Designing Scenarios

Robert Mager wrote about behavioral objectives from an instructional standpoint.  Before designing a training program, designers must know in very concrete terms what they are expected to do to demonstrate their mastery of the material.  The same factors that go into developing good performance and learning objectives are used to develop thorough scenarios that can be easily evaluated.

Mager’s Theory of Behavioral Objectives

In the design of instructional materials, training needs are first analyzed and the learning goals of the program are determined. Mager’s central concept is that a learning goal should be broken into a subset of smaller tasks or learning objectives. By his definition, a behavioral objective should have three components:

• Behavior. The behavior should be specific and observable.

• Condition. The conditions under which the behavior is to be completed should be stated, including what tools or assistance is to be provided.

• Standard or Degree. The level of performance that is desirable should be stated, including an acceptable range of answers that are allowable as correct.

A fourth component can be inferred of Actor – who is required to perform the task.

Consider the following behavioral objective:

Given a stethoscope and normal clinical environment, the medical student will be able to diagnose a heart arrhythmia in 90% of effected patients.

This example describes the actor (the medical student), observable behavior (identifying the arrhythmia), the conditions (given a stethoscope and a normal clinical environment), and the degree (90% accuracy).

Applying ABCD to Scenarios

A good scenario also covers ABCD

• Actor (who is using the system, what access and motivation does he/she have),

• Behavior (what action is required? What result is expected?),

• Condition (are there elements in the work context that influence the design, such as noise, lack of time, etc.), and

• Degree (to what extent must the task be done accurately and/or quickly?).

This construct allows reviewers to identify with the situation and clearly identify if the scenario is realistic and appropriate.