We watch how exemplary subject matter experts (SMEs) use gap
analysis to do their work better than their average counterparts,
to capture in a training curriculum the crme de la crme of
how-to. But today's knowledge workers are required to demonstrate
higher-order cognitive and interpersonal competencies.
This challenges instructional designers to
raise the instructional systems design (ISD) bar much higher,
since underlying theories and principles must be translated
into concrete displays of performance known to be effective
(as opposed to presumed or suspected to be, but actually shown
to be predictably effective time and again) through replicated
research studies. Research is our only means of better
informing our curricula and raising a curriculum's IQ, as well
as heightening the accountability of all its stakeholders.
What is it?
In contemporary terms, research has a fresher, more encompassing
name - evidence-based practice (EBP). EBP refers to any profession
that makes central a reliance on the most current and credible
research evidence for effectiveness available. Such evidence not
only informs the profession as a whole, it inherently guides
everyday conduct and accountability.
For any profession that adopts EBP, its ability to deliver is only
as potent as the volume, currency, and breadth of research
available to practitioners - in our case, instructional designers.
There is an additional burden of individual responsibility for
developing several new skill sets:
- filtering relevant research
- assessing its rigor and findings
- translating findings and their implications into practical business applications that justify the reasons for training.
On the upside, for those who apply EBP to courseware targeting
complex cognitive or interpersonal performance, two frequently
ignored ISD gaps are closed:
- repeatedly upgrading to the most current "what works" evidence on instructional design and delivery
- conducting a literature review of courseware core content in terms of what works, when it works, and how it works best.
This yields a more potent, robust curriculum design. Another key is
that the stronger the evidence that's found for cause-effect and
ability to influence, the higher the probability for exponentially
raising the effectiveness level.
You've created a curriculum that translates what-works evidence
into a training intervention. Target populations who rely heavily
on higher-order cognitive or interpersonal competencies, do so
based on an exquisite interplay of theories, principles, and
We can't watch a theory in action (much less reach consensus on
what was observed). Instead, there needs to be an objective
translation of theory into concrete performance. This is research's
forte. Should we leave the translation up to SME guesswork,
opinion, or preference? How often have you witnessed disagreement
between SMEs? Or, is it more prudent to rely on translation from
rigorously applied research studies? This is the raison d'tre for
EBPs taking hold in so many disciplines.
"Why it works"
EBP is the R&D of all human services
professions: counseling, criminal justice, education,
healthcare, nursing, psychiatry, social services, and
training. Whereas manufacturing R&D endeavors to develop
the most effective products possible, EBP endeavors to produce
the most effective outcomes possible, and under far more
complex and difficult-to-control conditions.