Instructional design is the basis of effective training, but is often overlooked or ignored in business english
training - classes are started with vague ideas like, “improve listening, reading, writing and speaking.” The problem is that the student, teacher
and management expectations could all be, and often are, completely different. However, return on investment in business english
training can be significantly improved with effective instructional design.
Effective Instructional Design begins with a needs assessment
. The most important question for a training vendor is, “Who is the customer?” Vendors need to know who the customer is to determine who to speak to in the needs analysis. The customer is usually the person paying, usually the company itself, in which case vendors would talk to the student's manager. If the student is paying, talk to the student. If both the student and the company are paying, rarely occurs, talk to both of them, (and get both of their agreements on the performance objectives, after conducting the needs analysis).
The second question is, “Is the student being paid to study?” This is important so you know how to aggressively to plan and conduct class. If the student is being paid to attend class, in other words, if class is taking the place of work time, vendors and management have a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders of the company to maximize return on investment by pushing the students very hard in class.
By speaking with the customer, specific performance objectives need to be created. For example, for writing “Given a piece of paper and a pencil, student will write three sentences describing the current weather conditions within 15 minutes with fewer than 5 grammar or spelling mistakes.” For reading, “Given a 50 to 60 word passage created specifically for beginner students, student will read the passage and answer 5 multiple choice questions
.” speaking “Given a picture and 3 minutes to prepare student will say at least 30 words in complete sentences with fewer than 5 grammar mistakes.” For listening, “Given a pencil, paper and the recording of a five 12 digit numbers, student will write down the numbers within 5 minutes with fewer than 3 errors. Students may listen to the numbers no more than two times.”
Once the performance objectives have been created and agreed to by management, they should be explained to the instructor and student. They are the basis for the class, the purpose for its existence.
Next, vendors should determine performance gap – initially test the student's ability to do the performance objectives. The difference between the ability to do the initial test and the performance objective is the performance gap.
Now class can begin. The training vendor and/or the instructor either gathers or creates teaching materials necessary to conduct classroom activities designed to close these performance gaps. The class becomes a repeated cycle of class activities and performance evaluations. When the performance gap is closed, that part of the class if finished. When all the performance gaps are closed, the course is done.
In the final evaluation, the instructor can report to the training vendor which activities and materials seemed to be particularly effective in closing the performance gaps. These activities can then be used by other trainers to create training which closes the performance gaps more quickly, using less class time, increasing the customer's return on the training investment.
If Instructional Design is so efficient, why isn't it used by more esl
professionals in the business english
environment? Training vendors usually charge customers based on the numbers of hours of instruction, and therefore have a financial incentive to create classes that consume a lot of class time. Customers are generally unaware of instructional design and it's ability to focus training on specifically targeted areas of improvement, and since training vendors have an incentive not to use instructional design, they are unlikely to mention it. Finally, instructional design relies on creating objectively measurable performance objectives. Wise customers could leverage these performance objectives by having training vendors compete for future training contracts, measuring which trainers and training vendors are the most cost
effective in closing a given performance gap in the fewest hours of training or for the least amount of money.