Intrusive Instruction

In developing my iSchool portfolio lately, I’ve been struck by the extent to which instruction is represented. I’ve done plenty of training in my past along with development of training manuals and other process and functional documentation. It’s been a pretty comfortable transition for me, either in front of a formal class or one-on-one coaching as someone stumbles over a problem and one of those teachable moments arises. But now that I’ve taken the required course, I’m noticing more and more of a tendency in that direction, without a whole lot of conscious intention on my part.

The UW iSchool is unusual among its peer programs in requiring a class in instruction design among its core degree requirements. The reasons for this decision amount to an acknowledgment that instruction is a nearly universal requirement for work in the information professions, whether in formal training, casual one-on-one tutoring, meeting presentations, and many other situations. I myself found relevance for the material even outside those direct instructional situations. For example, user interface design must teach the user how to use a website or application just in the way it presents its content. Users will succeed only if they can figure out from engaging with the interface how it has enabled the functions they want to perform, and instructional theory such as the ARCS model can help to frame the design project as engaging the user’s attention, demonstrating relevance of the application to the user, maintaining the user’s confidence through successful tasks, and encouraging satisfaction by providing feedback on choices the user makes and successfully accomplishing the desired tasks.

And now I’m committed to a culminating experience involving development of documentation for a special-purpose open-source content management application for conference & meeting websites. And I’m wondering how instructional whatnot got to be quite the deal that it seems to have become.