Unit 2: Setting the Stage for the 4

Unit 2: Setting the Stage for the 4-Steps
As covered in the previous chapter, you are exploring the
concept of instructional design and what it means to be an
instructional designer. The comparison made earlier between an
instructional designer and a puppeteer should help you start
with a different perspective. As a puppeteer, you are not always
on the stage; often your ideas are on the stage instead. In
order to get to the point where you are able to act like a
puppeteer you must consider a number of variables important for
learning. A 4-step design process is introduced that will direct
you through the rest of the book and the class. Before the
process is shared you will learn the context of the 4-steps,
which is just as important as the 4-steps themselves.
This chapter consists of 6 parts:
 Part 1: why the 4-steps are needed,
 Part 2: analysis prior to the 4-steps, including a brief
description of performance analysis, instructional
intervention analysis, and intervention analysis
 Part 3: the fractal nature of the 4-steps and why it help
us learn about the larger design process (which explains
how the 4-steps match other design models as well as work
to create both micro and macro instructional units)
 Part 4: ADDIE, the four steps, and the puppeteer (later
chapters cover each step in detail) followed by a
description of a number of instructional interventions that
can be developed using the four steps.
 Part 5: A review of information processing theory (which
explains how cognitive load can be enhanced by helping
people select, organize, and integrate information for
meaningful learning
 Part 6: Your job of a designer (which explains how to
implement Parts 1 - 5)
Part 1: Why the 4-Steps are Needed
Structuring or designing information for learning requires
skills different from traditional teaching practice. The 4-Step
process helps you create instruction that allows a facilitator
to be a guide on the side to optimize student-to-student
interaction, student to content interaction, student to teacher
interaction, and student to interface interaction.
Notice how differently learning is described? For one, the word
interaction suggests some type of exchange between two entities.
The teacher and learner are not passive, they respond to each
other. Additionally, that exchange is not limited between a
teacher and student, as it has been in the past. Given the
changing nature of learning that has been established up to this
point, the 4-Step process is recommended as a method for
creating a learning environment, a learning space that
encourages interaction between teachers, students, content, and
the interface.
Part 2: Front-end Analysis Needed Prior to the 4-Steps
Before getting into the 4-Steps though, something needs to
happen before creating instruction. In order to set up an
optimal learning environment, you must analyze the need for
training or education in the first place. It could be that
education or training is not needed.
Let’s take a real-life example. Imagine yourself in a different
role than the one you have now, you are in charge of timemanagement training for the people with whom you work. Your
supervisor noticed that your department was not as productive as
needed and asked you to give a quick workshop. You decide to do
a quick analysis of your peers, so decide to take a day or two
to observe your work setting, something you have never taken
time to do before now. To your amazement you discover that your
peers do not need a time management course, they simply need to
move a coffee pot!
When you were asked to do the training, you assumed that you
would be covering things like setting goals and priorities.
Perhaps introducing concepts behind a principle-driven life
(Steven Covey comes to mind). After observing the work setting
for several days, however, you discover that your peers are
spending an unusual amount of time congregating around the
coffee pot and chatting with the gregarious and entertaining
secretary. Moving the coffee pot to a less entertaining location
ends up being a solution to the "problem." This is a true story,
shared with me by a student taking this course several years
This story introduces a new way of thinking about training and
education. Maybe you should not train! Training may not be the
solution to a problem. You might think “but I need to teach my
content! I want to know how to teach -- not about these other
things." Again, try to remove yourself from the traditional
connotation of your job. You are an instructional designer - a
detective of sorts.
Performance Analysis and Training Needs Assessment
A front-end analysis is conducted to determine if other
approaches to a problem might be more effective, and often less
costly to pursue. Front-end analysis helps prevent extraneous
load by identifying only the most crucial information needs.
In many situations (as in our coffee pot story) education and
training are not needed, instead there is something else in the
environment that must be addressed. Perhaps management and
administrative issues introduce performance problems. Factors
that contribute to motivation, organization work processes and
the like are barriers to workplace performance. Management,
administration, motivation, work processes and other nontraining issues are analyzed using a process called Performance
Analysis. If a performance analysis indicates training is
needed, a training needs assessment is conducted. Training needs
assessment addresses gaps between what a learner already and
what they need to know. If you desire to learn more about these
topics you can find a number of textbooks dedicated to the many
steps and processes needed to conduct analysis (see the For More
Information section of the Unit 2 Web Site).
Intervention Analysis
While we do not conduct a performance analysis or a training
needs assessment, we do take the time to analyze the type of
instructional intervention needed. The word intervention is used
because it stands for training/education but is actually
something that intersects between where the learner starts and
where they end.
Think of the saying "Moving people from point A to point B".
This means we help people learn something in order to move from
where they are currently (point A), to a place we think the
learner should be (point B). The piece in-between A and B is an
intervention. It is what we do. This entire class is all about
creating an intervention or a set of interventions.
We will use Clark and Estes (2002) four-part intervention model
which defines an intervention as a strategy that helps close the
gap in knowledge and skills. Interventions types include
 information
 job-aids
 training
 education (Clark and Estes, 2002).
For the most part, the interventions in this list are
increasingly complex. Information interventions include
presenting raw data. Think of an encyclopedia, a phone book,
some textbooks that do not employ strategies to make their
information meaningful.
Information Interventions
When do you need an information intervention? According to Clark
and Estes (2002), you provide information when a person’s past
experience does not contain the knowledge needed to perform in
their work or learning environment.
For example, if someone is worried about the West Nile Virus,
and has never learned the symptoms of the disease, they will
seek information. Perhaps they will go to the Internet, or to
the local library. The person wants facts and data. They want to
read or hear an audio recording of the information.
The Help file in your word processing software provides one
example of an information intervention. If you look up the word
“copy” you will learn what “copy” is. For example the help file
might say “To duplicate information use the “copy” command. The
copy command keeps specified information into a memory buffer to
be used later when a “paste” command is executed.”
When you design information interventions, you do what you can
to reduce the intrinsic load. You may permit some forms of load
that could be considered extraneous (such as examples), however
your focus will be on reducing the complexity of the content.
Your strategies will focus on optimal sequencing of content.
Job-aid intervention
Job aids go beyond information and are provided when the person
does have experience or some knowledge, but that experience
isn’t clearly similar to the task the learner needs to perform,
or the learner does not remember all of the information needed
to do their job. Job aids organize the information to help
people do jobs easily. Think of them as organized information.
Let’s go back to the Help file example. Help files also contain
job-aids. The difference between information and a job aid is
that a job aid is organized according to the user’s task and it
makes it very easy for the user to follow.
For example, if there is a page in the help file titled How to
Copy, and that page shows clear steps on performing the copy
function, then that page can be considered a job-aid. For
example the following information can be considered a job aid.
How to Copy Information
1. Highlight the information you want to duplicate.
2. Select Edit > Copy
3. Move your cursor to the location where you want to
paste the copied information
4. Select Edit > Paste
Other common forms of job aids include one page instructions on
how to operate a machine, recipes, weather reports in the
newspaper, a sign in a grocery store telling you where to find
pasta, and many other sources of information that are displayed
in a highly organized or structured manner.
You use cognitive load theory to help you design job-aids by
presenting only the most critical content, organized by task.
Essentially you remove as much extraneous and intrinsic load as
Training goes beyond a job-aid and is provided when the
knowledge or skill needed is not familiar but is fairly
procedural and requires guided practice. Training works well for
step-by-step instruction of new information.
Training is required for more complex information and tasks.
While a job aid is helpful for some information, training is
required when that information is lengthy or challenging and
practice is necessary. For example, the craft of metalsmithing
is one that must be trained. The information is complex and
years of practice with a skilled artisan are required.
Let’s go back to the “Copy” example for a more typical
situation. A person would unlikely attend training on the Copy
function, but they would attend training on an entire Word
Processing program if they were novices in the topic.
Cognitive load theory applies to training interventions as well.
Well-organized content with practice activities focus on
reducing intrinsic load and providing opportunities to increase
germane load through practice.
Education is the most complex intervention of all and is
required when a person needs enough knowledge or skill to
anticipate and solve novel problems in the future. Learning a
word processing tool can be considered education when the
learning experience includes opportunities for the learner to
apply the new information to novel situations.
Type of intervention covered in this textbook
In this class, you will be involved in training or educational
intervention. Your primary responsibility is designing an
environment where people learn, not just perform. Your focus is
especially oriented towards increasing germane load.
You may create job-aids to help people with tasks that do not
require deep learning; you may use information interventions as
well. Another book and class teaches how to design messages to
facilitate learning, which is covered in another course ET504
and ET604.
In this book, we take a micro view of the 4 - step process and
create a module or unit of instruction, something that might
take only ½ hour for a learner to complete. The 4- step process,
however, can be used to create an entire curriculum. When
designing a curriculum, the focus of each of the 4-steps is
similar, but the scope changes. By learning the 4-steps you
essentially learn the skills needed to create an entire
curriculum. Those same 4-steps also help you zoom all the way
down to the most microelements of instruction - the objective.
The structure for writing a single lesson objective is similar
to the structure for creating an entire curriculum. The 4-steps
is a good place to start, when you are ready to tackle larger
projects you will want to move on to the classic instructional
design texts:
Dick and Carey's (2006) Instructional Systems Design (a
rigorous approach that involves an intense goal analysis
complete with strategies for identifying prerequisite
Smith and Regan's (2006) Instructional Design (an in-depth
review of instructional strategies associated with
different content classification schemes)
Morrison, Ross, and Kemp's Designing Effective Instruction
(a 9-step model known for its emphasis on non-linear design
(If you are interested in learning these approaches, ET702, is a
class you might like to take.)
Part 3: The fractal nature of the 4-steps
and why it help us learn about the larger design process
I share the above classic textbooks to illuminate the nature of
instructional design. The reason this book is accepted for
publication rests in the complexity of these other textbooks and
a widespread dissatisfaction with their use. Cognitive load when
reading these textbooks tends to be very high.
The 4-Steps are similar the classic approaches due to the
fractal nature of the design process. Fractal theory describes
objects as having a self-similar composition under changes of
scale (see Figure 1 on the next page).
As shared in Figure 1, there are many examples of fractal
theory. If you think about it, movies, plays and textbooks have
fractal natures, due to the beginning, middle and end of scenes
that fit into acts and so on or into the composition of textbook
chapters and textbook sections. While these examples represent
tangible products, fractal theory is also evident in the
processes involved in creating the products. Our puppeteer
follows a process when creating their plays that is very similar
to the process used to create instruction.
Figure 2. An instructional designer as a puppeteer
Part 4:
ADDIE, The 4-Steps, and the Puppeteer
Instructional designers typically follow a process that has a
generic name, ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development,
Implementation, and Evaluation). When designers create they
first analyze the learner problem, they generate ideas and
create a design, they develop the design (instruction) fully,
they test or implement the instruction, and then evaluate the
instruction and the design process. The ADDIE acronym represents
the design process.
In this book we substitute ADDIE with an abbreviated 4-step
process (to reduce your cognitive load) and make the information
more germane. The four-step process includes these steps:
1. Sizing up the learner
2 Stating the learner outcome
3. Making it happen
4. Knowing what the learner knows
The four steps are similar to ADDIE. Table 1 helps you compare
ADDIE to the 4 - steps and to the puppeteer analogy.
Table 1
Comparison of ADDIE, 4 – step model, and Puppeteer Analogy
4 – Step Model
Puppeteer description
The Analysis step 1. Sizing up the
Identification of an
corresponds to
Sizing up the
(Who is your
audience? What type
of context do they
work in that might
influence the content
you present?)
The Design step
2. Stating the
Identification of the
corresponds to
critical message.
Stating the
(What do you want the Creating a script that
outcome and
learner to be able to will communicate your
do and understand
after they receive
Development and
3. Making it happen
Presenting a story with
(How will you engage
a beginning, middle,
correspond to the the learner in a way
end, introducing a
Making it happen. that achieves the
conflict, characters,
outcome stated
and a conflict
resolution. Conducting
corresponds to
Knowing what the
learner knows.
4. Knowing what the
learner knows. (Did
learning take place?)
rehearsals to refine
the event.
Effectiveness gauged by
audience reaction,
applause, ticket sales,
and perhaps a changed
way of thinking.
Part 5: Cognitive Load Theory and the 4-steps
This final section of the chapter brings us back to the topic of
the previous chapter - learning theory. Prior to this point we
addressed cognitive load theory and the importance of decreasing
the load placed on memory by increasing germane load and
reducing extraneous load. We take up with where we left off by
presenting Information processing theory, which describes the
memory structure we work with. By enhancing the mind's tendency
to select, organize and integrate information we are able to
address the issues of reducing extraneous load and increasing
germane load.
Information processinig theory describes how information travels
from sensory memory to working memory and finally to long-term
memory. These three memory systems are often referred to as two
types of memory - short-term (a combination of sensory and
working memory) and long-term (see Table 3).
Notice how information and job-aids fall into short-term memory
and training and education fall into long-term memory. I make
this distinction to illustrate the different memory goals of
these learning tools. Your design focus for information and job
aids tends to emphasize the need to facilitate short-term
memory. By making information easy to perceive, we facilitate
sensory and short term processing. Your design focus for
training and education, on the other hand, tends to emphasize
the need to move information from working into long-term memory.
It may be easiest for you to think of information and job-aids
as helpful to the short-term, to be used in an immediate sense
and less important for the long run. Likewise you might think of
training and education as helpful for long-term memory.
Three Types of Memory
Essentially we design for these different types of memory. This
does not mean that information designed for sensory processing
does not influence long-term memory, or vice-versa. It means
instead that our design efforts focus on a particular memory
system. The three types of memory are highly interactive. Just
think of yourself driving and seeing the shape of a stop sign in
the distance and how your foot unconsciously moves towards the
brake. In this situation a perception of shape triggers longterm memory almost instantaneously.
Table 3:
Sensory, Working, and Long-term memory
Short term memory
Sensory memory
Working memory
Long-term memory
Long-term memory
Information and job-aids
Training and Education
Even though memory is unlikely to be as compartmentalized as
depicted in Table 3, it helps for us to think of memory as
starting with what we perceive or sense (sensory memory) then
moving into a working memory that further processes a thought
and makes its way to long-term memory where it is stored
forever. Memory is more complex than this because much of what
we perceive never makes it into working memory, and from that
point it may never make it into long-term memory. Additionally,
we know that there some information is instantaneously and
unconsciously remembered (as in the case of a stop sign) while
other information is remembered only by focused thinking, such
as using the acronym Every Good Boy Does Fine to remember notes
of a music scale.
Table 4 shows that capacity, duration, and format for the three
types of memory vary.
Sensory memory can hold an unlimited amount of information,
but for a very short time, seconds.
Working memory performs in an executive capacity by
managing and manipulating information. Working memory is
where we as designers must focus our efforts. We must
structure information to “stay alive” in memory, long
enough to make it to long-term memory.
Long-term memory is unlimited, capable of holding an
infinite amount of data for an indefinitely long time.
According to theory, once information makes it to long-term
memory it stays there forever. This would be great if most
people could find that information when they wanted it! The
problem in retrieving information from long term memory
resides in how that information was stored. In other words,
how effectively and efficiently the learner thought about
the information - this is where instructional designers can
focus our efforts.
TABLE 4 Capacity, Duration and Format of Long- and ShortTerm Memory
Memory store
Short-Term Memory
Sensory Memory
Working Memory
Long-Term Memory
Can hold an
unlimited amount
of information.
Can hold a very
limited amount
of information.
Can hold an
of information.
Visual and
Visual and
some think
(in a
summarized or
overall gist
rather than
Understanding Short-term Memory - The Importance of Selection
and Organization
A big problem with most training and educational contexts is the
lack of attention to the perception and learning barriers
created by the limitations of sensory and working memory. Again,
sensory memory holds an unlimited about of information, but just
for a few seconds!
If you are not convinced, stop for a moment and think about
everything that your sensory memory is taking in now. Try to
hear sounds around you that you’ve been ignoring. You might hear
a fan, the compressor in a refrigerator, the hum of a printer,
the voices of neighbors, or any number of sounds. Because you’ve
decided to pay attention to your environment, you are suddenly
conscious of things you were unaware of just seconds before.
Look back at this page now. Your sensory memory is taking in a
lot of information just on the page; it sees individual letters,
words, paper, your hand, the edges of your book. Much of what
you sense you ignore because your sensory memory has a filter
that directs your attention only to certain things. For example,
you don’t really pay attention to individual letters within a
word; instead you attend to the word.
We name the process of attending to specific information and
ignoring other information selection. Fortunately as the
exercise above just illustrated, your mind does select and
filter out a lot of unnecessary information, freeing you up to
focus on only the most relevant, satisfying or interesting
We name processes that take place in working memory
organization. Working memory is also a short-term memory, but
the capacity of working memory very small. Miller (1956) found
that working memory holds anywhere from 5 to 9 units (7 plus or
minus 2) of information. Recently, Cowan (2004) presents
research suggesting 4 units. Cowan’s research suggests that as
designers we may need to be even more concerned about finding
ways to limit information overload.
Both Miller and Cowan use the term unit to describe information
that is chunked together. What comprises a unit varies according
to how much information can be chunked together and still have
meaning. It becomes very important to help learners/performers
work with units that make sense to them. In other words, you
want to create appropriate chunk sizes. This is where we begin
to address individual differences, which we have identified as
critically important to assessing optimal cognitive load.
Novices typically need smaller information units (or chunks)
than experts. Think of how a beginning reader first has to focus
on very small chunks (individual letters that make up simple
words). Reading materials for young children usually consists of
very small chunks sizes. Each page has only one or two words.
Experts, however, are able to use page-sized chunks because
sentence and paragraph level chunks help them process the
content. If you comprehend this passage, it is because your
mind chunks letters into words so quickly that you don’t notice
the words as much as their meaning in the context of a sentence.
This is also true of sentences, experts tend to process the
meaning of sentences rather than individual words. Greater
expertise requires greater chunk sizes.
Understanding Long-term Memory - The importance of Integration
We call the processes involved in moving memory from short-term
memory to long-term memory Integration. Moving information from
working memory to long-term memory is usually the biggest
challenge! Rehearsal increases the chance that information
remains in memory, but the best bet for getting information into
long-term memory is by making the rehearsed information
meaningful to the learner.
Analogies and metaphor have long been used to do just that. By
comparing new information to something the learner already
knows, the learner is more likely to understand the new
information. Whenever you can make connections to things within
your audience’s experience, they are more likely to remember it.
Part 6: Your Job As a Designer
As a designer your job is to design information with the three
types of memory (sensory, short-term, and long-term) in mind. To
do this you help the learner Select the most important
information, Organize the information in a way that is
memorable, and Integrate that information into memory, often by
using metapahors or other strategies that help increase the
likelihood that information is meaningful.
The 4- Steps process is a process that helps you improve learner
selection, organization and integration. Each of the 4-steps
requires you to think carefully about learner selection,
organization, and integration.
In the previous chapter you learned about cognitive load theory
and the importance of creating a learning environment that
addresses optimal load. You were introduced to the concept of
instructional design and the analogy of a puppeteer, comparing
your task as a designer to that of a puppeteer who creates a
learning experience.
This chapter addresses the importance of creating an environment
that focuses on different learning requirements, be it the need
for information, job-aids, training, or education either alone
or together. This focus increases your odds of providing an
optimal load at the onset. If a well-designed job-aid meets the
goal, then you have optimized load by minimizing the amount and
complexity of instructional content.
The 4-step process was introduced as a road map to designing
instruction. Although you follow the 4-steps to create a unit of
instruction lasting approximately 30 minutes, these same 4steps, due to their fractal nature, can be used to create entire
Additionally you learned about Information Processing Theory and
the different types of memory and the importance of structuring
(designing) information to facilitate those memory processes. By
helping a learner select what is most important, organize it in
a memorable way, and integrate it meaningfully into memory in a
meaningful way, you design for optimal load.
Know These Terms!
Education interventions - any situation where there is a
conceptual, theoretical, and strategic transfer of knowledge or
skills that allow people to solve problems in new ways (Clark &
Estes, 2002, p. 59).
Information interventions - the presentation of previously
unknown facts and data that help people perform in a work or
educational environment (Clark & Estes, 2002).
Interventions - strategies that help close the gaps in knowledge
and skills. Interventions types include information, job-aids,
training, and education.
Job-aid interventions - a higher level of information that helps
people perform tasks on their own, without the assistance of an
individual. Recipes for cooking are a common example of job aids
(Clark & Estes, 2002). Job-aids can take on a physical shape, as
in the design of an object. Scissors and hammers are job-aids,
as their shape assists their function intuitively.
Performance – the ability to perform a task
Training – defined as “any situation where people must acquire
“how to” knowledge and skills, and need practice and corrective
feedback to help them achieve specific work goals (Clark &
Estes, 2002, p. 58.)
Training interventions: The transfer of knowledge and skills
through guided practice and feedback opportunities (Clark &
Estes, 2002).
To determine the student’s needs ask yourself these quick
Does the student need to gain new information in order to
perform a task? If yes, the student needs an information
Does the student have some knowledge or experience about a
subject but does not need to have that information memorized in
order to perform a task. If yes, the student needs a job-aid
Does the student need to learn new information that is mostly
procedural and requires practice? If yes, the student needs a
training intervention.
Does the student need to be able to problem-solve in the future?
If yes, the student needs an education intervention.
In most cases, the complexities of the interventions increase as
you move from information interventions to education
Fill in later
Clark R. E. & Estes, F. (2002). Turning research into results: a
guide to selecting the right performance solutions. Atlanta,
GA.: CEP Press
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