Have you ever been frustrated by bad directions you have been given. Writing good directions is a skill that must be learned.
The steps involved in developing good directions are as follows:
- Identify who will need to use the directions. You need to know about the person’s prior knowledge with the subject and the person’s overall comprehension level.
The directions that you prepare should be written for the lowest level of familiarity and the lowest level of comprehension.
- Develop a detailed description of every step that needs to be done. This needs to be done at a fine level of detail. Bad Directions: Attach the two parts of the handle. Good Direction: Attach handle part A (look for the letter on the inner part of the handle) to part B (look for the label). Use a ½ inch flat head Phillips screw.
- Provide visual indicators to support the description (photos, diagrams, other visual cues)
- Provide cautions. These are things that a person might do that are known to create problems. Example- Warning: don’t over tighten the handles- stop when the turning becomes snug.
- Provide indicators of what could have gone wrong. Example – If the one handle doesn’t rest in to the other handle, you have the wrong parts.
Giving directions is not a one-step process. Generally there are three steps
We first tell someone how to do something. In some instances telling someone how to accomplish a task is enough.
Sometimes telling isn’t enough. Sometimes we need to take it a step further and have them follow the directions as we observe them. Then we verbally prompt them when we see problem.
What happens when telling and verbally prompting is not enough? We made need to teach the directions by modeling, the directions.
This occurs when it is necessary to actually move the person through the proper action. Example: the swing of a baseball bat. This helps the individual get accustomed to the ‘feel of the motion’. The more proficient and competent an individual becomes, the less physical prompting is needed.