What is instructional design? I like this definition by the Association for Education Communications and Technology: (Seels and Richey, 1994)

The theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management and evaluation of processes and resources for learning.

Instructional design is a field that began in the 1950s and 1960s when the military needed to train mass amounts of people to use a variety of equipments.  It was based on the behaviourist theory of B.F. Skinner that learning occurred due to positive feedback for correct performance and correction for incorrect performance.  Later, another behaviourist, R. Gagné added to the model by saying that prior knowledge and motivation also contribute to learning.  He created his own model consisting of nine events that illustrate how external events influence internal events which produces learning.

The Addie model is traditionally, the most popular model used in instructional design which stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.  However, it is a linear model which means that teaching and learning happens in one direction.

John Bransford, a cognitive pyschologist, helped reshape instructional design in the late 1970s.  He agreed that learning is built on prior knowledge (constructivism).  However, he changed the way instructional designers built their models due to his emphasis on group learning and contextual practise.  These models are more flexible and recipricol than the previous ADDIE model.

What are the problems with instructional design? There are many models to choose from which some see as a pro but I see as a con because it can be confusing to decide which one to use.  Also, the models seem to try to fit a square peg into a round hole.  I mean that they don’t consider individual differences, ways of learning and experiences.  They are too structured and don’t allow for a teacher to stray from the path.  Often some of the best learning in a class happens spontaneously.

What does an instructional designer do?  (Tucker, 2007)

  • Work with Subject Matter Experts to identify what students need to learn
  • Develop objectives and ensure content matches those objectives
  • Revise and rewrite content to shape it for learning needs
  • Structure content and activities for student learning
  • Create media to support learning (e.g., visual aids for face-to-face, various multimedia for e-learning and online)
  • Develop assessments (note that this does not only mean tests)
  • Adapt instructional materials created for one format to another format (usually this is adapting materials from face-to-face to e-learning)

Tucker C. http://christytucker.wordpress.com/

Hill, J. R., Bichelmeyer, B. A., Boling, E., Gibbon, A. A., Grabowski, B. L., Osguthope, R. T., et al. (2004). Perspectives on significant issues facing instructional design and technology In M. Orey, M. A. Fitzgerald & R. M. Branch (Eds.), Educational media and technology yearbook 2004 (Vol. 29, pp. 23-43): Libraries Unlimited.

Seels, B. B. & Richey, R. C. (1994). Instructional technology: The definition and domains of the field. Bloomington, IN: Association for Educational Communications and Technology.

Wikipedia (2010).  Instructional Design. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instructional_design

Prestera G. (2002). Retrieved from http://www.effectperformance.com/sites/prestera/html/M4/L3%20-%20Change/M4L3P2.htm

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