Saturday, September 8, 2012

To ADDIE or not to ADDIE?

I spent my earliest days as an instructional designer blissfully unaware of ADDIE or any other systems approach to ID. I asked questions, listened closely to the answers, thought on my feet and found my way, never missing the models I didn’t know existed. It’s not surprising, then, that I’ve never fallen in love with instructional design models the way some other designers have. In The Attack on ISD, Gordon & Zemke (2006) suggest that the heyday of the systems approach to instructional design has indeed passed, which led me to ponder these questions
  • What are the benefits of following ADDIE or any other ID model?
  •  Is there room for an instructional designer’s creativity and free thought when using an ID model?
  •  What role should ID models and instructional theory play in the daily work of an instructional designer?   
What are the benefits of following ADDIE or any other ID model?
I find ADDIE and other ID models most useful for framing the multitude of tasks involved in an instructional project, especially when working with people who lack a clear understanding of instructional design and the role of an ID. Outlining the main tenets of a model helps to clarify the overarching purpose and importance of instructional design, and introducing more specific detail as the project evolves demonstrates the validity and distinct function of instructional design.

Is there room for an instructional designer’s creativity when using an ID model?
There is if the designer has the motivation, skill, and confidence to take responsibility. Ultimately, it is incumbent on the instructional designer to ensure the fit between the instruction and the learners. “The professional challenge lies in the selection of the appropriate model or portions thereof that will be the best fit for the trainer, the training environment, the audience, and the content to be delivered,” (Cowell, Hopkins, McWhorter, & Jorden, 2006). In much the same way, physicians and other healthcare providers apply a standardized protocol to every patient contact, but the specific actions they select within that protocol are based on their determination of the best course of action, considering the interrelationship between the patient, the provider, the circumstance, the environment, and other relevant factors.

What role should ID models and instructional theory play in the daily work
of an instructional designer?
They should inform the designer’s approach to a project and facilitate the designer’s efforts to deliver the “right” instruction for the unique interrelationship between the learner, the environment, and the instructional objectives. “The professional trainer has the opportunity and the responsibility to select a model appropriate to the organization and learning needs of the audience for which the program is directed. In doing this it is common for professional trainers to select and meld those portions of various models that best fit their situations,” (Cowell, Hopkins, McWhorter, & Jorden, 2006).

One of the most important things I have learned as an ID is that models and theories are meant to be tools; the instructional designer is the artisan. The minute a designer surrenders control to their tools, the project begins to fail. I agree with Gordon & Zemke (2000) that “the harder you try to specify exactly what the designer must do in order to be ‘doing ISD’ the further into the wilderness you wander. That way lies madness.”

Cowell, C., Hopkins, P.C., McWhorter, R., & Jorden, D.L. (2006). Alternative training models. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 8(4), 460-475.

Gordon, J., & Zemke, R. (2000). The attack on ISD. Training, 37(4), 42-53


  1. As I have learned new concepts in various industries, I come across people who seem to have a talent for the skill. Sometimes they learned over time, and sometimes it came easily or natural to them.

    I propose that the same is true of Instructional Design. I have worked with IDs that follow the ADDIE model without knowing the acronym -- they just found over time that planning doing and evaluating are essential to reach quality.

    So should an ID use ADDIE? Often the five phases happen all at once, and experienced designers follow it intuitively.

  2. Really nice job! There are many people searching about instructional design ADDIE now they will find enough sources by your tips. Also looking forward for more tips about that