Human Resource Development (HRD) is a practice that combines training, organizational development, and career development efforts to encourage improvement of individual, group, and organizational performance. Its purpose is to enhance employee performance/productivity, which leads to employee and customer satisfaction and an increase in the profitability of the organization.
HRD Professionals are responsible for encouraging employees to participate in performance management and customer satisfaction. This is accomplished by creating and implementing a system that identifies competencies, established goals, and projects the expected outcome. Establishing a problem solving procedure and setting standards for employee performance are two crucial strategies for the improvement of organizational performance.
To accomplish the purpose of HRD, HRD professionals perform several major roles. These major roles are distinct and often contain sub roles. According to Gilley, Eggland, and Gilley (1989), the roles of HRD professionals can be categorized into managers/leaders, learning agents, instructional designers, performance engineers, and HRD consultants (Gilley, Eggland & Gilley, 1989, p. 17).
For purposes of this article, the focus will be on the functions and outputs of the role of the Instructional Designer.
Instructional Design Defined
Before proceeding with describing the roles of the Instructional Designer, it is important to offer a definition of Instructional Design and describe its purpose.
Instructional Development or Instructional Design (ID) is training design. ID is associated with the systematic approach of analyzing human performance problems, identifying the underlying causes of those problems or gaps in performance, choosing solutions that address performance gaps, and implementing interventions such as training, performance support tools, organizational restructure, and employee reward programs.
ID begins with a performance objective, a concrete idea of what learners should know, do, or feel at the end of a planned instructional experience. The performance objective is made up of three components: performance, criterion, and condition. The performance component describes what a learner will be doing when demonstrating ideal performance. The criterion component measures how well the learner must perform in order to be acceptable. The condition component describes the important conditions, if any, under which the performance is to occur and may include necessary tools, equipment or special circumstances.
The ABCD’s of performance objectives, a mnemonic aid that instructional designers often use, specifies four main things:
- Audience – Who are the learners? Who is this aimed at?
- Behavior – What observable behavior do you expect them to be able to do? If you can’t see it, hear it, touch it, taste it, or smell it, you can’t be sure your audience really learned it.
- Condition – Under what circumstances will the learning occur? What will the student be given or already be expected to know to accomplish the learning?
- Degree – Must a specific set of criteria be met? Do you want total mastery (100%), do you want them to respond correctly 80% of the time, etc.
The Instructional Systems Design (ISD)
So that instructional designers can perform their jobs effectively with the available information, they adopt models of the Instructional Systems Design (ISD) process. The ISD process is a systematic approach to teaching. It considers the environment in which learners are expected to perform, characteristics of the learners, and characteristics of the learning environment that could impact the effectiveness of the instruction. ISD is also a series of steps that explore the purpose and delivery method of the instruction and facilitate its effectiveness through formative evaluation and careful implementation. The IDS method helps ensure that the instruction will actually be able to solve an identified problem or achieve a desired organizational goal.
ADDIE, an acronym for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate, is an instructional systems design model that emphasizes the main elements common to many ISD models. The steps in the ADDIE process are followed for course development. In the analyze phase, the instructional problem is clarified, the goals and objectives are established, and the learning environment and learner characteristics are identified. The design phase is where the instructional strategies are designed and media choices for its delivery are made. In the develop phase, materials are produced according to decisions made during the design phase. This is the content development phase. The implement phase includes the testing of prototypes with targeted audience, placing the product in production, and training learners and instructors on how to use the product. The evaluation phase consists of formative and summative evaluation. Formative evaluation is present in each stage. Summative evaluation consists of tests for criterion-related referenced items and providing opportunities for feedback from the users.
Functions and Outputs of the Instructional Designer
The primary function of instructional designers is to define instructional content, prepare objectives, and select and sequence learning activities. Instructional designers design and develop interventions that result in lasting behavioral change and enhanced organizational effectiveness.
Gilley, Eggland, and Gilley (1989) identify program designer, instructional writer, media specialist, task analyst, and theoretician as five sub roles of the instructional designer. The instructional designer often carries out these sub roles at the same time:
- The Program Designer identifies performance objectives, select and prioritize learning activities needed to accomplish performance objectives. Select the most appropriate media, materials, and training aids needed for interventions.
- The Instructional Writer develops written materials (training manuals, overheads, handouts) used during training.
- The Media Specialist identifies and selects the most appropriate audiovisuals and computer-based training to encourage learner participation. Media selection is based on a number of factors including group size, time available, learning styles of participants, budgets, and content of training.
- The Task Analyst details all the steps necessary to competently perform a specific task. These steps represent the foundation on which performance-based training objectives, course content, and evaluation instruments are constructed. Simply put, the task analysis provides a detailed “picture” of the task to be learned. The task analysis can also provide information about entry-level skills and possible prerequisites for training.
- The Theoretician develops models and theories related to the learning and development process in order to bring about change within the individual and the organization.
Competencies and Skills Required to Succeed as an Instructional Designer
The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) categorized the competencies required by HRD professionals as technical, business, interpersonal, and intellectual (Wilson, J. P., 2005, p.p. 18-19). Within these categories lies the core competencies of adult learning understanding, competency identification skill, objectives preparation skill, business understanding, organizational behavior understanding, presentation skill, questioning skill, relationship building skill, information search skill, intellectual versatility, and observing skill. The ID professional must possess good interpersonal, facilitation and communication (written and oral) skills, as well as presentation expertise. The ID professional must be able to develop and manage the learning environment, and use media, feedback and motivation techniques effectively. The ID professional must be creative and be able to look for innovation.
A skilled ID professional should have a good understanding of the learning patterns of people. Depending on the learners and situation, different learning theories may apply. Experts have identified three basic learning styles: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic or tactile learners. Auditory learners like to hear the instructions, visual learners prefer written instructions, and kinesthetic or tactile learners prefer activities that will allow them to touch things. The ID professional must have an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each learning theory to optimize their use in appropriate instructional design strategy. The ID professional cannot hope to understand completely the social and psychological composition of adults, but without an awareness of the make-up of individual differences the ID professional would not be able to stimulate, facilitate, encourage, support, and challenge people to change (Cranton, 1992, p. 63).
The Importance of the Role of the Instructional Designer
The role of the ID professional is equally important in all organizations. Learning is a continuous process. Rapid changes in technology, demographics, and globalization dictate the need for ID. As new skills are required, organizations depend on instructor-led training programs to develop these skills and put them in practice. Today’s economy may not allow all organizations to have a budget for instructor-led programs. However, it is not impossible to provide just-in-time learning to all staff members at the right time of their careers with consistent quality by developing performance support tools, or job aids, following the same ID process. When learning happens, people enjoy their work, are more productive, increase value to customers, and are happier overall.
The Job Outlook for the Instructional Designer
The outlook for the ID in the 21st century is positive. In today’s world of ever changing technology, the ID professional makes learning possible. Instructional Design is being used to develop computer-based and web-based training. Organizations are adopting the help of ID professionals to develop user-friendly tools to transfer knowledge and conduct training. Whether designing for training or performance support, the ID professional has the skills required to find solutions to today’s learning requirements.
In broad terms, Instructional Designers facilitate learning through curriculum design. The learning content and media are arranged by the Instructional Designer in such a way that optimizes the transfer of knowledge or a skill.
Instructional Design requires development of learning material using adult learning theories and instructional strategies to ensure quality of design, delivery and effectiveness of transfer of learning to intended outcomes.
The instructional designer strives to improve employee performance, enhance organizational productivity, and increase customer satisfaction. They analyze human performance problems systematically, identify root causes of those problems, consider various solutions to address the root causes, and implement solutions.
Cranton, P. (1992). Working with adult learners. Dayton, OH: Wall and Emerson, Inc.
Gilley, J., Eggland, S., and Gilley, A. M. (1989). Principles of human resource development. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Wilson, J. P. (2005). Human resource development. Philadelphia, PA: Kogan Page
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A. Human Resource Development