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close this book Audio-Visual Communication Handbook
close this folder Planning instructional materials
View the document Statement of objectives
View the document Presentation strategy
View the document Selection of information
View the document Organization of information
View the document Evaluation

Planning instructional materials


Planning plays an important part in the production and use of instructional materials. It is a process involving statement of objectives presentation strategy selection of information organization of information.


Statement of objectives

Stating objectives is an important step, but is frequently bypassed or given minimal thought. In discussing statement of objectives and the other steps in planning, a simplified example relating to fertilizer will be used.

Often objectives are stated too generally, such as "I want farmers to use fertilizer," or "I want my students to understand the water cycle."

If the farmer's need is to use fertilizer, why isn't he using it? Does he lack information (a knowledge need)? Is he unable to use it (a skill need)? Or, doesn't he see its importance (an attitude-change need)? Once the needs are identified, state objectives that specify what farmers are to do, that is write specific objectives. Following are examples of specific objectives in the areas of agriculture and health.

Attitude-Change Needs

Agriculture. At experimental plots where fertilized and non-fertilized plants are displayed, farmers are to show their interest by asking questions about the value of fertilizers and how to use them.

Health. After a filmed presentation of the services offered by the Maternal Care Center, expectant mothers will sign up for a field trip visit to the Center.

Knowledge Needs

Agriculture. Following a group presentation showing two types of fertilizers and their uses, farmers should be able to distinguish between them and be able to demonstrate their understanding by explaining when and how both fertilizers should be used.

Health. At the end of a visit to the Maternal Care Center, expectant mothers are able to answer questions about the services the Center can offer them.

Skill Needs

Agriculture. After receiving instruction about applying fertilizers, farmers should be able to demonstrate the correct way to apply them.

Health. Following a demonstration of how to bathe a baby, an expectant mother is able to demonstrate, with a "doll-baby" model, the following points: testing for proper water temperature; holding the model as different parts of its body are washed; drying and dressing the model.

Note that a specific objective indicates the means of evaluating the success of a presentation or an instructional material. For the health objective above, how can the demonstrator determine whether or not the objective was achieved? She can find out by asking an expectant mother to bathe the "doll-baby" model, and she can evaluate the mother's performance against the four points stated in the objective.

Attitude, knowledge, and skill needs are not mutually exclusive. Providing information is essential whether the need is for information, for skill, or for changing an attitude. If farmers have never heard of fertilizer, and if the ultimate objective is to have them make a practice of using it regularly and correctly, the objectives must satisfy all three kinds of needs. If, on the other hand, farmers have information about fertilizer and are willing to use it, but lack skill in applying it or keeping it from washing away after application, then the objectives should focus on giving them these skills.


Presentation strategy

Identifying needs and stating specific objectives are prerequisites to making decisions about the presentation strategy. The presentation would not require pictures if the specific objective Is: When questioned, students should be able to enumerate the major elements in the water cycle. Words naming the elements might be written on a chalkboard or given to each student on a slip of paper, or the words might be said with students repeating them. The teaching strategy would differ, however, if the objective is: In a test situation, students should be able to draw a diagram of the water cycle that shows the major elements and their relationship to each other. For this objective, illustrations would be needed so students would have a model of what they are supposed to be able to do.

Consider the attitude-change objective given for agriculture on Page 2. This objective states a decision to take farmers to experimental plots to give them first-hand experience with the results of fertilized and non-fertilized plants and their yields.

This visit can be considered the presentation strategy. What will be done during the visit, and what farmers will be encouraged to do at the experimental plots must be planned. Some exhibits might show crop yield from the fertilized and non-fertilized plots. The farmers might be encouraged to examine the plants in each plot or to compare the size and weight of crop yields from the plots. Also questions they ask should be answered to give them assurance that fertilizing is something they can do themselves, is not too time consuming, and, in terms of crop yield, is not very expensive.

The knowledge-need objective, given for agriculture on Page 2, states that a presentation should give farmers information about fertilizers and their uses. To present this information in a group situation, visual materials are needed. If facilities and resources are available to make slides and tape recordings, the medium chosen for this presentation could be a set of slides with a taped narration. As a follow-up of the slide-tape presentation, another first-hand experience should be provided - the opportunity to apply the fertilizer in a near-by field.

Stated objectives also influence whether a single medium will be adequate to present the information, or whether other media will be needed. The stated objectives will help determine whether the information should be given in a single presentation, or whether several presentations will be needed. Consider farmers who know nothing about fertilizers. Their interest must be stimulated; they need information about fertilizers; and they must become skilled in applying them. The stated objectives might be similar to those given on Page 2.

When preparing objectives, the emphasis should be on WHAT is to be accomplished. When selecting the presentation strategy, the emphasis should be on HOW to meet the goal. Can an objective be accomplished in one presentation? If not, how many separate presentations will be needed? How much Information will be presented in each segment? If several sessions are needed, should they be spaced over a period of time or concentrated? What medium will be used in each presentation? Answers to these questions should come from the objectives and a knowledge of the audience's characteristics.

Age level, for instance, is a starting point for determining how many ideas should be presented and how complex these ideas should be. A child cannot assimilate as many ideas in a given span of time as an adult. Ideas must be presented to him with several repetitions of the information and many examples. An adult may not be literate, but he does have experience which enables him to understand complex ideas and to assimilate them quickly.

Education is another factor. For people who have had little or no schooling, who cannot read, and whose experiences have been limited to life within their village, the concepts presented must be in a form they can understand.

HOW to meet the objectives also requires attention to details. A planning check list is helpful. Following is an example for the farmers' visit to experimental plots (agriculture attitude-change objective, Page 2.).

- Transportation available to take farmers to and from experimental plots.

- Information given farmers about departure time and place.

- Experimental plots ready for visit.

- Exhibit of crop yield from fertilized and non-fertilized plants ready.

- Plan made for dividing farmers Into small groups after arrival at experimental plots.

- Demonstrators available to host each small group. Should be qualified to answer on-the-spot questions.

- Procedure planned for rotating small groups so each will see more than one experimental plot.

- Large group meeting place available for question-answer period.

- Leaflet summarizing visit duplicated and ready for distribution at close of question-answer period.

- Attention called to announcement in leaflet of presentation demonstrating application of fertilizers. Date, time, and place emphasized.

Cultural differences must be considered when planning presentations or instructional materials. Following is a list of problems in visual perception, by no means exhaustive, which may serve as a guide to the kind of things to look for.

- A viewer may not be able to identify the subject of a flat photograph. For example, a father might not recognize a photograph of his own son. Instead, what he perceives is a gray shape on a white background.

- Many cultures, unexposed to the western visual habit of taking in an entire television picture, slide or movie frame, may fail to get the intended message, no matter how obvious. Instead, viewers may focus on one element in the picture before them and miss all other elements in the picture. Marshall McLuhan in The Gutenberg Galaxy cites the example of a film showing sanitation methods to remote tribesmen. In one scene the audience saw only a chicken moving through the background and missed completely seeing the demonstrator, thus missing the intended message.

- In a sequence of drawings or photographs, the viewer may see each illustration as a separate entity without relation to the sequence. Despite such cues as a distinctive shirt pattern, the viewer may not recognize that a man shown in comic-book fashion is the same man from frame to frame. Is it also true of a photo of a man as well as one rendered in comic book fashion? Position within the frame and position of the subject also may affect perception.

- Drawings or photographs made at an unusual angle to the object may be con fusing. An eye-level point of view is the most natural. A bird's-eye view of a rice paddy may be meaningless unless the viewer has had the experience of climbing a hill and looking down on the paddies.

- Drawings may seem to be truer representations of reality than photographs because drawings are simplified and concentrate on important elements.

- Depth perception in pictures can be confusing, and is radically different than that in life. People accustomed to graphic conventions see converging railroad tracks and small distant trees as a phenomenon of perspective. To others, they may seem to be tracks that do meet and dwarf-sized trees.

- Picturing an object partially obscured by another object to show that the first is behind the second may lead to the belief that the object in the rear is mutilated or incomplete.

- It may be that a viewer can comprehend both realistic photographs and stick figure drawings and yet not recognize drawings falling between two extremes.

- Illustrations which are larger or smaller than life size may be confusing. A six-inch drawing of a mosquito may seem to the viewer to be a giant insect not found in his area.

- Cutaway drawings or models may be interpreted literally. A sketch of a latrine with one wall partially removed to show internal construction may lead to the building of a latrine with a part of one wall missing.

- In an illustration, shadows or shading may be interpreted as dirt, disease or hair.

- The symbolic significance of color or certain visual forms may override the intended significance. A yellow poster announcing a meeting may draw slight attendance if yellow means danger to the prospective audience.

- Some cultures have unvarying symbols of identification for position, status or sex. The omission of these symbols from an illustration may negate the artist's intent. In one case, pictures of girls not wearing beads were taken to be pictures of boys with large breasts.

- Clothing details may vary only slightly from one village to another. In one instance, women did not identity with drawings representing them because head ties were incorrectly located.

- Although the left to right sequence is natural to us, it may not be the natural sequence in other cultures.

- Actions portrayed may be interpreted as applying to only one sex. A poster urging that villagers be inoculated showed a doctor giving an injection to a woman. As a result, few men participated in the program.

Two steps may be taken to help avoid problems in visual perception. First, notice what kinds of visual media are commonplace among the audience. What does their art look like? Second, try out illustrations in a presentation with a representative sample of the audience. Question them about the visuals:

What is this?
What does this picture mean to you?
What is the farmer doing in this picture?
Can you explain what this picture shows?
What story did all the pictures tell you?

Notice reactions of the sample audience. Question snickers, perplexed looks, loss of interest. Ask, how would you draw or change the picture?


Selection of information

The stated objectives are the basis for selecting information for each strategy. Some objectives may relate more specifically to a single presentation. Other objectives may relate to several or most presentations.

In the case of the slide-tape presentation the main objective is to give information. Therefore, the knowledge-need objective for agriculture (Page 2) is a guideline for selecting the information that should be included in the slide-tape.

In a classroom situation, for instance, a unit on water is to be taught. A part of this unit deals with the water cycle. One of the stated objectives is: In a teat situation, students should be able to draw a diagram of the water cycle that shows the major elements and the relationship of each to the other.

A flip chart is selected as the presentation strategy. The objective requires that this flip chart include the names of the major elements (evaporation, condensation, and precipitation) and that it show the relationship between the major elements. How to organize the information in the flip chart is the next step. Similarly, this is the next step in planning the slide-tape about fertilizers.


Organization of information

Flip charts, leaflets, slides with taped narrations, filmstrips, motion pictures, radio broadcasts, and telecasts are linear; that is, information presented to the audience follows a sequential order from beginning to end as arranged by the producer.

After the information to be presented has been collected, the first step in organization is to prepare a content outline An outline requires arrangement of the information in a systematic order. It enables a quick check for extraneous material or omissions of essential information, and for the evaluation of the information included against the stated objectives. A sample content outline for the slide-tape about fertilizers is given in Appendix 1, Page 83.

After preparing a content outline, the information needs to be organized in a more detailed fashion which is a treatment. The treatment for a flip chart or a leaflet is a rough sketch of the final layout which shows the location of the visual and verbal elements. This rough sketch serves as a script. The producer proceeds from the treatment to the finished product.

For slide-tapes, filmstrips, motion pictures, and telecasts, the treatment is a narrative account that indicates how the content information is to be arranged and what part of the message will be carried by visual and what part by verbal elements.

What form will the presentation of the content take? Will it be a straightforward explanation? Will it be in a story form? The treatment for the fertilizer slide-tape could be a story about Farmer A and his success in using fertilizer; or the story might contrast Farmer A who uses fertilizer with Farmer B who does not. An example of a treatment for the slide-tape is given in Appendix 1.

The final step in organizing information for slide-tapes, filmstrips, etc. is the preparation of a script. Scripts are usually in two columns - one column a verbal description of the scene, the other the accompanying narration. When a sketch of the verbal scene description is added, the script may be referred to as a storyboard-script. A script or storyboard-script serves as a blueprint for the photographer or artist. A portion of a storyboard-script is given in Appendix 1.

In summary, planning is an interrelated step-by-step process.

Statement of objectives. WHAT is to be accomplished as related to identified audience needs. The objectives should be stated to indicate what audience need is to be fulfilled.

Presentation strategy. HOW objectives will be accomplished. The How should take into account audience characteristics and available media resources.

Selection of information - CONTENT of each presentation. What is selected must be based on the stated objectives and checked against them.

Organization of Information - SEQUENCE of the content from a simple outline to the detailed script. This is the last step before production. Like previous steps, the script should be checked against the stated objectives.

The material in Appendix 1 shows the application of the four steps relative to the slide-tape about fertilizers.



At each step of planning and producing and in the use of instructional materials, some kind of evaluation should take place. This evaluation may range from asking a few simple questions of the intended audience, such as those given on Page 5, to highly controlled evaluative studies. Regardless of the simplicity or complexity of the evaluative procedures, the following should be evaluated.

Evaluative studies

- The idea to be communicated by the message -

Is it important, useful, valid?

What new behavior is desired on the part of the audience?

- The receiver of the message -

Will he be able to understand the message idea?

Will he consider the message relevant?

Will he be able to do what the message asks?

If not, what message does the audience need?

- The message material itself -

Is the message accurately prepared ?

Is there anything about the message that might offend?

How will the message be disseminated to reach the intended audience?

- The presentation of the message -

Was it timely?

Was it clear?

Did it permit audience feedback?

Throughout this manual frequent reference will be made to the importance of evaluation and to simple evaluative questions that can be asked or simple methods that can be used. Additional information about questionnaires, sampling techniques, and interviewing procedures are given in Appendix 2.