ISD: Assessing the Relevant Characteristics of Learners


The following worksheet is available for assessing the relevant characteristics of potential learners. Before using the worksheet be sure to read this entire section.  This document requires Adobe Acrobat.

Learner Characteristics Worksheet - Use this worksheet to analyze the relevant characteristics of potential learners.


Before preparing training materials, instructional designers should be able to answer this simple question:

  • Who is the intended and appropriate learner?

The answer helps define the target population, target group, or target audience. It also permits the instructional designer to identify the needs of learners with disabilities.

Categories of Learner Characteristics

Three basic categories of learner characteristics are relevant:

  • Situation-related characteristics stem from events surrounding the decision to design and deliver training. The chief focus of the instructional design effort should be directed at those most affected by it. The reason: subsequent delivery of instruction to that group will presumably have the greatest impact. The broader the target audience, the more general the training must be. The design team should reach consensus regarding the target audience.
  • Decision-related characteristics pertain to those making decisions about learner participation in learning. The question to ask is: Who makes decisions about permitting people to participate in instruction? If this question is ignored, time can be wasted preparing instruction for one group only to find that other groups actually participate. Before preparing instructional materials, the design team should clarify any issues regarding approvals to attend training and develop strategies to ensure that the targeted audience is who actually attends.
  • Learner-related characteristics stem from learners themselves. Consider prerequisite knowledge, skills, and attitudes, and other learner characteristics that may affect the design and delivery of instruction.

Reaching consensus on the target audience will help guide many of the remaining decision that must be made to produce successful training.

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