Why Teachers Make the Best Instructional Designers
It’s no secret that I think transitioning teachers make some of the best instructional designers. Awesome IDs share many of the same qualities with teachers. For example, an understanding of how people learn best, strong analytical skills that allow them to solve problems with learning solutions.
Those same skills (and many more) are hardwired into a teacher’s brain from the time they start their teaching programs! In my last post, I summarized what that transition from teacher to instructional designer might look like and why it works so well.
Now, I’m focusing on the expertise teachers bring to the table. I will also focus on how a teacher’s skill set makes them a perfect candidate to become some of the best instructional designers.
Whether you’re a teacher that’s thinking about making a career change (here’s a great resource to get you started) or a hiring manager looking to widen your talent pool (check out this post about finding your dream candidates), read on to find out why teachers make the best instructional designers!
Years ago, I made the leap from teacher into a completely new career as a Training/HR Specialist. I was amazed at how many of my teaching skills directly translated to my new job. Even though my new job had HR Specialist in the title, I spent the first year focused 100% on all things “Training”.
I wore the instructional designer hat, the training facilitator hat, the eLearning developer hat, the LMS administrator hat, the training marketer hat. I wore just about any hat related to training.
It was a huge learning curve to wear all of those hats. Fortunately, I brought so much knowledge, skills, and experience from the classroom that could be easily applied to the new role.
So, let’s check out some of the areas that make it easier for teachers to transition to instructional design.
Teachers Understand Instructional Design
Teachers may not be familiar with instructional design or instructional design language, but they will quickly discover they have been using it all along. Let’s explore the areas teachers can quickly transition their existing knowledge to instructional design:
Understanding the needs of a learner and how to use and structure learning to fill that need is a skill that teachers have in common with instructional designers.
While a teacher does get to interact directly with learners more often than an instructional designer does, the principles behind a teacher’s approach to determining needs are similar to an instructional designer’s approach.
A teacher often uses a pre-assessment activity or the previous year’s state test results to determine a students’ current level in a subject. Instructional designers sometimes use pre-assessments, but not to the same degree.
Instead, we might use a training needs analysis template with targeted questions to scope the needs of training with an SME and project business owner. We use the skill of designing questions that get to the heart of training needs.
We then use that information to build targeted learning solutions. And, as you may have guessed, assessment questions to measure learning throughout and post-training.
Teacher candidates must show their understanding of pedagogy in theory and practice before they get their first teaching job. The hands-on experience of creating and implementing lessons, then using feedback to improve your own practices is an invaluable learning experience that teachers get almost every day of the school year.
So, what does pedagogy have to do with instructional design?
Pedagogy is, to put it very simply, the approach to teaching and how learners learn. Often, pedagogy is used in reference to teaching children. As an instructional designer, you may never facilitate training. Even so, you should understand how facilitators train and engage an audience so that you can build those strategies into your instructional design of a learning solution.
One term that teachers transitioning into instructional design may not know is andragogy. Andragogy focuses on adult learning and how adult learners prefer to experience learning opportunities.
There are commonalities between both pedagogy and andragogy. If you are new to andragogy, check out Malcolm Knowles 4 Principles of Andragogy.
It isn’t uncommon to hear pedagogy used in lieu of andragogy in adult learning. They are both about the art of teaching, but there is a difference.
On paper, pedagogy assumes the child learner is mostly reliant on the teacher. Andragogy recognizes that adult learners have different motivations for learning. Adults want instruction that can be immediately applied to real-life. Check out this article for a more in-depth explanation of the two theories.
Child learners have many of the same characteristics of adult learners (child learners become adult learners, after all!). For example, young learners bring a variety of experiences with them to the classroom. They also have intrinsic learning motivation, that, when tapped into, leads to the most rewarding learning experiences.
Planning a direct-instruction lesson (essentially a mini-lecture for kids) is easy. Finding a way to make your content interesting and relevant, then creating an opportunity for practice that’s meaningful is difficult and time-consuming, but good teachers will do it anyway.
That real-life experience is what gives teachers who haven’t formally studied andragogy a head start in becoming some of the best instructional designers.
Teachers understand how to leverage motivation to get an audience to buy-in to a lesson, they’re able to differentiate instructions to reach a broad skill level, and they can also take dry content and find a way to turn it into engaging learning.
Those skills translate directly to adult learners and instructional design.
Many teachers work directly with the curriculum. Some sit on a committee that decides what content should be required for a certain grade level. Others are their own curriculum committee. They are responsible for mapping out the curriculum for the week, the six weeks, or even a semester.
When I was a teacher, I was handed a book and the state standards and was told: “We are glad you are here.” That was it! I had to pave my own way and write my own curriculum for every single day of the year for two subjects!
Regardless of a teacher’s individual experience with curriculum work, teachers understand content and timing. Remember Primacy/Recency and the Forgetting Curve?
One of the things that make teachers the best instructional designers is their awareness of how much content a learner can absorb. Teachers know how to time content delivery to maximize retention.
Teachers also see natural breaks in content, how to use themes to connect content, and how and when to check for understanding.
Here’s the best part: teachers are usually the subject-matter expert and the instructional designer. Effective teachers don’t just take a chapter from the text and call it day. Many spend hours outside of their workday searching for better resources and tools.
A teacher who has transitioned to instructional design can apply their knowledge of learning to ensure the audience gets the best lesson possible. They know how to maximize learning by chunking content in a way that enhances learner retention.
If there’s one area where the teacher turned instructional designer really shines, it’s in assessing learners’ understanding of the content.
Teachers spend years perfecting their assessments. They know the difference between a formative and a summative assessment. Have a variety of assessment methods they’ve used and perfected and they can effectively align assessments to learning objectives. They also know what to do with the data afterward.
Designing effective assessments can be a struggle for many instructional designers. In some cases, assessments are treated as afterthoughts.
A teacher-turned instructional designer is more likely to get creative with their assessment ideas, incorporate problem-solving and real-life scenarios, and generally bring more variety to the standard knowledge check.
Even though they don’t use this terminology in education, teachers cycle through the ADDIE process constantly. Sometimes evaluating and changing things up in the middle of the lesson.
Other Strengths that make Teachers Some of the Best Instructional Designers
Here are some other areas where teachers excel that make them well-suited for the field of instructional design.
- Time management: teachers can plan down to the second! This makes them great at designing learning and it means that they’re great with projects and deadlines.
- Interpersonal skills: every day a teacher navigates interactions with their students, the students’ parents, their colleagues, and their administration. Teachers can work with difficult SMEs or take the lead on a project.
- Flexibility: Teachers wear many hats, so there’s no one better to juggle projects.
- Technology: Teachers use educational technology and learning management systems on a daily basis. That knowledge can easily be adapted to the technology used as an ID.
- No budget? No problem. Teachers are not intimidated by a lacking budget. Teachers can produce amazing resources with a limited or zero budget. Need a facilitator guide designed? No problem. Your teacher/instructional designer would most likely tackle the job without fear.
- Love of learning: teachers are lifelong learners, so they’re usually up for a challenge and will never turn down an opportunity to learn something new.
Wrapping It Up
So if you’re a teacher who is thinking about testing the instructional design waters, be sure to highlight the strengths listed above, you may not have a portfolio but you have instructional design experience! Bonus points if you check out my Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program and read up on trends in the ID world.
Now, I would love to hear from you. As you know, I think teachers make some of the best instructional designers. What are your thoughts? What is the most important skill of an instructional designer? Do you think teachers have that skill? Come on over to The Hangout and join the discussion! We have so many teachers who are interested in instructional design. Not to mention former teachers who have made that leap and are happy to share their thoughts!
The Testimonials are In:
Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.
I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.
After taking the Instructional Design & Tech Certificate program and joining my fantastic team for support, I found the structure and approach to be what I need to take my next steps, evening improving my skills in the development stage.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!
L&D Project Manager
The Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator certificate program is one of the most comprehensive ID programs out there for beginners. If you’re looking to grow your schools in ID and development then I highly recommend this program. Not only will this program give you an overview of theory, but you will receive a thorough walkthrough of how to apply what you have learned. Although I had already secured a position in Learning & Development when I bought this course, it helped me to move up into a new position as a Learning & Development Project Manager!
Future Instructional Designer
If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!
Future Instructional Designer
I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).
Future Instructional Designer
I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.
Krista Johnson Awomoyi
Freelance Instructional Designer
I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.
This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!
Instructional Designer Training Facilitator
Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.
I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!
Freelance Instructional Designer
My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!
Teacher Transitioning into Instructional Design
I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.
Turns Your Written Thoughts Into a Masterpiece!
Shawntay Skjoldager can turn your written thoughts into a masterpiece. She is great to work with and the most organized person I know!
President and CEO, The Creative Entreprenuer
Shawntay has been incredible!
Shawntay has been incredible and her team is responsive and effective in translating my training programs into professional presentations. Don’t hesitate to contact her for your project.
Beth B. De Lima, MBA, SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP
President and Principal of HRM Consulting, Inc.
IDC is My Secret Weapon to Soar Above My Competition!
The IDC team has been my secret and special weapon of success. They have delivered above and beyond with every single project out in front of them. They have met and beat timelines. They have been Uber responsive every step of the way. I keep them on speed dial and have and continue to recommend them to friends and clients. If you are in need of instructional design and plenty more, this is THE ALL-STAR team that will more than deliver and help make you and your project soar above the competition.
LT. COL. Jason O. Harris
U.S. Air Force Officer, Special Operations Pilot, U.S.A.F. Academy Instructor, Motivational Speaker
A Tremendous Asset to the Project Team!
Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.
Academic Quality Assurance Specialist, Abilene Christian University
Creative & Highly Talented!
Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer. She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program. It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.
Breaks Down Mammoth Projects
“Shawntay is quick study and carefully synthesizes information for presentations that are clear, concise and captivating. Her personality draws the audience in and her content mastery is excellent. A team player and organizer, Shawntay has the ability to break down mammoth projects, keep everybody on time and on task.”
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach
“I have had many opportunities to work with Shawntay—mainly in the support of implementing new eLearning initiatives. I have been very impressed by her ability to quickly learn how to use rapid eLearning development tools and effectively use them to create multiple courses within a short timeframe. Shawntay’s enthusiastic nature, attention to detail, and dedication to her work make her a pleasure to work with and a great asset to both Texas A&M University-Commerce and the broader training community within the Texas A&M University System.”
Director of Learning Strategy, Caveo Learning
Top Notch Professional
Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.
Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research
Fortunate to Find Shawntay!
“I was fortunate to find Shawntay when our organization was looking to expand and update our educational offerings. Shawntay proved herself to be an educational and personal development expert who immediately made an impact with our clients throughout Europe. Everyone who came into contact with Shawntay was immediately impressed by her level of expertise and willingness to share her knowledge with those around her. I would not hesitate to recommend Shawntay to anyone looking for an education subject matter expert.”
Director of Qualifications and NSD Services, Mary Kay Inc.
Short Turn Around. On Time. Under Budget!
“We hired Shawntay to develop a training facilitator’s guide and PowerPoint slide deck for an operations manual heavy with technical content. The project was made more challenging by a very short turn around, 5 business days, and the fact that the operations manual wasn’t complete and was being updated simultaneously with the facilitator’s guide and slide deck. Despite these challenges, Shawntay delivered as promised. On time and under budget.”
Dave Beeman, CPP
Vice President, Andy Frain Services
Need an Expert Who Consistently Delivers?
“Working with Shawntay you will immediately notice her professional presence and poise, but over time her tenacious pursuit of excellence and her skills in instructional development and adult learning will really impress you. I worked with her at Mary Kay, and was able to experience firsthand her great rapport with regional partners in Europe, understanding their unique sales force training needs. In addition, Shawntay consistently exhibited grace under pressure, made executive decisions to move business forward. If you are looking for an expert who consistently delivers and goes the extra mile to get things done, contact Shawntay!”
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships
Quality Products & Solutions!
“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”
Judy Owen, CPC
Transformational Leadership Coach
“Invest in yourself and take your skills to the next NEXT level!”
Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.
Managing Partner, PHiG
“Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!”
Shawntay has exceptional knowledge and experience with all aspects of creating and implementing effective, performance based training for adults. She is exceptional at needs analysis – identifying target audiences and collaborating with business owners to keep training focused on business needs. And she is great to work with – always providing great support to get projects done on-time and on-target. She is always on the look-out for new and more effective ways to engage learners. Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics
I have known and worked with Shawntay as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations. The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention. Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.
Al Lomas CMP, CEM, CMM, CFE
Owner, Certified Consulting Services
“Shawntay Skjoldager reached in and made my training life so much easier!”
I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.
Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!
Training Specialist, LegalShield