LDT Blog: First Impressions of Human Performance Technology


This is my first blog post for the course EDCI 528: Human Performance Technology, looking forward to the rest of the term. I look at some definitions of human performance technology, how it might relate to the instructional design skills I already have, and how I might use it in my future career. I also discuss what I hope to gain from and contribute to the class this term.

Defining HPT

First of all, what is human performance technology? More importantly, what are humans? What is performance? What is technology?

That may be a strange way to put it. But after skimming through many definitions which made my head spin, I really appreciated the way the term is broken down in an article by O’Driscoll (2015):

A person waving.


It focuses on people.

A thumbs-up sign with stars


It focuses achievements that are of value.

A magnifying glass and a pencil writing in a book


It applies research and practical experience.

HPT and ID

I first heard the term “human performance technology” (HPT) when I started studying instructional design (ID). My understanding has been that HPT is adjacent to and interconnected with ID. In fact, looking generally at the International Society for Performance Improvements’ (ISPI) standards for HPT, most if not all of them are shared by ID. ID has the same focus on humans and technology. The difference in the two fields seems to lie in the “performance” part.

That article by O’Driscoll (2015) traces out the development of HPT from the same behaviorist roots as ID, explaining that HPT came about as a generalization of ID to catch all the (very many) cases where training is not the solution. In other words, O’Driscoll says that ID is a subset of HPT.

In practice, I think their relationship might look more like a Venn diagram, where people who work in HPT or in ID specialize in different areas. I hope to be able to update this rough sketch by the end of this course!

Venn diagram comparing HPT and ID, as outlined below.

Planning training or courses and creating job aids or other resources could all fall under both ID and HPT. In addition, both HPT and ID best practices include starting the job with a thorough analysis of the situation and ending with a systematic evaluation. So, I put all these things in the intersection in the diagram.

I get the impression that someone working in HPT is more likely to focus on the solutions outside of instruction, like restructuring a team or changing a reward system to make things more efficient. On the other hand, I think that someone in ID would dive more deeply into the details of a learning experience. But depending on the size of an organization, maybe one person would end up doing all of these!

Next term and beyond…

Though I have a lot to learn about HPT, I am less intimidated after this bit of exploration. I think that my experience with systemic thinking in ID will translate well to HPT and give a frame to compare these new ideas against. The processes seem to be similar to what I’ve done in previous courses and projects, only now they’ll be used in more than just instruction.

One challenge I anticipate is the corporate/business language I’m seeing in most HPT resources – I have absolutely no experience in this world. I hope that in our class discussions, I can help contribute to us understanding different applications of HPT ideas and how they can be used outside of the corporate world.

HPT seems to be a growing field, so it will be important to understand it for future work, whether I have to collaborate with an HPT specialist or take on some of these responsibilities myself. But even outside of that, I think that an instructional designer can learn a lot from HPT. We often try for a learner-centered, action-centered approach to make sure our work has value and isn’t just content for content’s sake. Studying HPT could help in this pursuit, and even give us more effective alternatives to simply creating more instructional content and hoping it will be useful.

So, those are a few of my thoughts on starting this new course. Will they be correct? Or will I sadly shake my head when I look back at this post in two months? Stay tuned for the next installment!


International Society for Performance Improvement. (n.d.). Human Performance Technology Standards. CPT Performance Standards. https://ispi.org/page/CPTStandards

O’Driscoll, T. (2015). Chronicling the emergence of human performance technology. Performance Improvement, 54(6), 34-47. https://doi.org/10.1002/pfi.21491

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