A Cook’s Competence

After reading Degrees for eLearning Professionals: What’s Needed? by Patti Shank we started thinking about our beginnings in the instructional design field. Every now and again when we are challenged by our work, we recognize how far we have come. Technically executed well, creative, but not envelope pushing by any stretch of the imagination, it was just plain and simple ID work.

As challenge-driven individuals, we usually seek our next opportunity to solve something through our job tasks; we are instructional designers (IDs), it is what we do – solve problems. However, there comes a point when we should look at ourselves and assess our competencies. Shank’s article had us thinking about how far we have really shaped ourselves as seasoned instructional designers. Much like a great chef does not want to be known for just one amazing dish, they continually defy the notion that their capacity is limited. They attempt new cooking methods, new ingredients, new combinations, etc. They desire to have more than just the essential skills that any cook in the kitchen possesses; they want more advanced, specialized talents. We also believe that to be true of many instructional designers.

Using the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance, and Instruction (IBSTPI), which provides our field a set of ID competencies, we took the time to inventory our abilities. We were surprised by how much we had evolved; our fundamental skills were enhanced by higher levels of capability. In speaking with our peers about our discoveries many had never heard of IBSTPI or these competencies. We located on ERIC a downloadable set of these standards that we shared to gain more insight. Much like us, these savvy ID folk were also impressed with what they did know and did not know equated to competency in their field. Some even set new goals for themselves because they saw opportunities to improve their skill sets. Success! Right!?

Well, going back to Shank’s article there is a valuable section on what current novice ID’s lack as they enter the field of instructional design. Perspectives are shared by leaders in our industry and we agree, but offer up the idea that if a program that teaches ID does not focus on competencies or even provides awareness of their existence we are limiting the capacity for the student to know the full potential of their skill development – in the class and in the professional realm. We are not implying that all instructional design programs do not do this now, however it is apparent that there are some that probably do not. We are also not speaking to just the idea of creating courses that are derived from these competencies, we are suggesting actual introduction and conversations around the competencies.

For example, incorporating peer-based conversations, self-reflective activities, and supplemental articles that discuss components of the competencies, instructional design students in one graduate program have a better comprehension of their core assets. They are more informed of their own strengths and weaknesses. In turn, this has encouraged them to focus on areas for enhancement. Additionally, they have begun using the list of competencies to shape their resumes and how they articulate their skills to potential employers. One of the greatest tools we can give future IDs is the ability for them to create their own recipe for competence.

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