Instructional and Learner Analysis in Instructional Design
Instructional design (ID) commonly addresses 5 iterative phases: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. Instructional analysis and learner analysis are processes in the systematic approach of ID of a learning event or product. These occur simultaneously in the analysis phase along with a context analysis because they’re intrinsically tied to the performance objectives, which is the outcome of the analysis phase. Other important activities in the analysis phase are the needs assessment (NA) and the performance analysis, both of which precede the instructional analysis and learner analysis.
The NA will identify the gap between the optimal status and actual status of the learners. The performance analysis is conducted to determine if the problem can be addressed with instruction. If so, a goal statement is produced based on the findings of the performance analysis. The instructional analysis breaks down the goal statement into supraordinate, subordinate, and entry-level skills by identifying the aspects that will need to be taught to reach the goal. The learner analysis identifies the learners’ current knowledge, skills, attitudes, as well as other pertinent information such as preferences or cultural constraints that may impact learning. Overall, the goal of ID is to design effective, efficient, and innovative learning experiences.
In the instructional analysis, the instructional designer determines what the learners will actually be doing to reach the goal and the instructional pathway. During the goal analysis, the instructional designer will graphically display the specific steps needed. In the diagram of your analysis, she can include alternative actions, breaks in the process, and the type of learning. Types of learning outcomes include verbal, intellectual, cognitive strategy, psychomotor, or attitudinal. The type of learning condition requires different types of analysis. For example, verbal information can be clustered according to a particular schema. For intellectual or psychomotor skills, instructional designers use a hierarchical approach because a subordinate skill must be achieved before a supraordinate one.
The outcome of the goal analysis becomes the supraordinate skills. During the subordinate skill analysis of a complex skill, the supraordinate steps are broken down into main rules, concepts, and discriminations. The corresponding verbal information and attitudinal skills are attached horizontally. Once the substeps have been fleshed out, the instructional designer determines the entry-level skills. These are what the learner should already know how to do in order to successfully achieve the new learning goal. For example, the instruction will generally require a certain reading level, language ability, and topic-specific knowledge.
As aforementioned, the learner analysis is done simultaneously with the instructional analysis because they inform one another. The learner analysis functions include understanding the wide array of variables that affect the learner. These variables include entry skills, educational level, prior topic knowledge, attitudes toward content, attitudes about the delivery system, attitude toward the organization, learning preferences, group characteristics, and motivation. The instructional designer collects information on the learners by conducting structured interviews with those familiar with the current performance. Additionally, the instructional designer conducts site visits to observe the learners in the performance and instructional contexts. Furthermore, they can collect data on the learners via pretests, self-reports, or one-on-one informal discussions.
The output of the learner analysis is a report on all the previously mentioned variables potentially affecting the learner. The context analysis is interrelated with the learner analysis as it collects information on another category of variables affecting the learner: administrative support, physical site, social aspects of the site, and relevance of skill (goal) to the workplace/school.
All three analyses (instructional, learner, and context) are critical to the appropriate design and development of instruction. If any of the skills (supraordinate, subordinate, and entry-level) are overlooked or learning context variables not addressed, this will diminish the effectiveness of the instruction. For example, if your target audience is English language learners, you’ll need to collect data on their language skills, reading levels, and cultural norms; otherwise, the instruction created will not meet the needs of the learners, and therefore be a waste of time, money, and effort.
Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.