“Labels Do Matter” A brief look at IBSTPI Competencies for Instructional Designers

labelsIn a previous posting, “Labels Do Matter” A Brief Survey of Instructional Design Job Posting Titles I presented a litany of “labels” that I found on sites like HigherEdJobs, The Chronicle, Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn (not linked i.e., requires authentication) when searching with the term “instructional.” The title for this posting is derived from article that I remember reading a few years ago, Labels Do Matter by colleague Patrick Lowenthal. Practicing instructional designers do want to advance yet what do these titles really mean? Do you agree with me that perhaps these labels don’t really matter? Is it the responsibility and projects that count?

So as I continue my quest to determine if differentiation matters amongst instructional designers, I have been searching for if we… were to do so, how it could be done? The professional organization, International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction (IBSTPI) has developed a set of competencies which I hope could be used for this purpose. Here is a little about their background if you are unfamiliar:

Over 400 organizations worldwide in a wide variety of sectors, including private industry, academia, military, and government, are using our standards to improve both individual performance and organizational results.  We set standards by articulating and promoting the integrity of professional practice through research, development, definition of competencies and education.

The site displays a partial list of organizations that utilize these competencies, 11 of the 50 listed were academic institutions, e.g., Florida State, Penn State, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, etc. As a member of Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT) I have access to their NCATE Program Standards which lists IBSTPI as a reference. Their site also lists other professional organizations that utilize their competencies for their own certifications e.g., American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) has a Certified Professional in Learning & Performance and International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) has a Certified Performance Technologist.

I made a request to IBSTPI previously to receive a complete list of competencies which include 22 competencies and 105 performance statements. They provided me a copyright release, information about becoming a registered user, and about how to purchase a $15 booklet that contains the performance statement for each competency. I look forward to officially starting this project sometime soon and blogging about it here. Although if you are interested in using these competencies for your organization, get started by checking out their Competencies for Instructional Designers (2012) which distinguish between essential and advanced competencies clustered into 5 domains, i.e., professional foundations, planning and analysis, design and development, evaluation and implementation, and management. Please visit the link above for the complete list of the 22 competencies. But here is a brief sampling of the “Professional Foundations” domain:

  • Essential – Communicate effectively in visual, oral and written form.
  • Advanced – Apply research and theory to the discipline of instructional design.
  • Essential – Update and improve knowledge, skills, and attitudes pertaining to the instructional design process and related fields.
  • Advanced – Apply data collection and analysis skills in instructional design projects.
  • Essential – Identify and respond to ethical, legal, and political implications of design in the workplace.

For free, IBSTPI does provide an example of their performance statements by showing the first competency for the “Professional Foundations” domain, i.e., “Communicate effectively in visual, oral and written form.”

  • Essential – Write and edit messages that are clear, concise, and grammatically correct.
  • Essential – Deliver presentations that effectively engage audiences and communicate clear messages.
  • Essential – Use active listening skills.
  • Essential – Solicit, accept, and provide constructive feedback.
  • Advanced – Present written and oral messages that take into account the type of information being delivered and the diverse backgrounds, roles, and varied responsibilities of the audience.
  • Advanced – Facilitate meetings effectively
  • Advanced – Use effective collaboration and consensus-building skills.
  • Advanced – Use effective negotiation and conflict resolution skills.
  • Advanced – Use effective questioning techniques.
  • Advanced – Disseminate status, summary, or action-oriented reports

As a member of the ITForum I was able to find a discussion paper Competencies and Standards for Instructional Design and Educational Technology (2006) which involved many of these universities mentioned above and well known instructional designers in our field that I am familiar with e.g., J. Michael Spector (originally Florida State University now with University of North Texas), and Dr. Robert A. Reiser (Florida State University), and Dr. James D. Klein (originally Arizona State University now with Florida State University). Here is a sample below discussing the use of the competencies for human resource development.

Competencies and standards can be used to help develop, qualify, distinguish, and/or recognize individual performance and abilities in specific areas. An up-to-date set of competencies can be used by individuals for self-improvement or by personnel departments for skill development by determining whether strengths or deficiencies exist, especially those which might be addressed by training, professional development or changes in policies and procedures. An organization can use competencies to inform and guide hiring practices, for example, as input for job specifications in a position description or job announcement. When applicants have the academic or experiential credentials, they can be further screened against these specific competencies required of the job. Organizations can use these competencies to distinguish between job applicants, especially those with apparently similar academic backgrounds. Using competencies as performance indicators can help managers in organizations conduct substantive, formative assessments, and possibly recognize those individuals who are ready for advancement or who have demonstrated exemplary performance against a standard.

As you can see, these competences could be used to screen new instructional designer applicants but also as performance indicators for practicing instructional designers. So now my question is, have you or your organization used the competencies? Perhaps you have been evaluated with them? Have you perhaps been evaluated by them?

In an upcoming posting, I will discuss another set of competencies that could be derived from the Human Performance Technology (HPT) model. Similar to the IBSTPI, these also could perhaps be used either internally or externally to distinguish between instructional designers.

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About DaveHallmon

With experience in web, graphic, and instructional design, Dave maintains a balance between what is efficient and effective in every message. He always focuses on the why and how rather than "just doing it" to get the job done. By day he works at a leading university designing online courses that support 9,000 students in 64 countries. He works directly with faculty to brainstorm, design, and develop their online instruction utilizing the Adobe suite. He also teaches for the university as an adjunct faculty member in the area of web design. By night he is a devoted husband, father, freelancer, and adventurer of the outdoors. His other interests include LifeHacker, Science Fiction and Hayao Miyazaki movies, Settlers of Catan, and coffee with friends. He currently lives in St. Louis and has an M.S. in Instructional Design and aspires to pursue a professional degree in content marketing and strategy. Visit the links below for more information about his interests and design work.
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2 Responses to “Labels Do Matter” A brief look at IBSTPI Competencies for Instructional Designers

  1. Pingback: “Labels Do Matter” Could we use the Human Performance Technology Model Statements for Instructional Designers? | coffeeanDesign

  2. Pingback: “Labels Do Matter” Could we use the Human Performance Technology Model Statements for Evaluating Instructional Designers? | coffeeanDesign

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