Last month's column dealt with needs assessment as a tool for determining the nature and scope of a training program and for creating the necessary context for instructional systems design (ISD). ISD is a structured and systematic approach to designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating training based on an in-depth analysis of jobs and job tasks. Such an approach helps ensure that the training provided is efficient, effective, and maximizes the potential financial return on each training dollar spent. This month's column is the first in a two-part overview of a basic ISD model, beginning with job and task analysis and training program design.

Job and Task Analysis

Job and task analysis is the key to effective training. Without knowing exactly what each staff member does, how their jobs are done, and what knowledge and skills are required to do their jobs, staff training will likely miss the mark. To ensure that training is "on target," the ISD process begins with an analysis of all O&M jobs and the tasks performed by the people doing those jobs.

The purpose of the analysis is to determine specific job-related training requirements based on what the job is, how the job is performed, and the desired standards of performance. A complete and thorough analysis is necessary to provide the information needed to design and develop a performance-oriented training program that supports O&M requirements. Gaps in the analysis cascade and multiply throughout the rest of the ISD process, sometimes resulting in significant omissions from the training program that could be costly to correct later.

Job analysis is a means of determining "what the job is." It focuses on the duties and responsibilities of the person performing the job. The level of detail, or depth of the analysis, should be sufficient to thoroughly describe what the job is without describing how the job is performed. Information about how the job is performed is obtained later by analyzing job tasks. The outcome of job analysis is a comprehensive task list, or inventory, of job tasks that constitutes a complete description of the job.

Tasks selected for training are analyzed to answer the when, where, how, and why questions of task performance. Performance standards are also determined for use in developing performance-oriented learning objectives in the design phase of the ISD process.

Not all job tasks require training. Certain basic tasks, such as housekeeping, could be performed satisfactorily without training if sufficient direction is given by a supervisor, or is provided by means of a checklist or similar job aid. Other reasons for excluding noncritical job tasks from training might include resource limitations or the need to teach only a part of the job.

The outcome of task analysis is a complete and comprehensive body of information about how the job is performed and the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and abilities that job incumbents must possess to perform each job task.

One more point about job and task analysis that bears mention concerns the value of good documentation. The analysis process is simplified to the extent that the organization's collective knowledge about the job is documented. Such documentation includes any and all relevant information about the job and the associated systems and equipment, regardless of type or format (job descriptions, SOPs, OEM manuals, job aids). The undocumented knowledge and expertise of the O&M staff should supplement the analysis rather than serve as the primary source of information.

Training Program Design

The design phase of ISD creates the "blueprint" for training. The blueprint is the plan for what the trainees must learn (learning objectives) and the order in which they should learn it (sequence of instruction). The sequence of instruction is typically reflected in a training outline.

Effective training is always objective-driven and focused on what the trainees must learn to perform their jobs effectively. Performance-oriented learning objectives, derived from the task analysis, guarantee that training targets job performance requirements. Learning objectives describe the expected outcome of training in terms of what the trainee is expected to know and what he or she should be able to do following training.

Trainee achievement of the learning objectives is the only valid measure of training effectiveness. Therefore, training program design includes development of "criterion-referenced" evaluation methods and tools based on the elements, or criteria, of expected trainee performance expressed in the objectives.

Next month's column concludes this series about postcommissioning training programs with an overview of the rest of the ISD model - training program development, implementation, and evaluation. ES