Define your goals



Have you ever had that panicky feeling that makes your heart race and your head swim?  Like when you realize that the instructional material you’re looking at really doesn’t meet the needs of the audience or the customer-!? Let’s look at a goal-setting approach that will help you develop more effective curriculum in the first place – and start breathing normally again.


The exercises? Meh.

So, a couple years ago while I had nothing better to do at work one day, I decided to re-design the entire practical application exercise component for one of our partner’s week-long flagship courses. Building the students’ competencies would hang on a simple, and focused, ‘absorb-do-connect’ approach to designing learning activities. That was a significant change from the status quo. It involved:

  • pouring time and energy into envisioning and creating challenging exercises
  • building a specific, sequential presentation of mechanically and cognitively related exercises
  • integrating that progression of interdependent problem-solving into the curriculum/schedule
  • modifying the instruction schedule to support the single trajectory of a 5-day march toward increased understanding and competency

This was going to take a lot of sweat equity. We could not have made the significant improvements we did if we had stumbled through the process, randomly ‘fixing’ this and that. We would need to be deliberate in our efforts and focused on the endgame. Everybody involved was extremely patient with me as I kept our efforts concentrated on the one thing that guided my mania:

I had a goal.


Make sure you get there!

We all have a much better chance of achieving our dreams if we turn them into goals. Without goals, how will we know when (and if) we get there?  Goals help us stay focused on an objective. They help us organize our thoughts and visualize the steps that are necessary to get where we want to go. Goals help us concentrate our efforts on the critical, and minimize time wasted on the extraneous.

Here’s a simple illustration. Instead of saying, ‘I need to work on my blog today’, I set a goal. I decided that I would finish a post and have it publish-ready by the end of the day. So instead of simply going, I was going somewhere specific. I had a goal…and a destination. With a goal to stay focused on I could lay out the steps to get there and I set myself up for success.

Worthwhile curriculum is no different. It needs to be goal-oriented. When instruction is truly needed, that need can be translated into goals. Goals can be used to determine desired performance outcomes. Performance outcomes drive development of learning activities and evaluation tools.

Now you are getting to where you want to go because you set a goal and identified your destination.

As major league baseball legend Yogi Berra said, “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”


There’s the right way, and there’s this other way…

My friend Vincent Smith is the best platform instructor I’ve ever seen. He has an effective example and illustration for every circumstance and every audience. So, in homage to Vincent, here are two humble examples of what I’m going on about.

1) Remember that car that you just wouldn’t let die? We’ve all had that car, right? You know, the one that we kept on life support? We used bailing wire, duct tape, bungee cords, gorilla glue, whatever we needed to keep it together. We expended a lot of energy and effort keeping that thing going when what we really needed was a better car!

Using that kind of patch work approach to updating curriculum might look like this:

  • Upgrade some minutiae/details in the class media
  • Change the theme of some segments of the presentation
  • Adjust some transitions
  • Work on linking it to other course material
  • Change an individual practical application exercise
  • (just a little more duct tape and I can keep this baby going for a few more miles!)

2) That’s going to be a problem. The car is not the problem. The problem is our approach to the problem! What if we looked at the car situation and said, “wow, this car’s slowly falling apart. I keep pouring time and money into it, but I’m really just wasting money and delaying its demise! I think it’s time to get a better car (A GOAL). I know what kind of car I want (A DESTINATION) and the steps I need to take to get there. Now I need to form a plan, then put it into action.”

Using that kind of organized, focused approach to updating curriculum might look like this:

  • Dedicate time to analyzing the current curriculum
  • Define the goal(s) for the instruction
  • Identify the steps needed to reach the goal
  • Design instruction modules based on the goal
  • Develop detailed curriculum that supports achieving the goals
  • Mission accomplished

Take the time to do it the right way. Put a goals-based effort into building your curriculum. Your audience will get a product that works and a product they deserve.


Hit your target

Somewhere between analysis and design, goals must be developed. Those goals will drive the instructional design process and help you reach your destination. Goals help you make rudder adjustments when you feel like you’re missing the strike zone (I really like a good mixed metaphor). So, whether you are using an actual instructional systems design (ISD) paradigm approach or working informally, give yourself the best chance possible to hit the target and create the desired result by using clear, measurable goals.

Give yourself a target to shoot for, then teach with a purpose so your audience wins.



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