Developing your design teams

A couple of years ago I was in a predicament. I was spending far too much time reviewing and completing in-depth quality assurance of the instructional design team’s work. There had to be a much more efficient use of my time and way to support the team’s development to enable them to perform their roles effectively.  The solution was simple – design a series of learning workshops to develop their instructional design skills, whilst subtly modelling my expectations. I’ve run modified versions of these for different groups, so thought I’d share an overview of the workshops as a way of helping any other learning and development professionals who may find themselves in a similar predicament.

Scoping the learning workshops was somewhat easy; it all started with the question of what do I expect them to know and be able to do? Two questions we often ask in any good training needs discussion. I answered these questions by reflecting on my own experiences, formal and informal learning, and although I didn’t expect them to have the same level of knowledge, I did expect them to know and apply some critical learning theories and principles. From here I drafted an outline for a series of five workshops.

Workshop 1: Design and Development Processes

This first workshop is useful for new team members, or as a way to update existing teams on organisational processes. It helps by setting the organisational requirements for instructional design, including roles and responsibilities of teams, development models (such as ADDIE, Action Mapping, Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction and Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction) and a shared understanding of what instructional design is. The last point was essential in my situation, as there were members of the team transitioning from technical writing roles and others returning to instructional design tasks after an absence.

Workshop 2: Documentation and Templates

What templates are you expecting your team to use? How do they manage versions? This workshop sets the expectations for styles (layout, writing, colours, language etc.) and the suite of common templates they must use. It also enables discussion on what flexibility they have to modify and adapt.

Workshops 3: Learning Theory and Principles

Finally…the good stuff! This is a hands-on workshop to explore different theories that commences with a discussion on why we need to consider adult learners’ needs when designing learning. The workshop focuses on andragogy, Bloom’s Taxonomy, constructivism, social learning theory, transfer of learning theory, behaviourism, cognitive load theory, multiple intelligences, experiential learning, Kolb learning styles and more. The possibilities are endless – just think about who your organisation’s learners are; this will help inform the list. Remember to pick theories from more than one paradigm to ensure a more holistic view.

This workshop is split into two parts; the first understanding the theories and the second, applying them. The team look at how to apply theories such as Bloom’s Taxonomy by writing objectives for each level within the cognitive domain, designing learning activities using Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory and sequencing learning using Kolb’s experiential learning theory.

Workshop 4: Developing Materials for Adult Learners

With an understanding of development process, the templates used and learning theories, it’s time to bring it all together in this workshop. It focuses on the “how to” write material, applying Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction to training outlines, the rationale behind PowerPoint layout and use of assertion-evidence and dual-coding theories, and developing good assessment questions.

I’m a supporter of John Biggs’ work on constructive alignment and how it can be applied in a training/adult learning context with learning objectives, activities and assessments all aligning. This leads to a focus on assessment to build on from the third workshop activity of writing learning objectives. I’ve no doubt many of us have seen badly written multiple choice questions. A significant focus of this workshop is on how to apply Bloom’s Taxonomy to multiple choice questions. It’s not an easy task and requires instructional designers to work hard; but the effort is rewarded with well written and meaningful questions that align to your learning objectives.

Workshop 5: Finalising Materials and Heading to Implementation

This final workshop rounds out the learning series by focusing on how materials progress to publication and implementation. It covers the requirements once design and development is completed to support implementation and delivery of programs, and of course evaluation.

Teams need to think about (during projects) how learning will be implemented within an organisation. What will make implementation of a program successful? How will you bring trainers up to date with the program? How will you provide the trainer and learner resources? These questions can help identify the content to include in this workshop to ensure it is organisationally relevant.

The Key to Making Your Workshops Successful

If you want to develop your teams so they can better meet the learning needs of your organisation’s people, these workshops are a good place to start. To make them successful, don’t think you need to develop and deliver them all yourself. Bringing in an external perspective to the workshops is the way to go – someone who willingly shares their wisdom and passion for what we do, who understands the theory but who lives their application.

Interested in knowing more? Or having a workshop series planned for your team? Why not make contact with us:


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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s