Step by Step Instructions

Why use a step-by-step Model for Instructional Design

Modules are used to deliver training on virtually all topics, employing a variety of strategies and approaches.  The variety of approaches is one of the characteristics of design that makes it an extremely labor-intensive task. Training modules range in possible structures and models for design. The ExpressTrain Procedure Model, utilizing the step-by-step approach, offers the best structure for systematic training and improved performance.

While training modules varies in purpose and format, there exists a common set of strategies and procedures frequently used in the design of training materials.  There are schemes of superior effectiveness.  There are item selection strategies that have been demonstrated to be highly effective in the learning of a set of procedures.  Dozens of such approaches are available that can aid the designer in creating effective modules and module components.

The systematic application of these approaches produces results that are significant and positive in three respects:

  • the amount of time required to create modules is reduced.
  • a higher level of consistency and training integrity is achieved.
  • the focus of the training development process shifts to the more important and creative aspects of training design.

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Pre-Training Phase for Step-by-Step Instruction

Pre-training activities have several purposes, namely:

  • introduce the participant to the goals of training,
  • introduce the participant to structure and flow of the training module,
  • provide motivation, and
  • provide an assessment of the participant on the related content

Step-by-Step Training Phase:

Present the main characteristics of the content to be learned and help the participant through the steps required to use that information to perform simple practice problems.  Present the content characteristics with an explicit statement of the content, followed by a worked-out example.  The form of the detailed instruction presentation should depend on the type of knowledge which the content represents.  The technical writer may use a rule statement, a list of attributes, the steps in a procedure, or a set of definitions.  Follow this with a worked-out example of the type of criterion task the participants are expected to perform after completing the module.  This first expository example is often a very simple application of the content, allowing it to be easily understood. Often a set of optional steps can be indicated for abnormal processing or problem-solving sequences.

The second part of the main body of the module is generally referred to as the guided practice phase.  The purpose of this phase is to gradually guide the participant through more of the steps required to successfully perform criterion tasks.  The goal is to have the participant become capable of completing the answer to an easy problem by him/herself.  The nature of the content being taught will determine how this will be accomplished.  Start with the expository example which was provided and take the participant through each step of the process used to solve the problem.  Focus on a consistent approach to the problem.  This will often reinforce the steps (or rules, etc.) provided in the presentation of the content characteristics.  Apply this process to one or more problems so that the participant has an opportunity to see how problems are solved using the general rules (or steps, etc.) which were provided. In some cases, additional steps and alternative images that reflect noise level, fluid level, and solution level can help complete the target solution for the tasks.

Guidance and Practice Phase

Step-by-step guidance is applicable for most types of procedure and process content.  The goal/general procedure is always to have the participant perform simple practice items and follow through the process in a way which minimizes the chance for errors.  The approach to feedback is generally the same as well.  It should reflect the general statement of content provided before the guided training phase starts. Often the help function is made available via a pull-down menu or dropdown menu.

It is often the goal of a training sequence to have the participant capable of performing some skill in a meaningful and efficient manner.  To explain how to perform a task efficiently, it is sometimes necessary to first explain the details.  Consider the following example.To determine the proper heat exchange unit, the difference in temperatures between the two units needs to be determined. Then, information on a "Quick-Bal" report must be used to determine the surface area of the required heat exchange unit.  The procedure for this is often embedded in a series of information displays followed by guided practice, slowly guiding the participant to the final criterion behavior.  The point of this is that the information and guidance phase of a module may be cycled through in several layers, with or without a period of intervening practice.

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Key to Strategy

The key to the strategy is in providing the task in small steps, with a high probability of success for the participant at each successive stage of diminishing prompts.  Some of the key issues in designing tutorial modules are in choosing tasks or items for explanation and participant work, in breaking down the sub-steps, and in ensuring that the participant does not become engaged in a situation where she/he is frequently answering questions incorrectly.


Tests and assessment instruments are used for a variety of purposes, including selection criteria, certification, and mastery assessment. As a training strategy tests and assessments are used as pre-tests to determine level of readiness, or as a post-test, to determine if the participant has reached the required level of proficiency on the given objectives.

Test Items

Key strategies in tests are item selection, test termination, and how many items should be presented. Application of these strategies could include choosing items from easiest to most difficult, and/or terminating a test as soon as mastery could not be achieved.

Post-tests are generally used to determine if the participant has mastered the objective. They can also be used as a formative evaluation device - to assess the effectiveness of the training materials which the participant has taken.

Whatever the purpose, the appropriate linkage to the training management system must be made with the proper data being transferred.


Several strategies are available for teaching procedures. Perhaps the most important is ensuring that participants have the prerequisite knowledge to learn the procedure. Other strategies are based on the complex nature of many procedures. One such strategy is the "shortest path" approach, where the shortest route through the procedure's decision tree is explicitly taught first. Then, as training continues, additional elaborations and exceptions are taught as increasingly difficult applications of the procedure are introduced.

Another approach is to decompose the large procedure into smaller ones, explicitly teaching the smaller ones to a level of automaticity before the next stage in the larger procedure is taught. When all of the sub-procedures have been learned, activities are provided for linking them together. Other strategies suggest an analysis of participant errors to determine the improper procedural steps the participant might be taking, then explicitly counteracting those that are inappropriate.

How the ExpressTrain Procedure Model utilizes the Step-by-Step Instructional Approach

ExpressTrain Transformation Suite is an integrated set of powerful tools that help you accelerate the development and deployment of consistent, concurrent, and compliant training, performance support and verification materials in a variety of formats for your required standard operating processes, protocols, and procedures (SOPs).

With its proven methodology and capabilities that reduce risk, reduce costs, and save time, you can easily develop, generate, and update Knowledge Products such as Instructor-led Workshops, Web-Based Training, Electronic/Printed Reference, and Software Applications Training.

Capture Content:

  • Just capture your core content in one place with our ExpressTrain Templates, store it in our Knowledge- Base and let ExpressTrain TS create your desired multiple outputs in seconds.
  • ExpressTrain works within Microsoft Office Professional and runs on most workstations and laptops right out of the box.
  • Capture core content into a Knowledgebase with ExpressTrain. Capture core content using MS Word templates Structure content using built-in Knowledge Classes Create a content knowledgebase using MS Word and embellish using any multimedia asset.
  • Generate group-based training, including PowerPoint slides and leader/participant guides
  • Generate web-based training (WBT) including tutorials, practice, simulation, and assessment
  • Generate electronic references including performance checklists, job aids and troubleshooting tables

Reuse assets using knowledge class links

  • Generate documents and reports including SOPs, work instructions, task qualifications and flex reports
  • Publish SCORM-conformant WBT lessons for your Learning Management System (LMS)
  • Publish documents and reports to SharePoint or your Document Management System (DMS)
  • Publish electronic references to your Knowledge Management System (KMS)