Instructional design

From Academic Kids

Instructional design, also known as instructional systems design, is the analysis of learning needs and systematic development of instruction. Instructional designers often use instructional technology as a method for developing instruction. Instructional design models typically specify a method, that if followed will facilitate the transfer of knowledge, skills and attitude to the recipient or acquirer of the instruction.



Much of the foundation of the field of instructional design was laid in World War Two, when the U.S. military faced the need to rapidly train large numbers of people to perform complex technical tasks, from field-stripping a carbine to navigating across the ocean to building a bomber.

Drawing on the research and theories of B.F. Skinner on stimulus-response learning, training programs focused on observable behaviors. Tasks were broken down into subtasks, and each subtask treated as a separate learning goal. Training was designed to reward correct performance and remediate incorrect performance. Mastery was assumed to be possible for every learner, given enough repetition and feedback.

After the war, the success of the wartime training model was replicated in business and industrial training, and to a lesser extent in the primary and secondary classroom. In 1955 Benjamin Bloom published an influential taxonomy of what he termed the three domains of learning: Cognitive (what we know or think), Psychomotor (what we do, physically) and Affective (what we feel, or what attitudes we have). These taxonomies still influence the design of instruction.

In the 1960s, psychologist Jean Piaget studied the cognitive development of children, identifying several discrete phases they go through as they grow. Very young children are only able to process concrete, operational information; they are incapable of thinking abstractly, reflecting on the past, or projecting into the future. Older children develop these abilities over time.

In the 1970s Seymour Papert drew on Piaget's ideas to create LOGO, a simple computer-programming language that let children control the movement of a simulated turtle by giving it simple commands such as "forward 10 units" and "turn right 90 degrees."

Learning theories were influenced by the growth of digital computers in the 1960s and 1970s. Many models adopted an "information-processing" approach.

In the 1980s and 1990s the growing influence of postmodernism in academic culture began to be felt in instructional design with the rise of constructivist theories. Some of the more radical theorists rejected any notion that knowledge existed apart from an individual's experience, or that it could be transmitted from a "teacher" to a "student." Some hold that all knowledge is "socially constructed" and that there is no such thing as objective truth. Others merely allow that the learner is not a tabula rasa and comes to the lesson with a unique set of experiences, knowledge, skills, and attitudes; and that fact must influence the design of the lesson.

A counterpoint to constructivism came in the late 20th century with cognitive learning theory, which provides models based on research on how the human brain processes and stores information. One branch of cognitive learning theory that is gaining currency in the early 21st century is Cognitive Load Theory.

Influential researchers and theorists

Instructional design models

Perhaps the most common model used for creating instructional materials is the ADDIE Model. This acronym stands for the 5 phases contained in the model:

  • Analyze - analyze learner characteristics, task to be learned, etc.
  • Design - develop learning objectives, choose an instructional approach
  • Develop - create instructional or training materials
  • Implement - deliver or distribute the instructional materials
  • Evaluate - make sure the materials achieved the desired goals

Most of the current instructional design models are spin-offs or variations of the ADDIE model; other models include the Dick & Carey and Kemp ISD models. One commonly accepted improvement to this model is the use of rapid prototyping. This is the idea of receiving continual or formative feedback while instructional materials are being created. This model attempts to save time and money by catching problems while they are still easy to fix.

Instructional theories also play an important role in the design of instructional materials. Theories such as behaviorism, constructivism, social learning and cognitivism help shape and define the outcome of instructional materials.

See also

Since instructional design deals with creating useful instruction and instructional materials, there are many other areas that are related to the field of instructional design.

External links


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