Performance analysis should be at the heart of what we do

Patti Shank explores the role of the instructional designer

Does Instructional Design have a future? That was the question Patti Shank, instructional designer and author, posed at last week’s Learning Technology conference, where the discussion was continued later in the day on the TJ Stand at the learning eXchange. Shank, a dynamic American with strong views on instructional design and its future, provided a fascinating insight into not only the future of instructional design but of the role of the L&D professional more broadly.

When asked how she would define the role of the instructional designer, she replied: “I take performance problems and provide solutions.” She described how often designers are called in to resolve a problem but that without the insight into what’s causing the problem they are unlikely to be able to rectify the issue. In her view, it’s all about performance analysis, the designer needs to spend time observing people performing to decide on where any gaps are and how best to put things right.

She referred the group to an organisation call IBSTPI (The International Board of Standards in Training, Performance and Instruction) who define instructional designers as those who “help individuals and organisations in increasingly diverse contexts, expedite learning processes through a deliberate use of learning strategies, resources and technologies.” This sounds straightforward but when you add in the speed of change and the complexity of the modern workplace this is a tall order.

Modern instructional designers, as with all L&D professionals need to be able to understand the business or organisation in which they are working, this is sometimes difficult for an external consultant working in a complex organisation and expecting to produce results quickly. But whether you are an external consultant or an in-house L&D business partner, at the heart of your success is taking the time to understand the needs of the business, to identify gaps in capability and provide solutions to bridge those gaps and build organisational success.

One of those attending the session, Jane Brotchie from Crystal Clear Writing, said: “I get a real buzz from creating learning that changes lives.” A sentiment echoed by Shank as we closed the discussion: “For me it’s all about helping people find their authentic selves and improve their organisations.” 

Debbie Carter

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