Assessing Need: Finding Common Ground for Instructional Development – Instructional Design.

            Planning occupies a considerably portion of time for educators, managers, designers, trainers, and evaluators. Effective educators and leaders must engage in planning. One component of planning instructional development is assessment. Assessment, like instructional development, is a process that the instructional designer identifies and measures gaps between the present situation and what is needed by an individual or a group. Assessment is a procedural design-processing tool useful for problem solving. Needs Assessment is a common process shared in Instructional Design and Instructional Development.

            Authors Shambaugh & Magliaro (1997) describes instructional design as “an intellectual process which systematically analyzes the needs of the learners and provides feature to assist designers constructed structured possibilities to responsively address those needs.” (p. 24) 

            The terms instructional design and instructional development are often interchanged. Dick, (1993) describes instructional system design (ISD) as a process for determining what to teach and how to teach it. Richey (1986) describes instructional design as a detailed specification for development, evaluation and maintenance that facilitates learning. Gagne, Briggs, & Wager (1992) describes instructional development is the process of implement the plan while ISD is the process of planning. Seels & Glasgow (1992) view it as process of developing specific instruction learning and instructional theory to create quality instruction. Smith & Ragan view instructional design as a systematic process of reproducing learning and instruction principles into materials and activities. (In Shambaugh & Magliaro, p. 25)

            Molenda (1987) defines instructional design as a process of deciding what methods of instruction are best for making desired learner behaviors changes. These changes may be for specific knowledge and skills required for a specific subject or targeted learning group.   Instructional development is “the process of prescribing and using optimal procedures for creating new instruction in a given situation.” Molenda prefers the term ‘instructional development’ because it refers “to the systematic process of analyzing, designing, producing, evaluating and implement instructional systems or components thereof.” Instructional design is a ‘subset’ of instructional development because is refers to specific instructional methods or treatments.

            Instructional design and instructional development share commonality. Both terms requires a series of actions (process) directed toward a specific aim. It requires actions that produce change or development. Rather than attempting to separate instructional design and instructional development, it is easier to combine the terms and reference it as instructional system development (ISD). The term system implies that specific instructional process methods are included

            So why is needs assessment crucial to the effective ISD? Ambiguity shrouds the ISD discipline, because learner assessment was inappropriate to the selected theory or instructional method. Assessment did not match reality of the learner and the instructional environment. During the ISD process, can ambiguity be reduced?

            Using the class readings and previous course discussions, and research I offer two tools, principles and methods to improve ISD assessment.

Use Models:

            Shambaugh (1997) says models have three useful purposes. First, they are useful for understanding and representing reality that helps to explain complex systems (Cognitive). Second, models help to communicate understanding how the learner and designer perceive the environment (Behavioral). Third, models help to reveal the hidden reality, about “what our views are about learning, teaching or designing” (Constructivists).

             Models can be practical and useful assessment tools; however, Schiffman (1986) caution s the application of learning theory is crucial to selecting and using the correct model. At the primary level, effective models should address learner’s needs, assessing tasks and content.

            Models may be simple or complex. The course reading, Faster, Cheaper, and Better, offers insight into a model that uses three elements, activities, behavioral outcomes and content. Assessment is informally guided using a set of principles developed through work experience. Assessment principles, that include; “keep continuously updated and upgrading training materials and methods,” “treat all evaluation as formative; using evaluation feedback to improve the training, and present content in ‘the raw form’ and invite learners to organize them into meaningful clusters. 

            Different learning methods suit different learning needs. Learning is a complex process. Model selection requires a judgment. Individual needs and group needs are different. Model selection must be appropriately balanced for the correct purpose.   

Assess the learner using appropriate theory

            Learning need is defined as a gap or discrepancy between what the competencies specified in the models and learners present level of development. (Knowles, 2005, in the Adult Learner, p. 125)

            All learners are individuals, in constructing an ISD, entails assessing individual learning experiences. Adult education requires using assessment models that emphasis a facilitate and guided approach that appropriately matches adult education theory and learning principles.

            Andragogy is the theory and practice of educating adults as opposed to pedagogy that is concerned with the education of children. Knowles offers four principles of assessing the adult learner. (1) Begin a needs assessment with the learner or the group. (2) Establish a safe and trusting learning environment that supports freedom of expression. (3) Involve the learner, as much as possible, in the learning process. (4) Keep the learner apprised of their progress toward their learning goal.

            Knowles principles suggest that the adult learner creates his own learning model, based on his particular learning needs. Assessment is self-assessment; however, the ISD developer providing the learner with the tools and procedures for obtaining data and making responsible judgments about their level of development of the competencies.” (p. 125-124)

            Knowles self-assessment principles are adaptable for cognitive, behavioral and constructivists learning theories. The ISD and the adult learner is designing and assessing a pattern of learning experiences through feedback and reflection.


            Assessment is crucial to the systemic process of ISD. Models offer a realistic and systematic method to communicate and explain complex views of interaction between the  learner, the learning environment and learning theory.

            Learning theory is essential to assess if a gap exists between the learner and the ISD goal. All learners should be involved in assessing their learning needs. This may through a formal or informal process. Regardless what learning theory one uses, assessment is critical to the ISD process. Assessment remains a valuable procedural design-processing tool useful for problem solving.

Review: Five assumptions of adult learning:

(1) Adults are independent and self-directing. (2) They have a great deal of experiences that is a rich source of learning. 3) They value learning that is useful in their daily lives. (4) They are problem centered that offers immediate approaches rather that subject centered approaches. (5) Adults are motivated to learn by internal drives rather than external ones


About frankohara

Instructional Design Technology student, enrolled at West Virginia University. Currently enrolled in Course work instructed by Ugar Kale, Ph.D, at West Virginia University. Current, Fall 2010, course work is IDT Issues and Trends.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s