Instructional Interventions

If you look at things in terms of paradigm shifts, a real big one, probably precipitated by Bob Mager, was when we moved toward looking at outcomes of training in terms of behaviors.
(Joe Harless in Rosenberg, Harless, Rossett, & Gery, 1995, p.61)

The development of HPT as a discipline began with a paradigm shift from instruction to performance and the realization that instruction had to accomplish much more than just making people more knowledgeable. Individuals had to be able to apply their knowledge readily to their work in a way that improved performance. Before this new perspective emerged, training programs rarely focused on the costs related to instruction and managers tended to believe that “training is ‘good’ whether it accomplishes anything measurable or not” (Pine and Tingley, 1993, p.55).

Many who are not familiar with the practice of HPT may frequently reach the conclusion that training and instruction is the panacea for any performance “ailment”.  This assumption is often based on “the way we’ve always done it” paradigm, with little or no consideration given to analyzing the wide variety of factors that impact performance. It is important that HPT professionals determine that a knowledge or skill deficit actually exists before attempting an instructional intervention.

It is well to make sure we don’t end up training people to use tools that could be redesigned, or to memorize data they don’t need to remember, or to perform to standards they are already capable of meeting and would meet if they knew what these standards are.
(Gilbert, 1978, p. 91)

Because of the costly nature of most instructional interventions, Gilbert (1978) encourages the sequential analysis of data, tools and materials, then incentives before looking to training as a possible solution. Rosenberg (1996) supports this by saying: “…determining if there is a skill-knowledge deficit is one key reason why performance analysis is so critical” (p.388).

Gayeski (2004) characterizes the following instructional interventions:

Learn more about a selection of instructional interventions:

Classroom Instruction: Instruction provided to a group of learners by a human instructor away from the place where work is performed (Yelon, 1999, p. 485).

Team Activities: The learning activity:

Mentoring: The deliberate pairing of “two people who have unequal levels of a relevant set of skills and experiences…to transfer knowledge and experience from the person who has more of them to the person who has fewer” (Murray, 1999, p.546)

Multimedia/e-learning: The “integration of multiple information-presentation modalities (text, audi, pictures, graphics, motion video, and animation) through the use of microprocessor-based technologies…and applications that include CD-ROMs,…DVDs, Internet and intranet web pages, on-line discussion groups and knowledge bases, and live collaboration through computer networks” (Gayeski, 1999, p.589). e-learning incorporates multimedia technologies to deliver instruction.

On-the-Job Training (OJT): Structured OJT is the “planned process of developing task-level expertise by having an experienced employee train a novice employee at or near the actual work setting”  (Jacobs, 1999, p. 608)

Distance Education and Distributed Learning: The “transmission of educational, instructional, or training programming to two or more people at two or more locations separated by space or in time” (Wagner, 1999, p. 627) Distributed learning is differentiated from distance education in that:

Self-Directed Learning: Allows “the employee to master material independently, at the employee’s own pace” (Van Tiem, Moseley, & Dessinger, 2000, p. 68).

Knowledge Management: The “process of acquiring, storing, and managing access to bodies of knowledge that assist people in performing their jobs with focus and precision” (Van Tiem, Moseley, & Dessinger, 2000, p. 70).

It is important to recognize that there can be significant overlap and combination of the different types of instructional interventions. For example, multimedia technology can be incorporated into classroom instruction, distance, distributed, and self-directed learning, and team activities. Mentoring and OJT can be incorporated. Knowledge management systems can be designed to enhance self-directed learning, mentoring relationships, or collaborative team activities. Instructional interventions can also be combined with non-instructional interventions to provide comprehensive solutions for improving performance.

Instructional Design

Despite their potential expense, instructional interventions can be very powerful performance interventions. Instructional design (ID) processes and models mirror the frameworks used to study comprehensive performance problems. For example, the ADDIE model (analysis, design, develop, implement, evaluate) is a simple process model that is the foundation for many more complex instructional design and performance improvement models (Rosenberg, Coscarelli, Hutchinson, 1999).

Application of Dick and Carey’s Model for the Systematic Design of Instruction can serve as a comprehensive guide for the design of effective instructional interventions. This ID model involves the following steps:


Dick, W. (1997). A model for the systematic design of instruction. In R. Tennyson, F. Schott, N. Seel, & S. Dijkstra (Eds.), Instructional desing: International perspective (Vol. 1) (pp. 361-369). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Gayeski, D. (2004). IPT 560:  Mod 5 instructional interventions. Lotus Notes database via Boise State University. Retrieved December 1, 2004.

Gayeski, D. M. (1999). Multimedia learning systems: Technology. In H. Stolovich & E. Keeps (Eds.), Handbook of human performance technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 589-605). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.

Gilbert, T. (1978). The behavior engineering model. In T. Gilbert, Human competence: Engineering worthy performance (pp. 73-105). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Jacobs, R. L. (1999). Structured on-the-job training. In H. Stolovich & E. Keeps (Eds.), Handbook of human performance technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 606-625). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.

Murray, M . (1999). Performance improvement with mentoring. In H. Stolovich & E. Keeps (Eds.), Handbook of human performance technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 545-563). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.

Pine, J. & Tingley, J. (1993). ROI of soft skills training. Training, 30(2), 55-60.

Rosenberg, M. J., Coscarelli, W. C., & Hutchinson, C. S. (1999). The origins and evolution of the field. In H. Stolovich and E. Keeps (Eds.), Handbook of human performance technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 24-46). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.

Rosenberg, M., Harless, J. Rossett, A., & Gery, G. (1995). A rabble-rousing roundtable. Training, 32(6), 61-68.

Thiagarajan, S. (1999). Team activities for learning and performance. In H. Stolovich & E. Keeps (Eds.), Handbook of human performance technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 518-544). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.

Van Tiem, D. M., Moseley, J. L., Dessinger, J. C. (2000). The fundamentals of performance technology: A guide to improving people, process, and performance. Washington, DC: International Society for Performance Improvement.

Wagner, E. D. (1999). Bond distance education: Distributed learning systems. In H. Stolovich & E. Keeps (Eds.), Handbook of human performance technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 626-648). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.

Yelon, S. L. (1999). Live classroom instruction. In H. Stolovich & E. Keeps (Eds.), Handbook of human performance technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 485-517). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.