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Vol. 1, No. 12      August 10, 2005    

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Today's Tip
Authentic Activities to Enhance Transfer of Skills

DSA would like to thank Dr. Peter Honebein for contributing this month's tip on Authentic Activities. Dr. Honebein is an active associate, working on several DSA e-learning projects and he regularly teaches the DSA workshop: Designing Instruction for Web-Based Training.

If you are designing courses for your learners that involve high-level problem solving skills, an instructional strategy you should consider is authentic activities. Authentic activities engage learners in situations that reflect real-world cognitive challenges. The advantages of this strategy include richer experiences for learners, easier transfer of skills to real-world tasks, and strong performance outcomes.

So, how do you construct authentic activities for your training courses? The following list offers some key principles for you to follow.

Authentic activities are problem-focused
It is more frequent than not that content is taught for the sake of the content itself. In a course for front-line employees, my subject matter expert (SME) was adamant about teaching employees about the company’s target market. I asked why. “Because they need to understand who are customers are,” replied the SME. The novice designer typically accepts this answer. Instruction that stops with this level of analysis typically ends up as four PowerPoint slides defining the target audience, with a multiple choice test at the end.

It usually takes two or three more rounds of “why” questions to finally yield what a designer needs to develop problem-focused instruction. “Employees need to know who the target customers are because employees need to qualify those customers,” relinquished the SME. Bingo! Now we had a problem – qualifying customers. And it was authentic, since employees performed the task on a regular basis.

Authentic activities involve the learner playing different roles
While authentic activities typically engage the learner in the role they will play on-the-job, it doesn’t have to be so. Many courses I develop these days have wide, varied audiences as companies try to stretch their training dollars to be as inclusive as possible. In such situations, designing activities that let the learner play different roles associated with the task at hand appears to be an acceptable solution. It gives learners a better idea of the interconnected relationships that get work done.

In the next Tips issue, appearing on August 23d, we’ll be exploring the following “authentic activities” topics-stay tuned!

  • Authentic activities reflect the on-the-job context
  • Authentic activities integrate core content
  • Authentic activity assess performance through authentic work products.

Until next time,


Dr. Peter HonebeinP.S. Dr. Peter C. Honebein is a DSA Associate and principal of Honebein Associates, Inc. He is the author Creating Do-It-Yourself Customers (Thomson Texere) and Strategies for Effective Customer Education (McGraw-Hill). He also holds academic appointments as adjunct professor at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Business, and the Indiana University School of Education.

Article © 2005 Honebein Associates, Inc

Training Development Tips

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, a DSA newsletter for Instructional Designers and Performance Consultants. Each issue will include at least one proven tip to help you get the most out of your development and consulting efforts.

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