Read Chapter 2, Identifying instructional goals using Front End Analysis, from Dick, Carey, & Carey


It is comforting to know that there are proven models available to guide us through our instructional planning as we saw in Lesson 3. Models are the road maps that help us get to where we need to go. But first, we must know where we need to go. Then we can use the road map to help us reach that end point. The needs assessment and goal statement are the first steps in helping us do this.

Needs Assessment

The instructional design process begins with analyzing the need. In a needs assessment, we look at the performance of the individuals within a specific situation or environment and compare this performance with what is expected or desired. In other words, we compare what they are doing to what they need to do. The gap that exists between the two is known as the need. A good needs analysis is itself a process. In it we identify the problematic performance, the individuals that are displaying the problematic performance, the evidence that leads us to identify the problem, and suggest multiple solutions that could potentially address the gap and resolve the problem. Finally, we decide which of the solutions could be addressed with instruction.

Our problematic performance may be that students are not getting their homework turned in on time, professional drivers are not following their safety protocols, or workers are not arriving back from lunch on time. In examining the evidence that points to the problem, we may wonder why people are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. This is where a Performance Analysis can help. Robert Mager and Peter Pipe (1997) have described a procedure for analyzing and identifying the nature and cause of human performance problems. In their book, "Analyzing Performance Problems or You Really Oughta Wanna", they provide a systematic approach for analyzing a problem and provide a flowchart to demonstrate the process. Mager and Pipe tell us that, "Solutions to problems are like keys in locks; they don't work if they don't fit. And if solutions aren't the right ones, the problem doesn't get solved".

Mager and Pipe's model is easy-to-follow that would be worthwhile for you to review. We have provided their flowchart and a quick-reference checklist that outlines each step in the chart. Take some time to look it over. If you are interested in learning more about their process, we urge you to check out their book. The checklist that follows the flowchart will help you being, but it cannot adequately cover all the details of the process.

Because of the improvements that instruction can make in the performance of students or employees, it is often selected as the answer to many problems that occur in our everyday life, classroom, and work place. However, is it possible that our students already know how to turn their homework in on time, our drivers actually do know the safety protocols, or our employees really do know how to read a clock? Would more instruction address the problem?

If, after a performance analysis, you determine that the need is the result of a lack of skills or the knowledge to perform the skill, then instruction can be developed to address the need. Your need is now an instructional need. If the problem stems from other factors, such as a lack of practice or simple reminders as could be the case with our students, drivers, and employees in the previous examples, then additional instruction would not be the solution.

Determining Goals

During the needs assessment the designer identifies the problem, possible causes of the problem, identifies multiple solutions that could be implemented to resolve the problem, and determines which involve instruction. With this information the designer can focus on a specific topic and create a goal for the intended learners. The goal statement will direct all subsequent design decisions and will direct what it taught.

Goals indicate our intended learners. A brief statement or phrase of who these individuals are helps to focus the reader’s attention on the individuals as intended learners and performers of the actions stated in the goal.

Goals are stated in terms of what a specific group of individuals will be able to do when they have completed the instruction. It can address new skills, knowledge, or attitudes that the individuals need to acquire.

Goal are written for the future. We need to consider how the new skill, knowledge, or attitude will be used in the performance context. The performance context is a future, real-world place where the learners will use the new skill, knowledge, or attitude gained from your instructional module. It requires us to think beyond an upcoming test or a project later in the school year. It requires us to think outside-the-box and provide real world functionality to whatever our intended learners need to gain.

Finally, goals include the tools the intended learners will use when they perform the skill or use the knowledge in the performance context. By identifying this, we are better able to focus on the skills needed to operate the tool and create a learning environment that replicates, as closely as possible, the eventual performance environment.

Good goal statements are succinct and to-the-point. They are positive and direct statements of what the learners will be able to do . It includes:

  1. Who the learners are.
  2. What the learners will be able to do in the performance context.
  3. The performance context in which the skills will be used.
  4. The tools that will be available to the learners in the performance context.

When we put all of this together, we can end up with a very broad goal. Dick, Carey and Carey recommend writing goal statements for something that can be achieved in a single lesson of about one hour in duration. If our goal is too broad, we will need to divide it into sub-goals then focus the instruction on one of the sub-goals that will address a part of the need. For instance, if the need indicates that our intended group of high school students must learn to manage their finances, the actual performance context might be college, adult life, or even later in professional life. The performance itself may involve several skills, for example, creating a budget, setting financial goals, as well as calculating total debt and income. While our goal statement needs to consider each skill, in this course we will design instruction to address only a portion of what is necessary to address the problem in full.

Example of a goal statement

Let’s consider the following scenario. A needs analysis was conducted and found that students did not know how to use the Internet for research effectively. This involved not only using the Internet to find sources of information but also critically evaluating the sources for credibility to eliminate the irrelevant or incorrect information. The focus at the time was directed toward first-year English students. The intent was that they would use the Alta Vista search engine, once a popular search tool on the Internet.

A goal statement was written to address this need: "First-year English high school students will use the Alta Vista Internet search engine to locate information related to their topic and then evaluate the quality of the information they find."

In this goal statement, the learners are "first-year English high school students". The intended performance is that they will "use the search engine", "locate information", and "evaluate the quality of the information" what they find. The tool they will use is "the AltaVista search engine". In this example, the performance context was omitted because this can be performed anywhere there is a computer and internet connection. Because there are three actions stated, each action could be a sub-goal and the focus of an instructional unit.

Example of a vague goal

At times, you may encounter a goal that is not clear enough. A goal that is vague or fuzzy does not indicate what the individuals can do to demonstrate they have achieved the goal. Robert Mager has developed a procedure to help designers clarify vague goals. This process is described in the section of your text entitled "Clarity in Instructional Goals".

Let’s consider the Mager process in this scenario. You are a professional development coordinator for a high school. The administration of Made-Up High School has assigned you the task of preparing a learning module that will instruct teachers on how to use a new online gradebook, "Better than Writing Report Cards", for the coming school year. The original learning goal prepared by the administration states that "Teachers will understand the new online grade book during the first semester of school."

Using the guidelines suggested by Mager, you interpret this goal as too vague to be effective. It indicates that the learners will "understand". What does this look like? What must these individuals do to demonstrate that they have learned the skill? You decide that the goal needs to be revised, but you need a little more information.

You check with the administration to verify their expectations. You find out that the Guidance Office staff will enter the classes and student names. Teachers will be expected access their online grade book and enter grades. They will also be expected to create assignment labels and daily attendance as well as be able to print a report for the first parent-teacher conference of the school year.

Then, you look at the new online gradebook software to see what teachers will need to know how to do in order to achieve the goals set out by the administration. You make a list of what actions the teachers should be able to do by the end of the professional development instruction and re-phrase the Instructional Goal.

You rewrite the goal statement as follows:

"All teachers at Made-Up High School will be able to access their assigned digital gradebook and classes, create assignments labels, enter student grades, enter daily attendance, and generate individual student grade/attendance reports using the Better than Writing Report Cards Software."

Analyzing this goal statement for the characteristics of a good goal statement, we see that the learners are "all teachers". What they will be able to do is "access the gradebook and classes, create labels, enter grades and attendance, and generate reports". The performance context is "Made-Up High School". The tool is the "Better than Writing Report Cards software". Each required characteristic is included, making this a good goal statement.

Because there are multiple actions listed in this goal statement, it may need to be divided into sub-goals. However, it is no longer as vague as the original goal.

Final Notes

One last thing to remember: sometimes there are environmental factors that influence what can be addressed in a goal statement and how it will be addressed. Factors such as available facilities and administrative decisions can have an impact on how much we can hope to achieve through an instructional unit. Before we delve into a project that will be impossible to implement, we should consider the following:

  1. Is the proposed instruction going to address the need that we have identified? Will it solve the problem?
  2. Are the proposed goals acceptable to administrators?
  3. Are there enough resources to create the instruction required to address the need that was identified?

Activity: Needs Assessment and Goal Statement

This assignment begins your work on your Instructional Design Project. As you learned in this lesson, the first step in the instructional design process is the Needs Assessment. In your Needs Assessment, you will identify a performance problem that has been observed or documented, describe the individuals (the learners) who are having the problem, analyze possible causes and solutions for the problem, and describe the environment where the problem has occurred. Once this is done, you will be ready to write your Goal Statement.

Since your work on this project accounts for the majority of your course grade, we have included an explanation of our expectations HERE. ***Please review this information before choosing your project topic and completing this assignment.

These two activities are Part One of your ID Project:

Step 1: Needs Assessment

Consider the information below in your analysis of the instructional need. In your assignment, provide a response for each item.

  1. Describe the general topic for your instructional design project. Be sure to provide enough background about the performance problem that has been observed to provide context for the reader and justify the need for instruction.
  2. Describe the intended learners. What characteristics are evident in this group of individuals? Your description might include relevant demographic information (e.g., age ranges, genders, ethnicities, cultural and/or socioeconomic backgrounds, etc.), name of workplace/school, job titles/grade levels, experience levels, shared physical, cognitive, or personality traits, and motivations. Please provide enough detail about your intended learners to help the reader clearly envision who they are. (Please note that an even more in-depth analysis of the intended learners will be completed in an upcoming assignment.)
  3. Clearly describe the instructional need:
    1. What is it that the learners cannot do that they need to be able to do? Try to identify the specific skills the learners are lacking or are not able to perform and write them as direct actions or behaviors.
    2. What evidence do you have that supports identifying this performance problem? Examples might include personal observations, employee or student performance data, research studies, news articles, interviews with the learners, their managers/teachers, or subject matter experts, results of survey questionnaires, etc.
    3. What are possible causes for this problem? Remember that there are four possible causes for performance problems: unmotivated people, a flawed environment that doesn't accommodate the performance, improper incentives for performing, and a lack of skill or knowledge. It is important to recognize that there could be multiple issues contributing to the performance problem and that developing instruction solves only one of those issues (i.e., "a lack of skill or knowledge").
    4. Why is this need important? In other words, how is being able to perform the skills you identified relevant to the learners, their employers/schools, or the world at large?
    5. Is any existing training or instruction available to address the problem? If there is not, this helps justify the need for a new instructional product to be designed and developed. If there is, discuss why that instruction hasn’t been effective.
  4. What are some suggested solutions to address this problem? Which of the suggested solutions involve instruction? Why do you think the need can best be addressed by instruction? For which specific instructional solution do you want to design a new instructional product?
  5. Finally, compose a cohesive Needs Assessment that includes your responses to the items above. Be sure to include the suggested solutions, indicate which can be addressed by instruction, and which one you will pursue as your project in this course. This Needs Assessment is the first item in your final design document (the Final ID Report) and is extremely important because it sets the stage for the design considerations that will follow.

Step 2: Goal Description and Goal Statement

From the various solutions to the problem you identified in your Needs Assessment, identify the specific instructional need you wish to pursue. This will be the focus for your instructional design project.

Write a meaningful, worthwhile Goal Statement that can serve as a starting point for developing a one-hour lesson. Remember that Goal Statements are one sentence and should be both direct and succinct. If your goal is too vague, use the procedure described by Mager for clarifying fuzzy goals. When you are finished with this process, you should have a clearly stated instructional goal.

In your assignment, provide a response for each item below.

  1. Briefly describe the learners. These are the same individuals you described in the Needs Assessment.
  2. Describe what these individuals will be able to do in the performance context after they have completed your instructional unit. These skills should be written as direct actions or behaviors. Please avoid using fuzzy and/or vague verbs when describing the expected behaviors.
  3. Briefly describe the performance context. Remember that this is the future, real-world environment in which the goal skills will be performed. Some performance contexts can be difficult to describe due to the ubiquity of certain hardware and software. If this is your situation, be sure to discuss it, but provide some examples of where/when the skill could be performed or the knowledge used.
  4. Describe the tools these individuals will use when they perform the new skill or use the new knowledge. Remember that the instructional program you are designing is NOT a tool that will be available in the performance context. It is always assumed that the instruction will have already been completed by the time the future, real-world performance of the new skills occurs.
  5. Should you meet these individuals in the performance context after they have completed your instructional unit, how will you know that they have learned the material? Please describe how you might gauge or assess whether the learners have mastered the new skills they were taught (i.e., successfully retained and transferred the new skills to the performance context).
  6. Finally, compose a direct, succinct, one-sentence Goal Statement that includes the four required components - the learners, what they will be able to do, the context in which they will use what they learned (i.e., the performance context), and the tools they will need in order to perform.

Submitting your Assignment

Throughout the remaining assignments in the course, details are important. Be sure you provide a response to each rubric item and that it is clearly identified as you compose your assignment.

Your assignment should be produced using Microsoft Word. Title it "Needs Assessment". Beneath that, enter your name, email address, and the date. Save your assignment using the filename "needs". After you have saved your file, go to the student interface and submit your assignment for grading. Click here if you need additional information regarding submission of your assignment.

Assignment: Needs Assessment

Points: 20

Needs Assessment

- Describes general topic for which they wish to develop an instructional program. (1)
- Describes who the learners are. Includes any relevant learner characteristics. (1)
- Describes the instructional need - what learners can't do that they want them to be able to do. (1)
- Describes why they think the need can be addressed by instruction. (1)
- Summary description of the learning need. (5)

Goal Description and Statement

- Describes the learners that they want to accomplish their goal. (1)
- Describes what the learners should be able to do. (2)
- Describes the context in which the learners will attempt to accomplish the goal. (1)
- Describes the tools that will be available to the learners. (1)
- Describes how they would tell that the learners accomplished the goal. (1)
- Meaningful, worthwhile goal statement that includes the four components: learners, goal, context, and available tools. (5)