Project Based Learning Lesson Plan:

Organizational Quantitative Performance Indicators

by

Dede deMarks

 

 

I. Statement of the Problem

It is no secret that some organizations exist to produce goods and/or services in return for profit.  A measure of the percentage of profit margins is determined by how well organizations perform, as a whole, in terms of quantitative performance indicators from departments such as production, distribution, maintenance, engineering, customer service, finance, and purchasing/warehouse.  Periodically, organizations evaluate their departments’ quantitative performance to ensure these departments are operating at the lowest possible costs while maintaining the highest level of quality goods and/or services in the face of reaching a higher percentage of profit margins.

 

I was selected by the Corporate Office to initiate the quantitative performance indicators’ project at its local company.  The Corporate Office assigned a corporate representative to assist me in kicking off this mandatory performance indicators’ project.  Because almost all of the front-line supervisors and middle managers have limited explicit knowledge about quantitative performance indicators other than performance standards on annual individual evaluations, my task is to transfer learning to employees so their departments can identify, select, present, and monitor quantitative performance indicators. 

 

 

II. Target Audience

The target audience for the performance indicators’ initiative is 35 front-line supervisors and middle managers of which 85% are males and 15% are females. The average years the target audience has worked in the environmental industry is 15 years.  Because of several workplace laws in place for the protection of age and without written consent of learners, this data is omitted but I can estimate the age range between 28 and 60. 

 

The target audience comes from departments such as production, distribution, maintenance, engineering, customer service, finance, purchasing, and warehouse. One advantage this audience brings, collectively, to this training event is a mini organization of day-to-day operational knowledge.  I can take advantage of this opportunity by relying on the audience to actively participate in identifying their departmental performance indicators.  On the other hand, with a diverse audience from various departments is the challenge of implementing training for a group that represents various work shifts and start times.  However, the corporate representative and I are well aware of the necessity to have flexible training times to accommodate work time variations. 

 

 

III. Theory Proposed as Solution

The instructional learning model I am adopting to transfer knowledge and skills to employees so they can identify, select, present, and monitor quantitative performance indicators is project based learning.

 

 

IV. Explanation of the Theory

The underlying theoretical frame that guides project-based learning is constructionism.  Constructionism is a learning theory that asserts that “knowledge is constructed and reconstructed” by learners in the midst of creating artifacts (Kafai & Resnick, 1996, p. 2).  Constructionism acknowledges multiple learning styles and multiple ways of knowing.  In this particular lesson plan, the artifact is the creation of four quantitative performance indicators per department. Front-line supervisors and middle managers with their different learning styles and multiple ways of knowing will come together in classroom settings and create this artifact of four performance indicators per department.  Therefore a project-based (artifact outcome) learning environment best serves as the foundational platform to launches that artifact.

Several scholars, practitioners, and educational foundations have defined project based learning as an instructional process that encompasses teaching, facilitating, learning, action-based learning, complex focused activities, synthesized information, and individual and group reflection over sustained periods of time to produce an artifact such as a product (Buck Institute for Education, 2002, Contextual Learning Resources, 2002; Han & Bhattacharya, 2001; Kotze &Cooper, 2000; Poell, Van der Krogt, & Warmerdam,1998). 

The design of this lesson plan fits the facets of project-based learning such as teaching, facilitating, learning, group reflection, and synthesizing information.  In addition to teaching and facilitating, two components of project-based learning theory that target this lesson plan are synthesizing information and group reflection.  Synthesizing information is critical in this lesson plan because of the various departments that will come together in several groups for identifying and selecting performance indicators.  As a result, knowledge and learning is shared.  Furthermore, because project-based learning theory supports group learning as a platform for artifact production, shared learning, gathering of information, and reflection, this learning theory will best serve the organizational goals of creating performance indicators. 

The elements of project based learning typically for educational settings and classrooms are outlined as followed (Han & Bhattacharya, 2001):

      Learner-centeredness: This element maximizes learner decision-making while organizing lesson structures and feedback to provide learners with opportunities for choices and revisions.   

      Collaboration: This element gives learners opportunities to learn from others.  Group learning provides a rich environment for peer feedback to help polish artifacts or products required from project-based learning.   

      Curricular Content: This element utilizes content integration with project standards as well as developing clearly articulated and succinct goals.   

      Authentic tasks:  This element ensures that real world connections serve as the backdrop for curriculum content and learners.  This element helps learners construct meaning and validate understanding of how the products or artifacts from project-based learning connect to the real world. 

      Multiple presentation modes: This element uses various learning technologies as tools in planning, development, or presentation of their projects.  The strength of multiple presentation modes lies in integration with subject curriculum and authentic use in the artifact production process. 

      Time management: This element is required because of the sustained periods of time over several classroom sessions that several sub components of the finished project are due. Learners must be allowed moments of time to plan, revise, reflect and produce artifacts or products. 

      Innovative Assessment: This element is the validation stamp that the project is moving forward toward completion.  Assessment is an on-going process.  Innovative assessments (teacher, peer, group and individual) are required to respond and make changes as necessary to adjust content and delivery method for project completion and multiple learning styles. 

 

 

V.  Explanation of Solution in terms of Theory

The solution to implementing quantitative performance indicators is to present training using project-based learning.  The learning environments for this lesson take place in the classroom and work environment.  Learners are front-line supervisors and middle managers from production, distribution, maintenance, engineering, customer service, finance, purchasing, and warehouse departments.  The artifacts created as outcomes of this project are four quantitative performance indicators from each department that show a relationship of at least two quantitative performance indicators from another department.  Examples of performance indicators are as followed:

§        The number of kilowatts hours of pumps’ run times (production) versus time of day versus kilowatts costs/hr (finance)

§        The number of new water meters installed (distribution) per month versus new meter installation requests per month (engineering)

§        The number of customer services calls reporting water leaks per day (customer service) versus number of water leaks repaired per day (distribution)

§        The number of work orders completed per month (maintenance) versus number of work orders received per month (maintenance)

 

Seven Elements of Project Based Learning:

 

Learner Centeredness

The project is designed to engage learners in the process of developing performance indicators (learn-by-doing) while having a sense of control. Learners will make decisions about how they will identify, select, present, and monitor performance indicators.  Therefore, these lessons are structured around four separate group activities: identifying performance indicators, selecting performance indicators, presenting performance indicators, and monitoring performance indicators. 

 

The first group activity of identifying performance indicators is a brainstorming session where learners will identify seven performance indicators that connect to their department.  During this group activity learners are at the center because they choose the performance indicators.  Two of my duties, as the facilitator, are to generate discussions in the process of brainstorming and to validate, from a technical standpoint, whether a particular performance indicator is feasible for monitoring and capturing data. 

 

The second group activity of selecting performance indicators is the learners’ choice and revision session where they narrow their list of seven performance indicators down to four performance indicators.  This activity embraces decision-making skills and group and individual interactions.  One of the major duties, I have as the facilitator is to make sure every learner has the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process.  In addition, I will be monitoring for positive interpersonal communication to ensure that every learner has contributed in one way or another in the selection process of performance indicators. 

 

The third group activity of presenting performance indicators to the organization (top-level management) is a session where learners prepare their departmental performance indicators as an artifact to be presented to the top-level management team.  This activity embraces group decision-making skills, higher-order thinking skills, and shared learning because learners will have to create no more than a 20-minute presentation to management.  One of the key aspects of this activity is capturing historical data that connects to a performance indicator.  This session requires cooperation and collaboration from everyone. 

 

Finally, the fourth group activity is monitoring performance indicators.  This activity begins as a brainstorming session on ways to capture, present, and monitor on-going performance indicator data.  By the end of the activity, learners will have identified a monitoring plan of bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly depending on the type of performance indicator.  As in previous activities, the success of this activity requires group and individual participation, collaboration, and decision-making skills.  All of which are critical to the overall success of this project. 

 

For validation of the above activities, peer assessments and rubric development by learners guide lesson activities.  The choice to revise the rubric is based on group consensus.  In view of all of the activities, my role, then, is to promote learner centeredness by generating discussions around plans, drafts, rubrics, and lesson activities to encourage feedback on their choices and revisions. 

 

Collaboration 

The first six sessions of this project introduces the project purpose, goals, and standards.  In addition, workshops will be given on defining, selecting, and monitoring quantitative performance indicators, team-building tips, interpersonal communications, decision-making tips, and motivation, and leadership management.  The workshops conclude with learners selecting at least two performance indicators.  With the exception of the first six sessions, all of these sessions involve group activities and interactions where exchanges of ideas, insights, experiences, and opinions take place in the process of working toward a common goal of creating four performance indicators per department.  When learners return for the seventh session, they will select group members they feel will best help them connect to their performance indicators. 

 

Once each group has formed, collaboration as a learning strategy begins because almost all of the future activities will give learners opportunities to learn from each other through skills such as group-decision-making, dependency on peers, and working with others.  In fact, these learners are also co-workers and will have to work together in one way or another after this project is over.  Therefore, collaboration is a very important learning tool not only to promote learner participation in this project but also to promote higher order thinking and shared learning, all of which are critical to successful day-to-day operations in terms of individual performance.  

 

Curricular Content

Because this project is a corporate initiative, the core components of the curricular content such as the clearly articulated goals and project standards were developed by corporate.  For example, project standards clearly state that employees will identify their quantitative performance indicators (inter/intra department) and one of the facilitator’s roles is to validate the effectiveness of performance indicators.  Therefore, the content of this lesson plan must include lessons that will support learner centeredness, group and individual interactions, and collaborative learning environments. 

 

Examples of content lessons that supports project standards are defining, selecting, and monitoring quantitative performance indicators, decision-making, team building tips, interpersonal communications, leadership management, making presentations, and interpreting operational data.  With the exception of the performance indicators content lessons, all learners have previously attended content sessions mentioned above.  Therefore, this project is designed to input mini-refresher sessions at the beginning of the project and where knowledge and skills deficiencies are lacking.

 

The nature of the overall goals must be clearly articulated and understood by learners so that the project link (performance indicators) to the organization of work does not collapse by creating new problems.  In educational settings, this is similar to the facilitator as the “subject-matter expert” in the curricular content.  Where there is a lack of subject matter expertise, the design of this lesson plan will call upon other internal facilitators to assist in making sure that the link between each performance indicator and the organization of work is connected.  Therefore, with the overall goals and standards in mind, my task, then, as the instructional designer is to design the curricular content based on the learning needs that will contribute to successful project completion. 

 

Authentic Tasks

This project is an initiative of an organization in the business of increasing revenues and profits.  It is so real that this project happens to be a mandatory corporate initiative.  The authenticity of this project is incorporated into the job responsibilities of front-line supervisors, middle managers, and top managers in terms of organizational and individual performance evaluations.  To this end, learners will present their department’s performance indicators to top-level management for official indoctrination of these indicators as tools to monitor organizational and individual performances.  Perhaps, the most important aspect of adding authentic tasks to any project-based learning initiative is the outcome of enhancing individual learning.  It is without doubt that the curricular content of this project such as lessons in decision-making, team building, and interpersonal communications, leadership management, and project management will allow individuals to take with them many lessons learned. 

 

Multiple Presentation Modes

This international-based organization is unlimited in the amount of technological resources for multiple presentations and learning technologies.  For example, I am designing some of the curricular content for our Intranet to dispose learning just in time.  Also, flip charts, pens, paper, and other tools are available for each group to display their activities.  All learners in this project based learning initiative have computers and access to the World Wide Web for retrieving data pertinent to selecting and monitoring performance indicators. I also have access to the organization’s graphics department that can take paper sketches of learners’ presentations and convert over to PowerPoint.  For example, this department has already developed each learner’s manual based on my design and development.  At certain intervals throughout these activity sessions, a newsletter will be produced as a communication tool for the entire organization. 

 
Time Management

Because all of the learners are committed to their daily tasks and responsibilities, this area is the most challenging as I design and develop this project.  The estimated length of the project is eight to ten months.  In between those months, learners will meet every week for the first six weeks then resume bi-weekly 4-5 hour sessions.  If some learners need more additional training or quiet time to reflect away from day-to-day activities, some training sessions will meet weekly.

 

The critical component of time management is allowing time for learners to plan, revise, and reflect on their learning, choices, and revisions.  Planning, revising, and reflecting are critical components of the learning process that reinforces that correct performance indicators (artifacts) were selected.  The organization cannot sustain an upset of in-place organizational policies and priorities.  After all, the organization is in the business to make profits and the correct performance indicators should support those profits. 

 

It is my responsibility as the facilitator to ensure that enough time is allocated for learners to correctly identify and select performance indicators.  The advantage I have is that goals for this project are embedded into some aspect of learners’ daily tasks.  Therefore, since the project goals for a majority of the learners are not new, the challenge lies in connecting the performance indicators to other departments.  This factor makes the time management element in project-based learning a great concern.  However, dealing with this concern should rests with me, not the learners, because I can monitor and support where necessary for any time management problems.  For example, if data from another department is missing or hard to retrieve, then I can step in and assist that department in capturing data needed for the next session.  In general, time management for training in organizations is one the greatest challenges because organizations simply do not embrace the idea of their employees not working while at work. This element of project-based learning will be carefully monitored to ensure that learners have time to plan, revise and reflect. 

 

Innovative Assessment

Assessment in this project is ongoing from day one of explaining quantitative performance indicators to the rollout of performance indicators.  Because this project meets regular over eight to ten months and sub components are produced at every session with exception of the first session, assessment (teacher, individual, and peer) will be the key to validating whether the correct performance indicators have been identified and selected (project completion).  An example of innovative assessments is capturing front-line employees feedback from the performance indicators selected.  For example, this project is designed for front-line supervisors to obtain written feedback from their front line employees on the performance indicators identified.  In many cases, the front-lines employees have seen many organizational performance problems before middle and upper management realize those performance problems exist. 

 

Furthermore, to ensure that the process of identifying and selecting performance indicators is moving toward completion, each group will be assessed in terms of peer and individual assessments. If necessary, group members will be rearranged or switched to another group for project completion if assessments indicate minimum progress.  Most importantly is how well I am doing my job to clearly implement overall project goals, facilitating learning, and moving the project toward completion as well as obtaining individual and group performance.  The corporative representative serves as my resource for my assessment as well as overall assessment of this project.    

 

VI.  Rationale for Solution

The rationale for choosing project-based learning as a solution for this lesson plan is based on one of the project’s objectives of creating at least two of the four performance indicators that overlaps departments.  In view of this objective, it is evident that including employees from at least two departments in the process of creating performance indicators would prescribe an instructional model that incorporates collaborating in the process of building artifacts.  Project-based learning model has the elements of artifact creation and collaborative learning where the focus is on the learner and their learning in the process of building something (Han & Bhattacharya, 2001).  In this lesson plan, building something is the performance indicators. 

 

Other models such as problem-based learning, cognitive apprenticeship, and Six Cs of motivation came close as one of the choices for the primary instructional model that would guide this lesson plan but were eliminated because certain elements of these models did not meet the overall corporate goals and objectives. For example, although problem-based learning emphasizes social interactions such as collaborative learning, artifacts are not always the outcome (Glazer, 2001).  Sometimes problem solving learning addresses a solution to a concern or issue (Glazer, 2001).  In the case of this initiative, the project standards did not include addressing a concern or issue that resulted in implementing performance indicators.

 

Cognitive apprenticeship instructional model places the teacher and learners in rich and authentic situated learning environments where skills are obtained through modeling (teacher’s role in building mental models), coaching and scaffolding (problem-solving techniques), and articulation and reflection (Brill, Kim, & Galloway, 2001).  In the case of this initiative, the project goals and standards clearly stated that the employees should identify performance indicators whereas the facilitator’s role is to validate the effectiveness of these indicators.  In using cognitive apprenticeship instructional strategy,  modeling serves to duplicate or model tasks.  As in this project, the facilitator does not identify and select performance indicators first (modeling) and learners do not identify and select indicators based on facilitator’s model.  The goal of this project, under guidance of the facilitator, is to support learners in the process of them identifying and selecting indicators with content lessons such as defining performance indicators, decision-making skills, team building, and interpersonal communications.  Therefore, the modeling element of cognitive apprenticeship does not fit the overall project goal of having learners identify indicators and teachers serving in the role primarily as support.

 

The Six Cs of motivation was the most challenging decision of whether or not to design this initiative based on this instructional concept because motivation is a driving force toward most artifact creations in collaborative learning environments such as choice, challenge, collaboration, constructing meaning, and consequences.  This project’s content design does include learners’ choice in identifying and selecting performance indicators, challenge in expanding learners skills and knowledge slightly past normal day-to-day operational duties, collaboration and construction meaning in group and individual interactions and consequences in recognition through internal newsletters, presentations of indicators, and increase individual learning.  However, since this project is a mandatory corporate initiative, the element of the Six Cs of motivation such as control just did not clearly fit this lesson plan.  For example, although learners have control in the process of identifying and selecting performance indicators, in reality, these indicators have implied restrictions that could link to an upset in organizational policies and practices. Therefore, according to the initiative’s standards, the facilitator has authority to validate indicators up to a certain point with top-level management making the ultimate decision to accept or reject a performance indicator.  This ultimate decision is implied in overall project goals and standards.

 

In sum, as the instructional designer and teacher in an organization where some training and anticipated training outcomes are somewhat controlled, I can use the project-based learning instructional model as a platform for incorporating the Six Cs of motivation into the elements of project-based learning without having to document design directly but indirectly.  Although project-based learning is the preferred choice of instructional model, this lesson plan does utilize some of the other elements from the models of problem-solving (social interactions), cognitive apprenticeships (articulation and reflection), almost all of the Six Cs of motivation (choice, challenge, collaboration, construction meaning, and consequences) and a portion of control to just a few steps away of the possibility of top level management rejection.  Therefore, the guiding factors in choosing a primary instructional model to design a lesson plan are overall standards, goals, and objectives.  In some cases, those guiding factors may necessitate merging some elements of additional instructional models into the primary instructional model as in the case of this particular lesson plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

 

Brill, J., Kim, B., & Galloway, C. (2001). Cognitive apprenticeships. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging Perspectives on: Learning, Teaching, and Technology. [On-line]. Available: http://itstudio.coe.uga.edu/ebook/ [2002].

 

Glazer, E. (2001). Problem based instruction. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging Perspectives on: Learning, Teaching, and Technology. [On-line]. Available: http://itstudio.coe.uga.edu/ebook/ [2002].

 

Han, S. & Bhattacharya, K. (2001). Constructionism, learning by design and project based learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging Perspectives on: Learning, Teaching, and Technology. [On-line]. Available: http://itstudio.coe.uga.edu/ebook/ [2002].

 

Introduction: Pros and cons of project based learning. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2002, from Buck Institute for Education Web Site: http://www.bie.org/pbl/overview/intro.html

 

Kafai, Y. & Resnick, M. (1996). Constructionism in practice: Designing, thinking, and learning in a digital world. In Y. Kafai & M. Resnick (Eds.), Introduction (pp. 1-8). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, NJ.

 

Kotze, A. & Coopre, L. (2000).  Exploring the transformative potential of project-based learning in university adult education. Studies in the Education of Adults, 32, (2), 212-228.

 

Poell, R. & Van der Krogt, F. (1998, Fall).  Project-based learning in professional organizations. Adult Education Quarterly, 49, (1), 28-42.

 

Project based learning. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2002, from Contextual Learning Resources Web Site: http://www.cord.org/lev2.cfm/65

 

Wang, S & Han, S. (2001). Six Cs of Motivation. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging Perspectives on: Learning, Teaching, and Technology. [On-line]. Available: http://itstudio.coe.uga.edu/ebook/ [2002].