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Instructional Design

At the completion of this section, you should be able to:

Begin by viewing the class presentation in Vimeo. Then, read each of the sections of this page.

Explore each of the following topics on this page:


Approaches to Instructional Design

Discussion in libraryInstructional design involves the development, implementation, evaluation, and maintenance of all types of learning environments.

Specifically, instructional design is the systematic process of creating instructional specifications based on theories of learning and instruction.

To ensure high quality instruction, designers carefully analyze learning needs and identify instructional goals, then create delivery systems, materials, and evaluation tools to address those needs.

Early thinkers like Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato described the process of acquisition of knowledge. In the 20th century, educational psychologists developed theories of teaching, learning, and instruction. During World War II, military trainers began taking a systemic approach to designing and evaluating instruction.

Library of Congress, library of congress

Benjamin Bloom developed a taxonomy of intellectual behaviors in the 1950s that could be used to select the content most appropriate for a particular need.

Robert Glaser introduced the concept of instructional design in 1962 focusing on the connection between learner analysis and the development of learner-specific instruction.

Robert Mager suggested that measurable objectives be identified as a guide for designing instruction.

Robert Gagne described five domains of learning outcomes and nine events of instruction.

thinking child with teacher

Many models for instructional system design were developed during the 1970s and 1980s. During the past couple decades, many educational technologists have developed theories related to instructional design.

Charles Reigeluth introduced Elaboration Theory in the late 1970s to describe the importance of organizing content in order from simple to complex. He also stressed the importance of providing a meaningful context for learning. His theory stresses a holistic sequence of instruction fostering meaning-making and motivation, involving learners in scope and sequence decisions during learning, and facilitating rapid prototyping of materials.

ARCSJohn Keller described the ARCS Model of Motivational Design.

The four step ARCS model stresses the importance of promoting and sustaining motivation in the learning process.


try itWatch and Try It!
View Planning for Instruction (5:59).

In this video, Annette Lamb discusses the planning process: learner, what you want them to do, standards fit, resources collection, learning environment, technology & learning standards, assessment. – Excerpt from “Integrating Technology in the Curriculum”, Canter & Associates

Think about how you would plan instruction. What steps would you take to create instructional materials and plan the learning experience? Why is planning important?

Instructional Design Models

planModels help instructional designers structure content and organize the process into manageable chunks. Hundreds of models have been created over the past several decades.

According to Gustafson and Branch (1997, 73),

"the role of models in instructional development is to provide conceptual and communication tools that can be used to visualize, direct, and manage processes for generating episodes of guided learning."

Let's explore a few of the more popular models.

ADDIE: Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate

The ADDIE model is a common tool for instructional designers. This generic, five-phase approach has been adapted and refined by many other designers. Although there are many variations, the model has five basic phases that feed from one step to the next.

Fox and Doherty (2012) applied the ADDIE approach to the design of platform-independent podcasts to increase student information literacy competency. The developers learned three lessons when using ADDIE to design podcasts:

Cuddy (2012, 96) used the ADDIE model to design bibliographic instruction at the Weill Cornell Medical Library. She found that

"The ADDIE model is an iterative process that librarians can utilize in their bibliographic instruction development to create focused, learner-centered instruction that measurably both the librarian and the student learning goals and objectives."

Read Using instructional design principles to develop effective information literacy instruction: The ADDIE model by Angiah L. Davis (2013).



Developed by Robert Heinich and Michael Molenda decades ago, the ASSURE model gained popularity because of its use in a popular textbook for educators.

While focusing on the needs of learners, the model places emphasis on lesson planning and use of technology. The model contains the following steps:

Backward Design

For school librarians, it's particularly important to be able to design instruction known as "backward design".

Wiggins and McTighe developed what they call "backward design". This approach begins with learning outcomes and ends with the design of activities. It focuses on creating a clear goal for educators to use in planning. This model gained popularly in the early 2000s.

The model includes the following steps.

  1. Identify desired results - content and skill goals
    • What should participants hear, read, view, explore or otherwise encounter?
    • What knowledge and skills should participants master?
    • What are big ideas and important understandings participants should retain?
  2. Determine acceptable evidence - assessments
  3. Plan learning experiences and instruction - activities matched to assessments

To learn more, go to the the Understanding by Design website from ASCD. Explore the basics of this approach.

Read Understanding by Design: Overview of UBD & Design Template by Grant Wiggins.

Read Design to learn, learn to design: using backward design for information literacy instruction by Bruce Fox and John Doherty. Notice how the approach has been applied to information literacy.

Dick and Carey Model

Originally published in 1978, Walter Dick and Lou Carey developed a comprehensive model of instructional design that continues to be used by professional designers.

The image below shows the recursive nature of the Dick and Carey model.

Click the image below to view the model.

Dick and Carey


Kemp's Model

Jerold Kemp created an instructional design model that was later enhanced by Ross and Kemp. The model contains nine components.

  1. Identify instructional problems, and specify goals for designing an instructional program.
  2. Examine learner characteristics that should receive attention during planning.
  3. Identify subject content, and analyze task components related to stated goals and purposes.
  4. State instructional objectives for the learner.
  5. Sequence content within each instructional unit for logical learning.
  6. Design instructional strategies so that each learner can master the objectives.
  7. Plan the instructional message and delivery.
  8. Develop evaluation instruments to assess objectives.
  9. Select resources to support instruction and learning activities.

Other Models

Many other models exist. A few are listed below:

try itTry It!
Select one model to explore in-depth using the resources at the bottom of the page or through online searches.
Then, compare this model with another approach. Create a chart visualizing your comparison.
What are the major components that are shared by each approach? In what areas are they different?
Which model do you prefer? Why?


The Instructional Design Process

The online materials for this course roughly follow the instructional design process as proposed in the models above. It's ultimately up to each student to select the model or approach that works best for their particular instructional situation.

id planning

While many instructional design models appear to be linear in nature, most users understand the importance of revisiting steps and refining materials during the process. Rather than going through a series of steps to completion, real-world designers use a recursive process that allows them to make changes as their go.

Rapid prototyping has become a common practice associated with instructional design. The iterative process involves creating and evaluating a series of prototypes to build increasingly refined instructional products.

try itTry It!
Reflect on the instructional design process.
What do you think are the most importance aspects of a systematic design for instruction?
As you work your way through the course materials, develop your own instructional design model that best fits your professional needs.



Cuddy, Colleen & Reinbold (2012). Using the ADDIE model in desiging bibliographic instruction. MLA '12 Abstracts.

Dick, Walt, Carey, Lou, and Carey, James O. (2011). The Systematic Design of Instruction. Seventh Edition. Pearson.

Fox, Bruce E. & Doherty, John, J. (2012). Design to learn, learn to design: using backward design for information literacy instruction. Communications in Information Literacy, 5(2).

Gagne, R.M. (1987). Instructional Technology: Foundations. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Gustafson, K. and Branch, R. (1997) Revisioning Models of Instructional Development. Educational Technology Research and Development, 45(3), 73-89.

Keller, J. M. (1987). Development and use of the ARCS model of motivational design. Journal of Instructional Development, 10(3), 2-10.

Keller, John. ARCS Model Website.

Kemp, J. (1977) Instructional Design: A plan for unit and course development. Fearon-Pitman Pub.

Koechlin, Carol & Zwaan, Sandi (October 2002). Focus on understanding. Teacher Librarian, 30(1), 8-14.

Leshin, C. B., Pollock, J., & Reigeluth, C. M. (1992). Instructional Design Strategies and Tactics. Education Technology Publications.

Morrison, G. R., Ross, M. S., & Kemp, J. E. (2004). Designing Effective Instruction. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley & Sons.

Reigeluth, C. (1987). Instructional Design Theories in Action. Erlbaum Associates.

Silvem, L.C. (1965). Basic Analysis. Education and Training Consultants Company.

Smaldino, Sharon E., Lowther, and Deborah L., Russell (2011). Instructional Technology and Media for Learning. 10th Edition. Prentice Hall.

Smith, P.L., & Ragan, T.J. (1993). Instructional Design. Macmillan.

Wiggins, Grant & McTighe, Jay (1998). Understanding by Design.


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