Picking appropriate and effective learning activities

The MOST Crucial Learning Activities and Media

In this article Patti Shank describes how we need to figure out what learners need to be able to do in the real world and then make sure they get adequate practice doing it during instruction.

A simple process
In the next three sections, I’ll describe a simple process that I follow with clients to make sure that courses have the most-crucial learning activities, learning activities that assure that learners get adequate practice doing (during instruction) what they need to be able to do on the job, after instruction.

Figure 1 shows what this simple process looks like. (“DO” is not an abbreviation – it’s the things people must DO in order to be successful in the real world.)

1. Uncover the DO's 2. Convert DOs into activities 3. Select media to support these activities
Figure 1. A process for connecting learning activities to real-life activities.
Let’s look at each of these steps individually.

1. Uncover the DOs

One of the hallmarks of good instruction is that it allows learners to practice doing what they need to be able to DO in real life, in a safe environment, with meaningful feedback and help, until they are able to DO what they need to be able to DO in real life effectively.

What do people DO in real-life? Table 1 shows the most typical DO types of real-life work, and some examples of each.

Table 1. Typical DO types and examples of each.
DO Types DOs (examples)
1. Recall facts Business hours 

Pay dates

2. Find and make sense of information, often with the aid of tools, resources, etc. Whether the caller’s service plan covers labor 

When timesheets are due on weeks with a holiday

3. Understand underlying concepts How databases work 

Why you need overnight shipping for perishable items

4. Know how a process works The travel expense reimbursement process 

The hiring process

5. Complete needed steps How to complete a new-hire request 

How to check in new stock

6. Determine which course of action is needed Ascertain the malfunction cause(s) and contact the appropriate department 

Determine whether to give a refund or a credit

7. Create a product or produce a specific result Write a discrepancy report 

Transfer callers to another extension

8. Troubleshoot and fix problems Find the damaged part and replace it 

Analyze the reason for the delay and suggest solutions


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