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Identify The Learning Gap

You should view learning as a journey. The end point is when the learner is successful at doing something with the material you have taught. Before settling on which subject you will teach, take a step back and attempt to identify what is preventing the learners from being successful in their current situation. This is the gap.

Not all gaps are made equal. They can be broadly separated into seven categories:

Remember; define the gap you are trying to fill or you won’t know what your solution is. Define the problem before trying to define the solution.

Different Types of Gap


Information is the equipment learners need in order to perform. Something can be said to be accomplished when this information is used, but this can only occur if learners know what they can do with the knowledge! Appreciation for knowledge is highest when learners know they need it. Less critical information is picked up along the way.

  • “What information does the learner need to succeed?”
  • “When will they need it?”
  • “What format best supports it?”


If a learner cannot be proficient without practice, this is a skill gap. They will need practice in order to develop proficiency. Therefore, practice must be part of the learning journey.

  • “What will the learner need to practice in order to develop the required proficiencies?”
  • “Where are the opportunities to practice?”


A motivation gap is when somebody knows what to do but chooses not to do it. Fortunately, lesson design influences behaviour. If we can support motivation, our learners will have better learning experiences. Unfortunately, one size does not fit all. There are learners who do not understand the destination, some who don’t buy into it, some who can’t be bothered and some who do not see the big picture. If we design our learning experience well, it will help improve the students’ motivation.

  • “What is learner’s attitude to change?”
  • “Will they be resistant to changing course?”


This is a special motivation gap in which learners must make a conscious effort not to do something. It is really hard! They may find prior knowledge interferes with the ability to use new knowledge. People become grumpy as they work against an automatic process. The process of change is slow and needs time and repetition. Grumpiness is normal and to be expected in this setting!


Most of the day is habit driven. If what you are trying to achieve is something that is “easier said than done” despite having the knowledge, skills and motivation, it is likely to be a habit.

  • “Are any required behaviours habits?”
  • “Are there any existing habits to unlearn?”

Environment or Challenge

Often your surroundings are not designed to let you succeed. Think about when materials, costs or administration gets in your way. Were the correct references or job aides available? Did your technology help or hinder? How about incentives or rewards? Sometimes it is the environment that creates the problem, not the lack of knowledge or skills.

  • “What is in the environment that is preventing success for learners?”
  • “What is needed to support the learner?”

Communication or Direction or Leadership

Bad directions can lead to miscommunication. If the teacher doesn’t know where they are going, how will the learners know where they are meant to go? In this scenario the teacher won’t be able to communicate the goal. Therefore, students won’t be supported and may do something entirely different to what the teacher wants! This is not a learning issue.

  • “Are goals clearly communicated?”


  • Design for how people Learn; Julie Dirksen