Agricultural Communications, Purdue University
An electronic newsletter with communication tips and information

September 1998

ID Part IV--Perfromance Objectives & Learning Materials

Performance objectives, or behavioral objectives, are pivotal to instructional design (ID). Both terms sound somewhat technical, but they mean, simply, a description of what the learner is supposed to be able to do after completing the instruction.

Example: Given a tennis racket and after viewing a demonstration of how to serve a tennis ball, the learner will serve balls into the serving area three times out of four.

A performance objective can be broken down into three sections: activity, behavior, and condition, or, more simply, the A, B, C method. In the example, "given a tennis racket and after viewing a demonstration" is the activity; "the learner will serve the ball" is the behavior; and "into the serving area three out of four times" is the condition by which the skill has to be measured.

To develop your performance objectives, you should break your content down into components. In the example, we're only looking at the serving aspect of tennis. Serving is still a broad aspect of the game, and you could probably break it down into more specific components (e.g., gripping the racket, tossing the ball into the air to be served, etc.).

Creating your learning materials has two distinct areas: instructional strategy and material development. The instructional strategy, the procedure you use to implement your instruction, has five major components.

  1. Preinstructional activities: motivating learners and informing them of what is to be covered.
  2. Information presentation: lecture, demonstration, videotape, etc.
  3. Student Participation: practice and feedback
  4. Testing: measuring their ability to meet the objectives
  5. Follow-up: evaluating for success or remediation and enrichment

Materials development is when the rubber hits the road and you make decisions about your delivery method. Should you use a lecture, a demonstration, guided practice, etc.? Your delivery method should fit the learners and the topic. If the instruction is one-on-one, self-paced learning, maybe a CD-ROM, would be appropriate. If you have to deliver to a geographically dispersed audience, a satellite videoconference might be best.

In some cases you may not have to "re-invent the wheel." Perhaps you can use or adapt some materials that have already been developed. In other cases, you'll have to develop materials from scratch.

Throughout the entire instructional design process, you should evaluate your process and modify your methods to ensure success.

This is the last of four articles on instructional design. I've only scratched the surface, but I hope I've given you a sense of how useful ID can be. If you'd like more information, please email me or give me a call at 765-494-2110.

Super Newsletters: Free Art

This article is adapted from "Creating Super Newsletters: A Training Curriculum for Cooperative Extension Staff," Module 4, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service, June 1997.

Here are some possibilities for non-copyrighted, free art that you might want to explore.

Money: You can photograph or photocopy coins and use them as graphic elements. Dollar bills are a little trickier. The general rule is that they cannot be reproduced in actual size and color. Money can be a useful graphic to enhance articles about financing, budgeting, cutting costs, etc.

Fabrics, textures: You can clip, scan, or photo swatches of fabrics or textured materials for a unique graphic look. Just remember your aim is to enhance the message (not just decorate the page). For instance, an article on the 4-H Fashion Review program might work well with art created from fabric swatches. Old feed bags might make a good illustration for an article on livestock feed. Seed packets or actual seeds could provide unique art for a gardening article.

Stickers, stamps: You can use them to add interest to a page. Let's say you have an article on helping children do well in school. You might use stickers with apples or gold stars. You might use a stamp that says "Good Job!"

Documents: Why not reduce and photocopy an actual document (or scan it in) and add it to an article as a graphic? For an article on wills, you might use a reduced facsimile of a will. Or how about a loan application for an article on financing a small business?

And, if you're drawing a complete blank, remember the Internet as an art source ("On Target," February, 1998).

If you have questions about other sources, please email me or call me at 765-494-6946.

Focus Early on Your Message

This article is adapted from "Focus early on your publication's message," by Norman E. Elwood and Teresa Welch ("Communicate!" May/June 1998, Oregon State University Extension & Experiment Station Communications). Their points about publications hold equally true for other media, and they also give a little more detail about what Randy Spears calls "identifying essential information" in his "On Target" series on instructional design. . Whether developing a publication, video, exhibit, or CD-ROM, it's imperative to focus on your message early. To do this, you should know your audience and your purpose--a point you've seen in "On Target" before. Once you have gotten to this stage, you need to "ensure that your material conveys exactly what it should--nothing more, nothing less."

As Elwood and Welch put it, "There's a fine line between not telling readers enough and telling them too much. Stay on the correct side of that line and 'on target' by listing all possible key points you want the readers to know. Then, eliminate what you feel they already know or don't need to know. Your knowledge, and perhaps others' knowledge, is the best guide to what the audience already knows. This is not one of life's certainties. Inevitably, you must make assumptions, some of which will be correct, others less so."

Deciding what the readers don't need to know can be tough. For each topic, ask "Is this really needed to achieve the publication's (video's/exhibit's/CD-ROM's) stated purpose(s)?" This will help you avoid telling your readers or viewers everything that you know about the subject and focus on what they need to know.

After doing your "pre-writing" work (identifying your audience and purposes), develop an outline. Approach it on two fronts. First, give only the information needed to help the readers or viewers who really do need it. Second, give advanced readers or viewers something to "chew on, reach for, or use."

Once you have your outline roughed out, go through it several times to ensure, again, that "your material conveys exactly what it should--nothing more, nothing less."

This is by no means an easy process, but, believe me, it's well worth it in the long run. There's nothing worse than overloading your readers or viewers with too much information or leaving them confused because you've given them too little. Either way, you've lost them.

Grammar Trap: Anyone vs. Any One

How do you decide when to use which word? It's not that tricky.

Use "anyone" when you're making an indefinite reference and mean "any person at all."

Example: It's so simple that anyone can figure it out.

Use "any one" when you are referring to a specific person or element in a group.

Example: It's so simple that any one of you can do it.

Tip: The same "one word if it's indefinite and two if it's specific" rule also works for "someone" vs. "some one," "everyone" vs. "every one," "sometime" vs. "some time," etc.

There's an exception, though. Next month's "Grammar Trap," which is already under way, will address it.

If there's a grammar or usage trap you'd like me to discuss or if you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one, please let me know.

We want to hear from you. Do you have a communication question? Do you have a comment on this issue of "On Target"? If so, please e-mail any of our writers or On Target's managing editor, Kevin Smith.

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