This is a review of Performance-Based Lesson Mapping, by Guy W. Wallace, published in 2021.

Guy W. Wallace is a performance analyst and instructional architect. In 2010 Guy was the recipient of the Honorary Life Member Award from ISPI—the International Society for Performance Improvement — its highest award requiring unanimous approval by two successive boards — for his contributions to both the technology of Performance Improvement and his contributions to the Society. As an instructional systems design consultant, he has worked with over 80 clients since 1982. Guy served as ISPI’s president from 2002-2004.

The Book

Performance-Based Lesson Mapping is Guy Wallace’s 17th book on the design of training and performance support. Like all of his previous works, this is a very practical book written for those in the fields of instructional system design or learning experience design: people who want to know what to do and how to do it successfully. His methods scale from small projects to large, and are similar to design thinking and Agile.

Another reviewer describes Guy’s book as a “handbook for collaborating with key stakeholders to produce performance-based instructional activities.” The book is also an extensive guide to using facilitated group process to plot instructional activities into lesson maps, turning analysis data into modular curriculum development.

In my opinion, the best way to read this book is to follow Guy’s recommendation and read it straight through the first time, including the table of contents and all the appendices. As you go, use little stick-on flags to mark the places that seem most applicable to your situation and process. Then go back and re-read the flagged sections, keeping in mind Guy’s motto: “Adopt what you can and adapt the rest”. If reading the entire book straight through is not an approach you favor or if you are in a hurry, take Guy’s alternative recommendation and scan sections, chapters, and headers to target them for an in-depth follow-up review.

Why take either of these approaches? Every designer of instructional systems and instructional experiences is faced with a unique situation in a unique culture. Guy delivers a tremendous overview of what he has learned and taught over decades of practice in many organizations, and the reader must make decisions about what will work for that situation and culture.

Not that Guy is a culinary artist (he might be for all I know), but I compare Performance-Based Lesson Mapping to Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. There is a lot of detail in both books, every bit of it is there for a reason, and every bit of it will find a situation where it is called for, even if every bit of it will not be needed for every situation. If you don’t read the whole book through, you won’t know what treasures are in it. Guy makes the point that education is for creating knowledge and communication is for creating awareness; by reading everything, you will be expanding your knowledge and your awareness in ways that will make you a master designer.

This brings me to another reframing of something Guy says several times: “Performance competence is the ability to perform tasks to produce outputs to stakeholder requirements.” That sentence applies to the performance competence of instructional designers just as it does to the performance competence of those for whom they design training.

The Method

The heart of Guy’s book is Lesson Mapping, as it should be. Lesson mapping on the fly. He provides excellent advice, job aids, and forms that will ease your work, especially when you are working with stakeholders who want you to deal with high-stakes outcomes first. Every designer sooner or later has a client who uses a phrase about “analysis paralysis”, by which the client means the designer is to get on with designing what the client wants: a training program. Guy provides a sneaky way to deal with this, which he refers to as “passive-aggressive” use of the lesson map to simultaneously analyze and design a systematic way to produce performance competence. I laughed out loud when I read that. You will too.

In the heart of the book, Guy begins with getting the project off the ground and running with it. He quickly addresses the efforts needed to analyze, design, develop, and test the training (which includes performance support), and then how to revise, release, evaluate, and do continuous improvement. I am not going to give readers here the details of the book content, since there is no short path in 1,000 words to do that. A real plus is that Performance-Based Lesson Mapping does contain key parts of four of Guy’s other books so that the reader does not have to buy them to get the most from this one.

My recommendation

Everything in Performance-Based Lesson Mapping is intended to show you Guy's approach to creating instruction, including job aids and training. His motto is “Adopt and Adapt.” That applies to adopting and adapting his performance-based lesson maps to online formats, video, microlearning, serious games, extended reality, and any other innovations you may need for delivery. You, the reader, must figure out the “adapt” parts. The maps are there as a plan view to guide your efforts to support learners in developing performance competence: the ability to perform tasks to produce outputs to stakeholder requirements. I give readers my strong recommendation for Performance-Based Lesson Mapping, no matter what level of experience the readers have.