Presuming Competence By Design • A Tutorial for Systems, Environment, Curricular, and Materials Design in Learning Systems


Instructional Designers / Performance Technologists:

We design the instruction, instructional and technological systems, and performance interventions that impact learners and workers.  So often, an organization relies on us to know the research, know good practice, and do it right.  And if it has to be redone because of a pending discrimination lawsuit, you can bet the instructional design / training unit will hear about it, too.


This tutorial is essential for you.  It has become an essential way to “doing” design in practically every other design-related field, including architecture, civil engineering and city planning (look at current urban planning models), and human interaction / interface design.


If you are in an organization that is not yet looking at design this way, this tutorial will help you learn more about it and create opportunity for and within your organization.  Instead of looking at this as something you’ll have a hard time convincing your boss of, look at this as an opportunity for you to add unique value to your organization that nobody else may be able to offer, and a way to communicate about the value your organization’s products and outputs add to your clients and society.


There may be points along the way when you’re wondering how this differs from good design.  That’s a perfectly valid question, and one many of us have asked as we’ve worked with this.  If you are an instructional designer or performance improvement practitioner already familiar with valid, research-based instructional design processes, much of this literature may seem like “the rest of the world” figuring out what constitutes good design of learning.


However, we have found that this is truly different in one fundamental way: it emphasizes a diverse, broad, and long-term definition of learner (or audience) rather than the common narrow definition or learner.  (See a multimedia explanation.)  Starting with this definition of the learner set (or audience) in the assessment and analysis phases of the instructional design process should lead one to designs that incorporate features of greater flexibility, multiple modalities, and an understanding of how different learners access learning so that we build truly optimal instructional and performance support systems.