The point of instruction is help people get better at solving problems*. Problems come in all shapes and sizes: inability to play piano or operate a particular machine, trouble communicating effectively, etc.
As an instructional designer, task number one is to understand two things: the problems your target population wants or needs to solve, and the barriers preventing them from solving those problems on their own.
That’s not always as easy to do as it sounds.
If someone can’t solve a problem, he or she may not understand the underlying content area well enough (the theory). Or a lack of practical experience may be the culprit. Learning about music theory is helpful when learning to play an instrument, but you need to practice, too. Or there’s this catch-all, intangible category I call acuity. Maybe a lack of interest, a lack of sleep, or a poor match between the native intellectual strengths of the individual and the problem at hand.
Or, the individual may have all the intellectual tools to solve the problem, but not the real world support (say, the schedule only allots two hours to solve a problem that really takes four).
More on these elements in coming posts.
* This isn’t really the only point of instruction, but it’s a useful place to start.