On a recent business trip, I was reminded that even though I live in the world of instructional design every day, how difficult the concept can be to explain to someone who doesn't. Here’s a breakdown of common processes and principles.
What is Instructional Design?
There are a number of definitions for instructional design with slight variations between them, but the description boils down to something like this:
Instructional Design: The process by which instruction is improved through the analysis of learning needs and systematic development of learning experiences. Instructional designers often use technology and multimedia as tools to enhance instruction.
According to this definition, instructional designers have two primary functions:
- To analyze learning needs.
- To systematically develop improved learning experiences.
We’ve discussed learning needs analysis in previous posts on this blog, so let’s focus on the second part of that definition. To systematically develop improved learning experiences, it is a significant help to apply a process or model that can be followed and counted on to produce a robust solution. There have been a number of instructional design models and processes defined through the years, but only a few have been widely accepted and implemented by most instructional design practitioners. Below are four instructional design models that I have used myself, and that I see cited consistently among my peers.
The ADDIE Model
ADDIE stands for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. These equate to a 5-phase process for developing instructional materials.
- Analyze: The instructional designer clarifies the problem to be addressed with an instructional intervention, defines the training need and conducts an extensive audience analysis to determine the instructional environment, pre-existing knowledge, skills and abilities, opportunities and constraints.
- Design: The instructional designer writes learning objectives and determines the instructional strategies that will be utilized to achieve those objectives. Decisions are made about how the instructional materials will look, feel, operate, and be delivered to the learner. Storyboards and elearning prototypes are created.
- Develop: Content is assembled and incorporated into the design to produce the instructional or performance support materials. Deliverable is reviewed for quality and revised.
- Implement: The finished course or performance support tool is rolled out to the intended audience and its impact is monitored.
- Evaluate: The instructional designer uses various methods to determine whether the course or performance support tool is delivering the expected results.
Bloom’s Taxonomy (Revised)
Bloom’s Taxonomy, revised in 2001 by Anderson and Krathwohl, defines the six levels of cognitive learning starting with the simplest at the bottom and moving up through the levels to the most complex, or deepest learning. As an instructional design framework, Bloom’s Taxonomy ensures that learners push through the lower levels of remembering and understanding new information, to being able to apply it, analyze it, evaluate its impact, and ultimately to solve unique problems by creating solutions that would not have been possible without the new knowledge.
Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction
Robert Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction is based on the behaviorist approach to learning. Gagne identified the metal conditions needed for learning in adults. He then created his Nine Events of Instruction to address the conditions of learning. The Nine Events of Instruction are:
- Gain the student’s attention. Emotional buy-in is the first step in laying the foundation for learning retention. This can be done by telling a story or asking a thought-provoking question.
- Inform students of the objectives. Establishes expectations for the course and criteria for measuring success or failure.
- Stimulate recall of prior learning. Leverages existing knowledge as a scaffold to incorporate new knowledge.
- Present the content. Use chunking for easy consumption of the content.
- Provide learner guidance. Supplement the content with case studies, activities, discussion questions and other instructional support materials.
- Elicit performance. Challenge learner’s activities that recall, utilize, and evaluate knowledge.
- Provide feedback. Use immediate feedback to reinforce knowledge
- Assess performance. Test learner knowledge against established criteria
- Enhance retention and transfer to job. Use content retention strategies to appropriate job aids to retain new knowledge.
Merrill’s Principles of Instruction
David Merrill’s 2002 First Principles of Instruction framework integrates five principles of learning.
- Task-centered principle: Learning starts with a real-world task or problem the learners can relate to.
- Activation principle: Activating the learner’s existing knowledge base helps them connect previous knowledge with the new knowledge.
- Demonstration principle: A course must demonstrate the knowledge in multiple ways (for example, both visually and through storytelling) so that it leverages different regions of the brain, and increases knowledge retention.
- Application principle: Learners must apply new information on their own and learn from their mistakes.
- Integration principle: Help to integrate the knowledge into the learner’s world through discussion, reflection, and/or presentation of new knowledge.
Each of the four instructional design models outlined above have strengths and weaknesses. Depending on the problem to be solved by creating a training solution, one of these models may be more appropriate than the others. Instructional designers should be quite familiar with these models and others to design and deliver quality training solutions.