If you’re considering a teacher to ID transition, you’ve got to learn to speak the language! Instructional design language, that is.
In my past few blog posts, I’ve been highlighting why instructional design is a perfect fit for many teachers, so be sure to check out my blog for even more information. This week I want to focus on how teachers can use instructional design language to refocus their résumés and stand out when applying for instructional design positions.
Why Change Your Language?
Making a career change is stressful regardless of the field, but there’s no better way to give your confidence a boost going into an interview than to know the lingo in advance!
Understanding different instructional design terms has many benefits: you can use them in place of niche educational phrases in your résumé, on job applications, and you’ll also be able to better understand job descriptions (both in-person during interviews, and when you’re searching for potential jobs).
Additionally, when you make it to the interview stage of the hiring process, it’s likely your interviewer will list off some common tasks that would be your responsibility if you’re offered the job. In this case, it would be to your benefit not only to understand what those tasks specifically are but also to be able to provide examples of how you have successfully completed similar tasks in your current position.
You might feel like you’re entering this new job market with a disadvantage, especially when every job posting you see asks for 3-5 years (at least) of instructional design experience. Plus, even though you might see how similar your work as a teacher is to the work of an instructional designer, the person in charge of hiring might not.
It’s going to be up to you to sell your skills. In order to do that, you have got to change your language! The good news is, so much of your work in education directly translates to instructional design, which is why I believe teachers make some of the best instructional designers.
The Teacher to ID Skill Translator
If you’ve ever tried to learn a new language, you know the importance of vocabulary. In this section, you’ll find some important instructional design vocabulary so you can change your language and talk up your strengths like a pro.
Some of these vocab words are synonyms, so you’ll see how your skills connect right away. With others, it might not be as obvious, so look out for my ‘Tay Tay Tips’, where I give specific examples of common teacher responsibilities that would fit the description to help you craft your résumé and describe your relevant experience with ease.
ILT: this is an acronym for ‘instructor-led training’, which is just what it sounds like! You may also hear it referred to as F2F, which stands for face-to-face. In ILT, the learners gather in-person and a trainer will use the materials created by an instructional designer to implement learning.
Teachers know ILT like it’s their job (because it is), although educators might also call it direct-instruction. It’s important for teachers turned IDs to understand that ILT is not the preferred method of delivering instruction in many instructional design projects, but your organization, classroom management, and delivery skills can come in handy even if you never create an ILT as an instructional designer.
eLearning: thanks to stay-at-home orders, many teachers are all newly familiar with this term. eLearning is material that can be accessed outside of a traditional training environment, which learners navigate on their own.
eLearning courses are very popular with many instructional design clients, they’re the most efficient and effective ways for companies (especially large companies) to deliver uniform training across multiple locations.
Tay Tay Tip: if you’re a teacher who transitioned his or her curriculum to eLearning due to COVID-related school closure, this is absolutely valuable and relevant experience that you should highlight in applications or interviews.
Hybrid: many teachers would recognize this as ‘blended learning’ (and it’s often referred to as that by IDs). Hybrid or blended training in instructional design is when there is both an eLearning and a face-to-face element to the course that is being designed.
Tay Tay Tip: if you’re a teacher who has ever assigned a reading for homework, then prepared an in-class learning activity during which your students actively used what they learned the night before, you’ve already got the hang of the principle behind hybrid or blended learning. You understand what content the learners are capable of absorbing on their own and how to design an experience that allows them to apply their learning as a group, with the help of an instructor.
Reference Materials: this is a broad term that instructional designers may use to refer to any resources that will benefit the instructor or the learner in addition to the course. Learner course companions, instructor guides, how-to guides, and other help documents would all fall under this category.
Tay Tay Tip: if you’re a teacher who has ever created a study guide or guided notes you have experience writing course companions. If you’re a teacher who has ever written plans for a substitute teacher you have experience writing instructor guides. Finally, if you’re a teacher who has ever written out step-by-step instructions for your students when they have to use a new tool online, you have experience creating help documents.
Learning Objectives: I know you know this one! Just like in lesson planning, in instructional course design, you’ve got to have learning objectives. You’ll align the course content to the desired learning objectives if they are provided by the client, or you may be responsible for identifying the appropriate learning objectives after reviewing the client’s content and discussing their needs. Either way, as a teacher or former teacher, you’ve got this!
Knowledge Checks: also called quizzing, in instructional design, these are the assessments, and often, they are just referred to as assessments. The kinds of assessments you will need to create for instructional design projects are likely less intense than the ones you have grown accustomed to as a teacher.
The knowledge checks you would be expected to create as an instructional designer are typically short and easy to measure. For example, you might be designing a course to help prepare learners to take a real estate license exam- but that final exam already exists. Your job is to introduce the content and place the knowledge checks in a way that gives the learners the tools they need to pass that already created exam.
Tay Tay Tip: when highlighting your strengths in assessment creation, be sure to mention if you’ve used Understanding by Design or Backward Design in your curriculum planning, both were trendy in both education and instructional design.
Bonus Tay Tay Tip: teachers align their assessments to their learning objectives all the time, this is another one of those phrases that translate in both fields, so be sure to mention it!
SME: often pronounced as a word instead of an acronym, this stands for ‘subject-matter expert’. As a teacher, this can be confusing, since in the classroom the teacher is usually considered the SME! In instructional design, the SME is the person who’s in charge of deciding what content must be included in the course. The SME gives the ID the information so the ID can organize it into a meaningful learning experience.
Tay Tay Tip: you may be asked about your ability to work with a SME in an application or interview for an instructional design position. If you’ve collaborated with other teachers to create lessons or develop curricula, this is similar to working with an SME. Be sure to highlight that relevant experience in working with your colleagues instead of saying you don’t have any experience with SMEs.
LMS: yes, just like in education, instructional design has many acronyms. When you change your language to match your teaching skills to instructional design skills, you get to learn a whole new range of them! An LMS is a learning management system, you can read this article to get a more in-depth understanding if you haven’t used one before.
Many school districts now use an LMS like Canvas or Google Classroom as a place where teachers can post assignments and other resources that students can access from anywhere they have an internet connection. You’ve also likely used an LMS like Blackboard to take post-graduate courses.
Tay Tay Tip: if you’ve used an LMS with your students to distribute resources, complete online assignments or assessments, or in conjunction with eLearning, this is definitely something you should highlight as you pursue an instructional design job. You can also familiarise yourself with common learning management systems (that way, if a job posting or your interviewer mentions an LMS name, you’ll recognize it as an LMS even if you have never used it before) and learn about some LMS best practices.
Storyboarding: this is a common project for instructional designers, it’s basically a roadmap that allows your vision of an eLearning or F2F (face-to-face) course to come to fruition. In storyboarding, the instructional designer uses a template (often a Word document or a Powerpoint deck) to indicate when and where narration, on-screen text, images, and animations should occur.
Tay Tay Tip: as a teacher, it’s likely that you skip this step when doing the lesson plans. You do your fair share of creating slideshows and screencasts for your students, but since you don’t have your very own eLearning developer on hand to design the visuals for you, storyboarding isn’t usually on your to-do list. A close second to a storyboard is a really in-depth outline that lays out the flow and key points of a lesson, and I bet you do plenty of those.
Instead of focusing on your lack of storyboarding skills, highlight your ability to create quality, detailed outlines to layout engaging slides, lessons, and screencasts. Be sure to include some in a portfolio you can share with potential employers, too. By showing your final products, it should be clear that you would be able to storyboard if necessary.
Primacy/Recency: these are two important effects in learning, I’m grouping them together here, because although they are two separate ideas, instructional designers use them in tandem to ensure that learners will remember key ideas from the training after it’s over.
You can read an in-depth explanation of the two concepts, but you’ll definitely recognize the methods and you probably have been using them both in your classroom. In a nutshell, Primacy/Recency tells us that learners learn best what they learn first and learn second best what they learn last. Knowing this, you want to create many first and last opportunities.
How do you do this? Simply, you create short, bite-sized lessons.
Tay Tay Tip: as a teacher, you already know that you should create short lessons to keep your learners engaged. You are most likely teaching students in 5-15 minute chunks followed by either a review or a practice. That is exactly what Primacy/Recency is all about. Create short lessons and then give the brain some downtime to reflect/practice what was just learned.
Andragogy: as a teacher you know all about pedagogy, from when you first studied the theory in college to put it in practice every day. In order to change your language to match instructional design terminology, you’ll need to add andragogy.
While pedagogy is a child-centric learning theory, andragogy is an adult-centric learning theory. There are key differences, I encourage you to take a look at those differences in this article so you can be prepared to explain how your deep understanding of pedagogy will contribute to your ability to design and develop quality training for adult learners.
Tay Tay Tip: if you read that article, I bet you looked at some of those ‘key differences’ in pedagogy and andragogy and thought to yourself, “well, child learners actually…” I know because I did the same thing! The theory is different from the practice, so especially if you have experience teaching middle school and older, you probably realize many of the cornerstones of andragogy absolutely apply to your approach to teaching. If you’ve used problem-based learning or learning through discovery, you know that young learners do not have to rely on their teacher for information. You also know that children have vastly different lived experiences, and teachers can reach them better by taking that into consideration. Remember, you are your own best advocate and no one knows your skills better!
T3: If your first thought was Tay Tay Tip, that’s not it! T3 actually stands for Train-the-Trainer. Train-the-Trainer means that you train other instructors on a topic.
Tay Tay Tip: as teacher, you have probably mentored student teachers, other teachers, and/or taught other teachers a lesson or how to do something. If you have, you facilitated a Train-the-Trainer session!
Learning Strategies: These are exactly what they sound like. They are strategies to facilitate learning. As a teacher, you most likely referred to these as instructional strategies or engagement strategies.
Tay Tay Tip: as a teacher, you have been applying instructional and engagement strategies since the delivery of your very first lesson. Think about what those strategies are and how you implemented them. Then, think about how you can repeat those same strategies in an ILT or eLearning course. Instead of calling those strategies instructional strategies, call them learning strategies and you will be walking the walk and talking the talk. If you need help with learning strategies, check out my free course about the 7 Learning Strategies Every Course Should Have.
Now that you know the lingo, jumpstart your instructional design career by checking out my free instructional design course kit! You might even recognize some of these new vocabulary words!
I know, here I am telling you to change your language so you can more easily and effectively navigate the field of instructional design, and yet I’m closing out with some classic teacher vocabulary!
But the teacher in me can’t help but give you a little assignment to make sure you’re as prepared as possible to take on a new role in instructional design. Do a Google search for “instructional design positions” and click through a few postings (do this even if you’re not ready to start applying to new jobs yet).
Pay close attention to the job requirements. Look at the action verbs: how can you use these in your revamped résumé to better change your teacher language to instructional design-friendly terminology. Share your findings in the comments!
See anything in those job postings that make you nervous? Drop into the comments with phrases that make you go “hmm”, and I’ll be your ID to teacher translator!