SDoI: Chapter 2: Assessing needs to identify instructional goal(s)

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[This is the third in a series of posts about Dick and Carey's The Systematic Design of Instruction. Want to read an overview and my thoughts on Chapter 1 before proceeding?]

This chapter is mainly about writing goals for instruction. However, before getting too excited about designing instruction,

Note that while an instructional designer may participate in a needs assessment study, there is no assumption that part or all of the solution will be instruction. (p. 18)

This make a lot of sense, keeping in mind that instruction might not be needed, even if someone in charge thinks that it’s the solution. Thus, I think that it might be inappropriate for an instructional designer (ID) to be the only person doing a needs assessment. That is, the ID might have too much stake in instruction being the solution and should instead work with a team to assess the need. A disinterested third party might also be appropriate.

Throughout this chapter are statements about how the ID should clarify and restate goals, such as the following from p. 17:

Typically, the goals used by an instructional designer have been derived from some type of needs assessment, either formal or informal, and have been further refined by either a job or curriculum analysis.

In fact, we learn on p. 19 that

Many goals are fuzzy, and designers must learn how to cope effectively with a “fuzzy.”

Puts me in mind of a warm fuzzy, which really sounds like a good thing! But not so when writing goals. Much as it may be important for IDs to write clear (“unfuzzy”? “defuzzed”?) goals, a very important point is made on p. 20:

Powerful people often determine priorities, and finances almost always determine the limitations of what can be done on an instructional design project.

Ah, reality. This sounds more like the world I am accustomed to, where goals are not carefully crafted so much as dictated and fudged. I do like the sound of this ideal world described in the chapter, though.

One thing I find lacking in this chapter is a consideration of how to apply the identification of goals in academia. In the chapter summary on p. 27, we read

Questions you should answer about the problem and need include whether:

  1. The need is clearly described and verified.
  2. The need is foreseeable in the future as well as presently.
  3. The most effective solution to the problem is instruction.
  4. There is logical agreement between the solution to the problem and the proposed instructional goals.
  5. The instructional goals are acceptable to administrators and managers.

Starting with “question” 1, in education, the need is often assumed to exist – it cannot be clearly described or verified. Of course, there are exceptions, but if we consider, for example, a math class required for humanities majors or an introductory foreign language class, the students who take the class may have no immediate or foreseeable need to use what they are learning. This makes question 3 invalid.

I’m ready to read Chapter 3: Conducting a Goal Analysis.

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