Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Review: Beyond Words

So far I’ve been completely talking about Instructional Design. It’s an important skill for someone in the training field, but this week I thought I would try my hand at a book review.

About the Book

Title: Beyond Words: A guide to drawing out ideas
Author: Milly R. Sonneman
Year: 1997
Publisher: Ten Speed Press

Book Type: Nonfiction
Subject: Drawing skills for trainers.
Scope: Step-by-step instructions for creating quick drawings. Ways drawings can be used to improve communication, brainstorm, and clarify goals.


Beyond Words is broken down into three sections called “Toolkits.” The author uses scaffolding to build knowledge throughout the text. Each section discusses theory, skill building, cognitive process, and basic drawing figures.

Toolkit One discusses; the big picture; where to get visual inspiration; movement part one; basic presence; listening; overcoming your own fears of drawing; basic lines; shapes; color; letting; simple/basic drawings; and how to organize drawings.

Toolkit Two discusses; theories behind using drawings during training; movement advice; taking care of yourself; more on listening; overcoming your fears part two; basic symbols; and organization.

Toolkit Three discusses; personalizing your drawings; movement and energy with groups; presence and sustaining the self; more on listening; overcoming your fears part three.

My Reaction to this book

Beyond Words has been a great resource for me as I tried to incorporate drawings into training. It’s one thing to create drawings before class when you can take your time. It’s another thing to freehand images as you or your learners are speaking. It’s easy to read, and very informative. Before I read this book, I was very unconfident in my drawing skills. After spending some time with this book, however, I have felt increasingly more confident, and actually have had learners ask to take my drawings home with them. I have to say that I owe it all to this book.

If you already have confidence in your artistic abilities, this book might not be fore you. This book goes into drawing basics like how to draw a straight line, or how to consistently draw shapes like triangles. There are a lot of exercises where she asks the reader to get out a piece of paper and practice. She guides you through the process of developing your muscle memory, which may not be helpful for experienced artists. She also goes to great lengths to get you to stop worrying about drawing in front of people.


One of the reasons why I chose this book for my first review is because it has done wonders for my artistic ability, which is a skill I believe trainers should possess. I have learned that you don’t have to be Leonardo Da Vinci to draw mind maps and training art. This book provided me with a very useful foundation of artistic skill that I just couldn’t seem to attain on my own. I now have a repertoire of characters and shapes to use when I train live. If you’re a trainer and would like to be able to draw for your learners, pick up this book.

Overall Grade

A - I use what I learned in this book every time I train. Content is applicable. I would recommend this book to any trainer that wants to use art in the classroom.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gagné’s 9 Events of Instruction

The topic for today is Gagné’s 9 Events of instruction. I spoke briefly about Gagné in a previous post, and today I’d like to get a little more into detail. I mentioned before that the 9 Events are:

1) Gain Attention
2) Inform Learners of their objectives
3) Stimulate and Recall Prior Learning
4) Present the content
5) Provide “Learning” guidance
6) Practice
7) Provide Feedback
8) Assess Performance
9) Provide Retention and Transfer to the job

Today I’m going to briefly discuss what happens during each event, then I’ll provide an example.

Event 1: Gain Attention.

The object of the first event is to get learners interested in the topic. Typically this can be done by showing them a finished example of what they will learn in the course, talking about the benefits of the topic at hand, or telling an interesting story.

Event 2:
Inform Learners of Their Objectives

This is where you tell the learners what they will get out of the training session. A lot of trainers simply list out the Learning Objectives they created for the course. Sometimes in eLearning, objectives are presented contextually in a scenario.

Event 3: Stimulate and Recall Prior Learning

When you design training, you think about how to get learners to make connections with prior knowledge. This is the time to implement that plan. Start your learners off running by activating or creating mental models.

Event 4: Present the Content

Present the information. There are a number of ways this can be done, which is a topic for a future blog.

Event 5: Provide Learning Guidance

During, or after content presentation, help learners transfer information into long-term memory by providing worked examples, case studies, analogies, job aids, etc.

Event 6: Practice

Have learners actually practice what they are learning. You are having them use what they are learning as a way to not only help them remember what they are learning, but also to check for their understanding of the content.

Event 7: Provide Feedback

Provide immediate feedback to help guide learners to correct outcomes.

Event 8: Elicit Performance

Check the learners grasp on the content. This is where they perform the task on their own, and feedback is not given until they are finished. Ideally the performance elicited mirrors what they will do on the job. This goes back to Thorndike’s Theory of Identical Elements, which basically states that the closer training is to reality, the better the likelihood of the training transferring to the job.

Event 9: Provide Retention and Transfer to the Job

Research supports the belief that most training fails because of what happens AFTER training. That is, when there is no support on the job, learners are not likely to implement what they were trained to do. To combat this, good instructional design includes an implementation plan. Have a discussion with managers about how the training can be applied. Managers should mirror how they want their employees to behave. This is a really big topic which I can expand on more in the future.


For this example I will continue to use the same scenario I used in my post on Blooms Taxonomy. Recall that my learning objective was to have learners use Microsoft Word shapes to create graphics. Assume that learners have already been trained to create basic shapes, now they will be taught to put them together to create graphics.


Instructional Activities

Learner Activities

Event 1: Gain Attention

Tell a story about a time when I was asked to create a graphic for a presentation and all I had was Microsoft Word. Show learners the results of what was

Learners listen to the story and are interested. They observe the final results and are motivated to gain these skills

Event 2: Inform Learners of Learning Objectives

List Learning Objective on flip chart.

Learners listen to the objective and understand what they will be able to do by the end of this training session.

Event 3: Stimulate & Recall Prior Knowledge

Discuss creating basic shapes.

Learners discuss creating basic shapes with the instructor and each other. They also recall how each shape was created and edited.

Event 4: Present New Content

Walk learners through the process of stacking shapes to create graphics.

Use Scaffolding (provide guidance as needed) and Fading (slowly stop providing guidance) until the learners are comfortable creating graphics.

Learners practice creating graphics and adapt as guidance is provided.

Learners become more adept at creating graphics on their own.

Event 5: Provide Guidance

Provide quick tips and best practices for creating graphics.

Learners listen to, and apply the tips and best practices.

Event 6: Practice

Provide a scenario that learners might encounter on the job.

Have Learners work in teams to create the following graphic:

“You need a graphic to provide an overview of xxx project. Use Microsoft Word to create an appealing graphic.” (Of course you will want to be more elaborate)

Learners work in teams to create the graphic.

Event 7: Provide Feedback

Walk around the room and provide assistance and feedback as necessary

Learners listen to feedback and make adjustments to their projects.

Event 8: Elicit Performance

At the end of the class, provide a new scenario asking learners to create a graphic (on their own).

Provide feedback once they are finished.

Learners use Microsoft Word to create a graphic based on the scenario.

Event 9: Provide Retention and Transfer to the Job

Provide a job aid for when learners return to their jobs.

Work with supervisors to ensure learners will use their new skills several times in the next few weeks.

Learners take the job aid with them for future use.

Learners are able to practice what they learned in training, and commit the content to long-term memory.

This is a general example of how you could use Gagné’s 9 Events of Instruction. Next time I will discuss Keller's ARCS model.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bloom's Taxonomy - Cognitive Domain

Benjamin Bloom

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues created a taxonomy of three learning domains, including Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor. The cognitive Domain is what I will primarily focus on for now, and involves the acquisition of knowledge and the development of intellectual skills. There are six levels of behavior; each must be mastered before going on to the next. From the simplest to the most complex, they are:

1. Knowledge – At this level, learners are able to recall data and information.

Key words include: arrange, define, duplicate, label, list, memorize, name, order, recognize, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce, describes, identifies, knows, matches, outlines, selects, and states.

2. Comprehension – At this level, learners are able to understand the meaning and interpretation of instructions and problems, as well as state the problems in their own words.

Key words include: classify, describe, discuss, explain, express, identify, indicate, locate, recognize, report, restate, review, select, translate, comprehend, convert, defend, distinguish, estimate, extend, generalize, give examples, infer, interpret, paraphrase, predict, rewrite, and summarize.

3. Application – At this level, learners apply what they have learned in the classroom to job situations.

Key words include: apply, change, choose, compute, construct, demonstrate, discover, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, manipulate, modify, operate, practice, predict, prepare, produce, relate, show, schedule, sketch, solve, use, and write.

4. Analysis – At this level, learners break down information into components. Then they differentiate between the different parts of the content.

Key words include: analyze, appraise, breaks down, calculate, categorize, compare, contrast, criticize, diagram, deconstruct, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, identify, illustrate, infer, outline, relate, select, separate question, and test.

5. Synthesis – At this level, learners take course information and make something new with it.

Key words include: arrange, assemble, categorize, collect, combine, compile, compose, construct, create, create design, develop, devise, explain, formulate, generate, manage, modify, organize, plan, prepare, propose, rearrange, reconstruct, relate, reorganize, revise, rewrite, summarize, set up, tell, and write.

6. Evaluation – At this level, learners can make judgments about content based on their own personal values and opinions.

Key words include: appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose, conclude, compare, contrast, criticize, critique, defend, describe, discriminate, estimate, evaluate, explain, interpret, justify, judge, predict, rate, core, relate, select, support, summarize, support, value.

So how do Instructional Designers apply Bloom’s Taxonomy? The best way I’ve seen to apply the taxonomy is to use it to keep congruence between objectives, instructional activities, and assessment methods. To be effective, each should address the same level in the cognitive domain.

First you will need to decide which cognitive level your objective falls into. As an example suppose your learning objective is for learners to use shapes in Microsoft Word to create graphics. Assuming that the lesson so far has involved how to create and format individual shapes, the cognitive domain level would be Synthesis because you are asking someone to use what they know (how to create individual shapes) to create something new (a full graphic). Your instructional activity might then involve having learners combine individual shapes to create graphics. The assessment method would be how you determine whether or not the learner has picked up this skill. So for example, in a post-test, have the learners use individual shapes to create graphics.

Written out in a chart it might look like this:

(Click table to enlarge)

Notice how each column involves synthesis level keywords. Having that kind of congruency ensures you are teaching in a way that will allow learners to apply the content. You are also ensuring that you are properly measuring their ability. When you then compare a pre-test to a post-test, you can get a more accurate idea of how successful the training really was. Of course, transfer to the job requires additional effort from us AFTER training is complete. But if learners can’t really do the task by the time they leave training, can we really expect them to do it on the job?

That’s it for Bloom. Next time I’ll dive into Robert Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction.


Clark, D. (1999). Blooms Taxonomy of Learning Domains: The Three Types of Learning. Retrieved from:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Training Philosophy

Last week I was able to sit in on a webinar with Karie Willyerd, CLO at Sun Microsystems, and co-founder of Future Workplace. She is a great presenter, and the type of visionary thinker and leader that I aspire to become. She spoke a little bit about the training philosophy they created at Sun, and it inspired me to begin creating my own. I intend for this to be a living document, and I'm sure it will change as I gain experience and continue with graduate school.

Training Philosophy

1) Training should always have realistic-measurable goals.
2) Planning should always be sponsored by stakeholders.
3) Good instructional design is never rapid.
4) Post training support is critical.
5) Solid instructional design is more important to learning than flashy delivery techniques.
6) Sometimes knowledge should be discovered by the learner.
7) Sometimes Behaviorist approaches are the best option.
8) It's important to know if the learners liked you as a trainer, but it's more important to know if their training transferred to results on the job.
9) The delivery method you should use depends on more than your gut feeling.
10) The best training programs consider all possibilities.

I realize there are so many other topics my philosophy needs to tackle, but I feel like this is a good start.