training events may be created by trained instructional designers or perhaps by a skilled facilitator within the training team.  Whether you are an instructional designer by trade or happen to be the lucky one asked to create training within your organization, the best training events are those which are aligned with and lead to specific outcomes.  The only way to measure the achievement of learning objectives is to understand the specific outcomes or desired behaviors associated with the training.  From understanding company policies to mastering a specific step-by-step procedure on how to complete a task, the goal of every training program creator is to design, develop, and deliver training that is more than what Covey describes.  We want training that is efficient (doing more things, faster) and effective (doing the right things).  Following accepted course development methodology, we complete a needs analysis, identify specific learning objectives, and organize content that supports the goals of the training.  The easy part is knowing what we want to train.  The more difficult question – if we are to do the right thing – is to know how to best present our content to achieve maximum learner retention.  

What is the best way to match the most appropriate instructional design treatment to the training content?  The answer to this question starts with a simple content analysis.  At Orgwide Services, we draw from the principles taught by Ruth Clark, Richard Mayer, and David Merrill. Which principles? At the risk of gross oversimplification, virtually all “raw content” that we are asked to develop into training will fall into one of five content types or domains —1) fact, 2) concept, 3) procedure, 4) process, and 5) principle1

  1. Fact: Fact-based content designates unique, specific information about objects, events, or people.  When training facts, you are going to want to present the facts in their raw form. This does not suggest you can’t or shouldn’t be creative about how you present the facts; it simply suggests that you should ask the students to remember actual facts and then require them to demonstrate their knowledge gain by asking them to recall those facts. There is no better way to prove that learning takes place.  Some examples of fact-based content include policies, standards, specifications, and statistics. 

  2. Concept:  Concept-based content involves a category of objects, events, or ideas.  When training concepts, you should present definitions, critical attributes, and/or examples.  You may also present factual information that supports the concept being trained.  Ask students to recognize, recall, or explain the definition or attributes or identify and classify examples in order to assess mastery.   Some examples of concept-based content include mission/vision statement, core values, and perspective.

  3. Procedure:  Procedure-based content involves steps, actions, activities, or instructions that are performed the same way each time.  When training procedures, you can ask students to recognize, recall, or reorder the steps in a procedure, decide when to use or perform the steps, and demonstrate how to perform the steps. 

  4. Process:  Process-based content describes state changes about how systems work.  When training, describe the processes to be learned and include transformational descriptions of inputs and outputs of the process. This includes description of stages, inputs, outputs, diagrams, examples, stories, and flow of events.  Ask students to demonstrate how they might troubleshoot a process, predict the outcome of a process, or solve a problem.

  5. Principle:  Principle-based content involves a comprehensive law that includes predictive relationships or far-transfer tasks that require workers to adapt to unique situations.  When training, present the principle, rule, examples, analogies, stories, and/or guidelines.  To assess mastery, ask students to decide if the principle applies, predict an event, or apply the principle to solve a problem or make decisions.

Think of some examples of training you’ve been asked to design lately. Which content type did it fall into?  How did you present the information?  How did you ask learners to demonstrate their new knowledge?  Classifying content into one of these five types and following the basic guidelines for how the content is presented and assessed is both instructive and useful because it leads to the development of more effective and efficient training.  When you do, Covey might say, “Doing the right things,” can enable students to do more things faster too!

As you begin to create your next training program, if you’d like some guidance in “doing the right things,” click here and drop us a note – we’d love to help.

1E-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multi-Media Learning,”  Ruth Colvin Clark and Richard E. Mayer .

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