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How Can Sub-Skills and Entry Behaviors Shape Your eLearning Path?


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In the realm of education and training, the importance of effective instructional design cannot be overstated. It serves as the blueprint for creating learning experiences that meet specific goals. However, the process of instructional design is not as simple as jotting down a list of objectives and hoping for the best. To design instruction that truly empowers learners and achieves the desired outcomes, educators must follow a systematic approach that considers the complex interplay between learning objectives, skill analysis, and prior knowledge. In this blog post, we'll delve into the intricacies of instructional design and explore the key components that can make a significant difference.

The Pitfalls of Objective Listing

Many instructors start their instructional design journey by listing objectives, either pre-defined by various authorities or based on their own expertise. While this approach may seem straightforward, it often leads to a fragmented and unclear set of objectives. The result is a lack of cohesion among the learning goals, making it difficult for learners to understand the broader picture and the connection between objectives and prior knowledge.

Identifying Learning Objectives

To address this issue, the first step is to identify the skills and entry behaviors associated with the core competency or overall task. These skills become the learning objectives. However, writing clear and effective objectives is no walk in the park; it requires careful consideration.

Defining the Scope and Sequence

Once your instructional goals are well-defined, the next step is to determine the scope and sequence of your instruction. It's not always suitable to structure your course based on the major steps identified in your goal analysis. Experience, knowledge, and common sense play a crucial role in deciding how to present the material.

Skills Analysis and Logical Clusters

A skills analysis is pivotal in identifying the skills and knowledge needed to achieve each step specified in your goal analysis. By grouping related skills and knowledge into logical clusters, you can create instructional units or modules. These clusters should be organized in a logical sequence to form the overall structure of your instruction.

Learning Hierarchies

Understanding learning hierarchies can aid in your skill analysis. Learning outcomes, ranging from acquiring information to applying rules and solving problems, can be arranged by complexity. For example, problem-solving may require applying multiple rules, and applying a rule may involve several procedures, each relying on verbal information.

Stop When Necessary

When breaking down the steps of your goal analysis, ask yourself what learners need to know or do to complete or demonstrate the skill. You can stop your analysis when you begin to identify skills and knowledge that learners should possess before instruction, making them prerequisites or entry behaviors.

The Importance of Entry Behaviors and Prior Knowledge

Entry behaviors are essential skills and knowledge that learners must possess before being instructed to accomplish the specified goal. In contrast, prior knowledge focuses on skills and knowledge relevant to the instructional topic. Recognizing prior knowledge helps instruction build upon existing understanding, reduces redundant teaching, and addresses any misconceptions learners may have.

In conclusion, effective instructional design requires a systematic approach that goes beyond the simple listing of objectives. It involves careful consideration of learning objectives, skill analysis, and prior knowledge. By applying these principles, educators can create learning experiences that are cohesive, engaging, and conducive to achieving the desired educational goals.





Hello, and welcome to the eLearning and Instructional Design for Beginners podcast, where new and aspiring instructional designers start, grow, and advance their careers in instructional design and online learning development. I'm your host, Crystal Harper. I'm a former school teacher who transitioned to instructional design, all while working full-time as a single mom. Would you like to become a successful instructional designer without the burden of earning another degree? Well then let's get started.

Instructors often begin the instructional design process by listing objectives that have already been defined by professional organizations, state boards, accrediting agencies, and local school districts.

Or by generating their own list based on their own past experiences and expertise. The problem with this approach is that it often results in some objectives that are not directly related to the goal or failure to identify objectives that are essential for meeting the goal. In addition, when instructors begin the instructional design process by listing objectives, the relationship between the objectives is not always clear, making it difficult for learners to discern the connection among specified objectives or the relationship between the targeted objectives and prior knowledge.

You need to identify the skills and entry behaviors associated with the aligned core competency or whole task. These skills will be your learning objectives. Objective writing is one of the most difficult and time-consuming of all tasks. So, after analyzing your instructional goal, your next task is to identify the skills and entry behaviors necessary to accomplish each step specified in your goal analysis.

Using the major steps in your goal analysis may or may not be the most appropriate manner for defining instructional modules or units for your e-learning course or training program. You must apply your experience, knowledge, and some common sense to determine the scope and sequence of your instruction.

Now you should conduct a skills analysis of all the major steps identified in your goal analysis, following the A, B, C, Ds that we discussed in this course. Then identify the logical clusters of skills and knowledge, and that becomes your instructional units or modules. Then arrange the clusters in a logical sequence to generate the overall scope and sequence of your instruction.

The concept of learning hierarchies may help you conduct your skills analysis. Hierarchies suggest that learning outcomes, such as the acquisition of verbal information and the ability to apply rules and solve problems, may be arranged in order of complexity. For example, to solve a problem that may require application of several rules, To apply a rule may require the use of several procedures and each procedure may require knowledge of some verbal information.

As you conduct a skills analysis of the steps of your goal analysis, think in terms of hierarchies. In other words, as you break down each box into its component parts, continue asking yourself, what do learners need to know or be able to do to complete or demonstrate the skill? As you continue to break each skill down into its component parts, you may start asking yourself, when should I stop?

As a general rule, you can stop your analysis when you begin identifying skills and knowledge your learners should have prior to instruction. For example, let's say your goal is to have students write a research paper. Sooner or later, if you continue to break down the process into its component parts, you will begin to identify basic skills such as Write a complete sentence and use appropriate punctuation.

If your target audience is 9 to 10-year-old elementary students, addressing basic skills may be an important part of your instruction. However, if your target audience is high school or college students, chances are that you expect them to have already mastered these skills prior to instruction. In such instances, the basic skills become prerequisites or entry behaviors, and your instruction will focus on advanced research on writing.

To design effective instruction, it's important to have a clear picture of what you want your students to know and be able to do. The skills analysis technique discussed in this course provides a systematic method for identifying the enabling and learning objectives necessary to achieve your terminal objectives in your instructional goal.

Entry behaviors are special skills and knowledge that learners must possess prior to instruction to accomplish the specified goal, because they will not necessarily be covered in the instruction. These prerequisite skills and knowledge may be related directly to the content or may be associated with the delivery system.

During your learner analysis, you are determining if learners possess the entry behaviors and noting implications for instructional design, delivery, and or evaluation. Prior knowledge of the topic. This category includes knowledge that your learners already possess on which they can contribute to build new skills.

This is also important so that instruction can build and relate to prior knowledge and so time spent instructing students based on learning new material as opposed to teaching an area in which they are already familiar. It also provides an opportunity to see if learners possess discrepancies or misconceptions about the topic so that they can be clarified during instruction.

Unlike entry behaviors, prior knowledge focuses on the instructional topic and describes skills and knowledge relative to the topic in general. Entry behaviors concentrate on those skills and knowledge learners must have prior to instruction to accomplish the goal that may or may not be directly related to the primary instructional topic.


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