As learning solutions professionals, our initial approach to training is a process of targeting training to goals—we look at where we want our learners to be and how we can get them there. We set overarching goals by identifying key behaviors we want learners to exhibit, exploring motivations for those behaviors and defining the knowledge base learners need to exemplify those behaviors.
When course development goes off map
Despite this seemingly clear direction, somehow the course can lose focus as training development progresses. There are many ways this could happen. Different stakeholders might decide that some content, like a specific video or quote, must be in the course—even if it disrupts the flow or isn’t essential to the behavior we want learners to exhibit. Various resources can suddenly go from nice-to-have or informative, to essential components of the course.
When new stakeholders get involved in a project’s development process, it’s easy for them to steer a course in a different direction, since they have not been privy to the initial design strategy and performance mapping process. If new partners aren’t brought up to speed within the framework of a training program’s overarching goals, their involvement in a project may result in unnecessary content
The architects of the course may also come across new information that may be interesting or something engaging to add to the course—but why is that a problem? Isn’t more knowledge better?
Avoiding information that has no purpose
Unfortunately, in the realm of training, more isn’t necessarily better. Without pertinent and targeted information, a course can start to feel like a knowledge dump, leaving learners bored and disinterested. Lack of engagement is a big reason many trainings fail. By limiting and targeting the information in training, learners know that each activity, interaction or presentation is specifically tailored to help them succeed outside of the training environment, in the real-world.
Building a performance map
So what knowledge is really essential for our learners? That’s where performance mapping comes in. Mapping identifies those critical concepts early in our process. The performance map we create as our first step carries through an entire project. To create the performance map, we identify exactly what learners need to do in order to succeed, then make the connection to enabling information that facilitates desired actions. After knowing the ‘what’ and the ‘how,’ we understand the ‘why’—why does the learner need to know the information? What is a learner’s motivation? Why is this information important to them?
If we’ve done our job well with the initial mapping process, the behaviors we want learners to exhibit shouldn’t change—neither should their motivations or critical knowledge.
There are times when we limit the function of performance mapping to that of a foundation. We lay the ground work and build upon it—sometimes adding things that are on-trend, but that we hadn’t originally intended and may not need. Instead, we should think of a performance map as not only a foundation, but also a compass. We can use the fundamentals detailed in our performance map to guide our entire process and steer the learner towards their ultimate destination.