IAD – Instructional Activity Development Examples

Instructional Activity Development – IAD – is one of three levels of design in my PACT Processes. It builds building blocks, whereas MCD – is an ADDIE-like equivalent, and CAD designs Paths or Menus but does not build or buy content.

Note: CAD does rationalize existing content to see what fits and what gaps in content exist from some ideal.

IAD came about when a client asked me in the mid 1980s – if after the CAD effort – could we build some of the Demonstrations and Performance Tests before build the key gap event in their new T&D Path – for a National Sales Conference in less than 4 months?

So I created a way – concepts and methods and rules – to build from bottom up – build the equivalent of a lesson’s components. Usually clients want to build the tests before the content (what a great idea – and part of ISD as I was taught in 1979).

3 Levels of Design w titles

The outputs of Instructional Activity Development include the following types of instructional activities, depending, of course, upon the project:

  • Instructional content at the awareness, knowledge, or skill levels
  • Knowledge tests
  • Performance tests
  • Simulation exercises
  • Performance aids
  • Electronic or paper desk procedures

We’ll cover those in a moment.

Note this content is adapted slightly from my 1999 book: lean-ISD.

The Instructional Activity Development (IAD) of The PACT Processes – builds components of instruction― instructional activities―rather than whole pieces of instruction such as T&D Events.

Examples of instructional activity INFOs: words as text or in audio or video formats, pictures, charts and graphics, performance aids (job aids).

Examples of instructional activity DEMOs: video of the steps to build a birdhouse

Examples of instructional activity APPOs: are knowledge tests and

Instructional activities may be produced within the context of a Modular Curriculum Development project using the MCD process and tasks.

However, if the scope of the development effort is not of the level where an MCD project would be appropriate, a stand-alone Instructional Activity Development process may be used. The framework for planning IAD efforts is the same as for MCD efforts…


All of the PACT Processes share the major characteristics from which the PACT name is derived:  performance-based, accelerated, and customer-/stakeholder-driven.


All five components of the PACT Processes for T&D link together to create a very powerful, lean approach to ISD.


The three levels of PACT ISD—Curriculum Architecture Design, Modular Curriculum Development, and Instructional Activity Development—allow the T&D supplier to work with the T&D customer at a level appropriate to the needs and constraints of the customer. For example, Curriculum Architecture Design is the macrolevel process. It produces an analysis and design of an entire T&D product line, an entire curriculum.

The Modular Curriculum Development (similar to ADDIE) process works at the midlevel of ISD, concentrating on the analysis, design, and development of T&D Events, known more traditionally as training “courses.” T&D Events are composed of T&D Modules.

Instructional Activity Development is the microlevel process. It’s an expedient process for the analysis, design, and development of instructional activities—performance tests, for example.


T&D—Training & Development—is the label we have chosen to represent what might also be known simply as training in a more traditional sense or learningware in a newer, nontraditional sense.

Use L&D if you like.

We use the term T&D to include all methods for deploying awareness, knowledge, and skills to intended target audiences.

These methods can include traditional classroom, self-paced readings, OJT-type T&D, or newer deployment platforms and channels including satellite delivery, CBT, CD-ROM, Web repositories, etc. T&D may address performance-based content for general orientation; nonspecific education; performance targeted training; structured, on-the-job coaching, training, and development; team cross-training; and so forth.

Good T&D is always performance-based—that is, it is intended to affect and improve the ability of the learner to perform some task or task-set in order to produce worthy outputs.


The ISD professional’s focus should always be on developing human competence to perform the tasks of the job assignment in a way that leads to satisfactory or improved business process performance, as measured by the appropriate business metrics. The quality of the employee’s outputs is key because no one is ever on the payroll just for the sake of task performance.

Instructional Content at the Awareness, Knowledge, or Skill Levels

Most of the time, instructional content is developed within a Modular Curriculum Development project. The content may be at the awareness level, knowledge level, or skill level. However, in an Instructional Activity Development project, portions of instructional content can be developed separate from an entire training program.

What are the circumstances under which an Instructional Activity Development project might generate instructional content? Perhaps the T&D customer needs to build content for immediate publishing, prior to releasing a more complete training package. Or maybe the entire T&D package is just a maybe . . . maybe it will be built and maybe it won’t. If it does end up being built, ISDers want the earlier content, demonstrations, or exercises to be compatible with the remainder of the course. The goal is to minimize additional downstream costs, yet to have the earlier content be robust to future add-ons.

Instructional content may be delivered at a nontraining forum, such as a trade show or sales conference (for internal or external audiences), or at sales meetings, etc. For the initial release of the training, some of the key content may be delivered at the next quarterly regional sales conference, with the related exercises occurring at a following conference. This may not be ideal, but it may be the approach that has been chosen, and ISD will find itself complying with the customers’ wishes. It can be done using the Instructional Activity Development process if planned properly on the front end.

The Modular Curriculum Development lesson design methodology includes three types of instructional activities. Any of these are fair game for an Instructional Activity Development project.

  • Information activities
  • Demonstration activities
  • Application activities

More information about each of these activities follows:

Activity Type What It Provides Examples
“Information Activity”
within an MCD Lesson
A chunk of content/ information/facts, either in picture/diagram or in writing ·   Instructional lectures

·   Instructional coaching

·   Self-paced readings

·   Video segments

·   Audio segments

“Demonstration Activity”
within an MCD Lesson
An opportunity for the learner to see a demonstration of the performance, or some related aspect of it ·   Live/verbal-staged presentations

·   Video-staged presentations

·   Nonstaged performance observations

“Application Activity”
within an MCD Lesson

An application opportunity for the learner for practice and/or test purposes

·   Games

·   Verbal quiz

·   Panel discussion/ dialogue

·   Paper and pencil tests

·   Case studies

·   Role-plays

·   Simulation exercises

·   Real work assignment

Three Types of Instructional Activity

Knowledge Tests

The performance improvement need of the customer may be quite narrow. Perhaps the customer simply wants a series of performance-based, written knowledge tests to assess the knowledge base of incumbent populations in key job categories.

Knowledge tests are very familiar and vary in form, including

  • True/false
  • Multiple choice
  • Fill-in-the-blank
  • Essay

They can be written test – or verbal tests.

The PACT Performance Model and Knowledge/Skill Matrix are the sources for formulating the right type of written test question. The Performance Model indicates when a piece of knowledge is important for performance. So in the construction of written tests, developers are guided by the link between the knowledge item and its use in the performance situation.

The Performance Model and Knowledge/Skill Matrix assist in keeping the developer focused on performance first and content second. In turn, this helps ensure that the test is focused squarely on performance.

Performance Tests

Performance tests measure individual performers’ real capabilities and competency―or as near to real as it is feasible to get. They do this using testing instruments along with evaluation and assessment processes designed and developed to certify or qualify employees for certain types of performance.

These tests can include

  1. Performance demonstrations (real work)
  2. Performance simulations
  3. Talk-through troubleshooting

Performance tests can deal with new real work, old real work, or simulations of real work.

Performance Demonstrations

Performance demonstrations are tests where learners demonstrate their ability to perform by actually doing something, usually with real work. This is the best test, of course, but it is not always feasible.

Performance Simulations

Real work is not always the best place to demonstrate competencies―emergency aircraft maneuvering, for example, or landing without the wheels down. Performance simulations allow testing of a learner’s ability to perform under less than real conditions. An example of a simulation is a classroom exercise involving negotiating with a supplier. The type of instructional activity called a simulation exercise, described later, can provide even more complexity (by design) than a performance simulation.

Talk-through Troubleshooting

In talk-through troubleshooting tests, learners talk their way through a series of diagnostic steps with an expert. This expert has a predetermined terminal condition in mind and answers the learner’s troubleshooting questions accordingly. For example, in response to an answer from a learner being tested on machinery operation, the expert may supply information such as: the valve gauge reads 10 and is slowly rising. The learner describes the next action to take and the expert provides feedback until the terminal condition is reached.

Like performance simulations, this type of test is useful when performing real work is not feasible. Performance tests are developed more cheaply and quickly through this approach.

Other Methods for Performance Testing

In addition to the those methods mentioned above, ISD professionals may use other methods for assessing performance capability. Among these are reviews of performance output, observations of the performer’s processes, and debriefings of those involved in the performer’s process―for example, debriefing the performer’s customer.

Other Uses for Performance Tests

A performance test can also be used as a component of an annual performance assessment process. A test instrument can be linked into many different performance management systems or perhaps to the appraisal systems already in place.

A performance test can also tighten up a loose process. A loose process is one in which performance variations exist but are undesirable. While some jobs can be evaluated solely on the basis of the product produced, most jobs are evaluated at least partly on the basis of how a product or output is produced, how much time or money is expended, or how procedures are followed. Performance tests can help do that.

Sometimes Curriculum Architecture Design or Modular Curriculum Development projects begin as projects to construct performance tests for use as qualification or certification instruments. Later, the scope of the project expands into a full CAD or MCD effort. Implementing performance-based testing can help T&D customers see which specific areas of performance are good candidates for high-payback training developed using MCD.

Simulation Exercises

An Instructional Activity Development project may generate simulation exercises. Simulation exercises allow performers to simulate doing real work, although in a way that is broader and more complex than the performance simulation described earlier.

A simulation exercise might focus on a manager’s role in the steps of progressive discipline. Managers who participate in this exercise may find themselves in a simulated series of individual interactions and meetings―sometimes alone with a union-represented individual, and other times with the individual and the local steward. In other meetings, another management representative may take notes and act as a witness to the proceedings in case corroboration is needed later.

Learners may find themselves rotating through the various roles of a simulation exercise―for example, playing the union employee, the union steward, and so forth. This allows participants to practice the target role and to gain insights from playing related roles. It also allows learners to observe and learn from the attempts by their fellow learners in the safety of an instructional event. A lot of “aha’s” happen in these types of simulation exercises.

Another type of simulation exercise might focus on the job of the project team leader for all of the phases of a product development process. Participants find themselves planning and conducting meetings in each of the process phases, dealing with typical issues (both problems and opportunities) that a team and leader face in a project. As they rotate through the roles of engineering, manufacturing, sales, and service, participants gain functional insights from role-playing. They also have the opportunity to observe and learn as other participants attempt to lead their teams.

Simulation exercises test and build competency. They do this through an incremental knowledge/skills build-up approach to competency mastery that includes dealing with the real-world issues and barriers to high performance. It’s often much better to practice in the relatively safe confines of T&D than to be experimenting with new behaviors and tasks on the job.

The components of a simulation exercise typically include the following, all of which are described below:

  • Simulation exercise Datapaks
  • Simulation exercise participant output formats and templates
  • Simulation exercise facilitator tools and templates

Simulation exercise Datapaks provide the learner with the simulation exercise instructions, examples of the outputs to be produced, background and scenario information, specific exercise data and information for use in the exercise, and a schedule for conducting the simulation exercise.

The simulation exercise participant output formats and templates are of the fill-in-the-blank nature that the exercise output may require. In general, the exercise instructions, process, and outputs should be tightly structured. The formats and templates help accomplish this.

Simulation exercise facilitator tools and templates can include observer critique sheets or checklists, answer guides, and even last-minute data additions of the “monkey-wrench” variety. (“Your competitor has just brought out a product with these five features: . . .”) These monkey-wrench components are especially important if the real world often throws new obstacles onto the path of superior performance and creates new, last-minute problems and opportunities.

A simulation exercise can be used within a selection system as an in-basket exercise. This is literally a simulation of going through the items in an in-basket and attempting to deal with those items. As such, it is a test of the performer’s capability to deal with the various realities of job performance.

Simulation exercises can be used as pretests or posttests within T&D. They can provide practice opportunities within T&D. And simulation exercises can give learners an opportunity to practice certain aspects of the job at varying levels of difficulty.

If the learning situation calls for the simulation of real work, the Instructional Activity Development process guarantees a focus on real performance. Please note, however, that simulation exercises may also be created in a Modular Curriculum Development project.

Performance Aids

In some performance situations, the decision process is difficult due to the complexity of the question asked of the performer, the answer, or both. These situations may require a performance aid to reduce cycle time and ensure the accuracy of the answer provided by the performer. Performance-based performance aids (a.k.a. job aids or reference guides) can have a high return if they work and are used as intended by the target audience.

Often the performance situation is an open book situation where performers have ready access to supplementary information. It may be that the performance aid is simply a formal version of the cheat sheets that many performers create for themselves (necessity being the mother of invention).

An Instructional Activity Development project may be conducted with the intent of producing no training but dozens or hundreds of performance aids.

Performance aids come in the following forms:

  • Checklists
  • Decision trees
  • Process models and maps
  • Tables or matrices
  • Visual aids
  • Other Data Sources (static and dynamic)

Electronic or Paper Desk Procedures

A set of performance-based electronic desk procedures (just like performance aids or job aids) is called an electronic performance support system (EPSS). These can have a high return if they work and are used by the target audience.

Electronic desk procedures are likely to be used in many different types of help desk or call center operations, where a quick response to complex, varied situations is needed, and where decision rules can be used to process a call correctly. For example, when a credit card number is rejected in a sales situation, a call center operator might be able to quickly pull up the procedure for what to do next―e.g., resubmit the number, ask for another card number, or terminate the call.

Desk procedures may be on paper or accessed electronically.

Buzz Thoughts...a


The 1999 book…1999 lean-ISD Book Cover

See chapters 1, 5 and 20 for more on IAD.

The book is available as a free PDF, a Kindle and a paperback. See that and other freebies via the Resource Tab.

And see the rest of the book – or the newer versions of that content in newer books and articles and Blog posts – for the PACT approach to ReUse of Instructional and Informational content.

Push-Pull and The 5 Tier Content Inventory Framework

Why Bother?

Indeed. Why bother?

For the Returns on wise Investments.

No other reason need apply. IMO.


If any of those Returns are worth pursuing – in an ROI sense – this might be the start of your journey.

Fair Winds and Smooth Seas!

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