Designing Learning Experiences for Performance

To achieve a climate that is conducive to learning, involvement skills that lead to new experiences are employed. Just as you have tools, such as PCs, lesson outlines, and training aids to help you in your training duties, skills that create learning experiences can be thought of as your inner-tools that support the learners' cognitive, psychomotor, and social needs.

Bela Banathy

While some instructional designers and instructors may believe that involving the learners by having them play an active roll is a new phenomenon in instructional design, Bela Banathy wrote in 1968 that the purpose of an instructional system is learning, NOT instruction.

For example, he continues by describing that if a learning environment was the true focus, then rigid scheduling would be eliminated as we learn at different rates, in addition, the learner would be on stage, rather than the teacher, who is there to help manage the learning environment.

Some of the involvement skills needed by trainers to coach their learners to success are (Laird, 1985):


Adapt the training program to meet the learners' needs by analyzing and responding to individual learner needs. For example, you have a outstanding word processing class that includes creating multiple columns, but little about inserting tables. If a business unit inquired about the class, and informed you that they need instruction on creating tables, could you change your class to fit their needs? How about if it only involved one or a few student?

Not only must you be prepared to change a course before it starts, but also on the fly. You must consistently monitor and evaluate your learners' needs throughout the course of instruction. Do not be afraid to change your instructional steps to meet the needs of your learners.

However, do be careful when it comes to changing the learning objectives:

Many years ago, I was asked by a business unit leader to design a project management class with a significant emphasis on budgeting and forecasting. I complied with his request and designed several exercises intended to address this stated need. When the class ran, participants convinced the instructor that because they didn't have to do budgeting and forecasting, there was no need to spend much time on those subjects. Therefore, the instructor skipped them. Participants were happy because they didn't have to learn content they didn't want to learn, and the instructor was happy because his end-of-class evaluations were extremely high. Unfortunately, my client was angry. As he explained to me after the class ran, his employees were correct in saying that they didn't do budgeting and forecasting, which is why most of their projects were over budget and delivered late. - Larry Israelite in Lies About Learning.


Although a good training program has structure, it should not be canned or contrived. If it simply goes step-by-step with no change, then why not use cheaper media, such as a video or audio recording?


The term empathy was coined in the 20th century from the German word einfuhling (to feel with), which comes from the Greek word empatheia (empathes = emotional and pathus = feelings). This is the ability to perceive another person's view of the world as though the view is your own.

The Sioux Indian Tribal Prayer reads, “Great Spirit, help us never to judge another until we have walked for two weeks in his moccasins.”

Empathy differs from sympathy in that sympathy connotes spontaneous emotion rather than a conscious, reasoned response. Sympathizing with others may be less useful to another person as we are limited by strong feelings of the moment.


Alleviate stress when it is not conducive to the training program. Some stress is good as it helps to motivate us (see Arousal). Without some stress in life, there is no need to accomplish a task, reach for the stars, go where no person has gone before... however, too much stress places an additional burden on most people.


Use the Ask, Pause, Call (APC) method.

Some hints for effective questioning are:

Instructors tend to ask questions in the “knowledge” category 80% to 90% of the time. These questions are not bad, but using them all the time is! Try to utilize higher order level of questions that require much more brain power and more extensive and elaborate answers. These higher order categories are defined in Bloom's Taxonomy:

Giving feedback

Photo by radiospike photography

This is the ability of the receiver to change and alter the message so the intention of the communicator or sender is understood. This should be done by paraphrasing the words or restating the sender's feelings or ideas in your own words, rather than just repeating their words.

Your reply should be referring to, “This is what I understand your feelings to be. Am I correct?” It not only includes verbal responses, but also nonverbal ones. Nodding your head or squeezing their hand to show agreement, or dipping your eyebrows shows you don't quite understand the meaning of their last phrase.

Carl Rogers listed five main categories of feedback. They are listed in the order in which they occur most frequently in daily conversations (notice that we make judgments more often than we try to understand):

  1. Evaluative: Makes a judgment about the worth, goodness, or appropriateness of the other person's statement
  2. Interpretive: Paraphrasing - attempt to explain what the other persons statement mean
  3. Supportive: Attempt to assist or bolster the other communicator
  4. Probing: Attempt to gain additional information, continue the discussion, or clarify a point
  5. Understanding: Attempt to discover completely what the other communicator means by her statements


Counseling has a powerful, long-term impact on the learners and the effectiveness of the organization. There are two type of counseling — directive and nondirective. In directive counseling, the counselor identifies the problem and tells the counselee what to do about it. Nondirective counseling means the counselee identifies the problem and determines the solution with the help of the counselor. The counselor has to determine which of the two, or some appropriate combination, to give for each situation.

Positive Reinforcement

Throughout a program of instruction there needs to be continuous or intermittent reinforcements (Skinner, 1974). These reinforcements are what cause the operates (responses) to be learned by the learner. Reinforcers can be either rewards (positive) or punishment (negative). However, negative reinforcers have the greatest effect when they are discontinued. Reinforcers do not always have to be verbal. For example, nodding your head up and down communicates positive reinforcement to learners and indicates that you are listening.

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Laird, Dugan (1985). Approaches To Training And Development. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Skinner, B.F. (1974). About Behaviorism. New York: Alfred A. Knoph.