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Instructional Systems Design - ISD
Instructional Analysis: Subordinate Skills & Entry Behaviors
Topic: 4- Subordinate Skills

Subordinate Skills

After the steps in the goal have been identified, it is necessary to examine each step to determine what learners must know or be able to do before they can learn to perform that step in the goal => this is referred to as Subordinate Skills Analysis. 

Purpose: Identify the appropriate set of subordinate skills for each step.
If required skills are omitted and many students do not have them => instruction will be ineffective!
If superfluous skills are included => they might interfere with learning the required skills.

A Subordinate skill is "a skill that must be achieved in order to learn a higher level skill. Also known as a subskill, prerequisite, or enabling skill."


Approaches to Subordinate Skills Analysis:

 A- Hierarchical analysis technique: Used to classify intellectual or psychomotor skills. (p.62) Sometimes sequences of procedural steps will be included in a hierarchical analysis. (p.91)

In order to identify critical subordinate skills, ask the question: 

What must students already know so that, with a minimal amount of instruction, this task can be learned?

In order to identify additional subordinate skills, ask the question: 

What must students already know how to do, the absence of which would make it impossible to learn this subordinate skill?

What mistake might students make if they were learning this skill? (p.66)

In order to learn how to perform problem-solving skills, learners must first know how to apply the rules that are required to solve the problem => the immediate subskills to the instructional goal are the rules that must be applied in the problem situation

In order to learn the relationship among "things," you must be able to classify them => the subordinate skills required for any given rule are classifying the concepts used in the rule.

If the step is a problem-solving skill, the subskills should include

  1. the relevant rules
  2. concepts
  3. discriminations (discriminating whether examples are relevant to the concept or not)

The whole point of using the hierarchical approach is to identify just what the learner must know to be successful. (p.67)

B- Procedural analysis technique: Used with the steps for intellectual or psychomotor skills, when those contain an additional set of mental or physical steps. (p.67)

The subskills go in the same direction as the main steps => the same step-by-step manner as was done for the goal analysis.

C- Cluster analysis technique: Used when analyzing verbal information goals.(p.68)

The most meaningful analysis of a verbal information goal is to identify the major categories of information that are implied by the goal. (Are there ways that the information can be clustered best?)

D- Subordinate skills analysis for attitude goals (p.69)
=> combine with psychomotor or intellectual skills.

In order to determine the subordinate skills for an attitudinal goal, ask the following questions:

  • What must learners do when exhibiting this attitude?
    • psychomotor or intellectual
    • => hierarchical analysis
  • Why should learners exhibit this attitude?
    • verbal information
    • => cluster

Entry Behaviors

The instructional analysis process helps the designer identify entry behaviors: what learners will already have to know or be able to do BEFORE they begin the instruction.

Entry behaviors are defined as "specific competencies or skills a learner must have mastered before entering a given instructional activity."

In order to identify entry behaviors, examine the hierarchy or cluster analysis and identify those skills that a majority of the learners will have already mastered before beginning your instruction. Draw a dotted line above these skills in the analysis chart.  The skills that are above this line are those you must teach in your instruction. Those that fall below the line are the entry behaviors.

Relevant Links:

Example of an Instructional Analysis


Posted by Nada at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: 05/05/09 1:01 AM EDT

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