To properly administer education, the programs by which pieces of training are coursed through should be structured in a manner that fully engages learners and allows for new concepts to be absorbed and applied. This is why effective instructional design is at the heart of every worthwhile elearning project, accounting for the mental processes involved in retaining and relating knowledge and, in part, the structure of the program itself. These models can leverage, too, new technologies coming out of the evolution of LMS.
There are numerous instructional design models from which countless elearning products are patterned after. Selecting one can be a challenge since each of them has its own set of special features and a distinct approach to developing learning programs.
In light of that, this article tackles four of the most widely-used instructional design models, their key features, and their share of advantages and disadvantages. It also delves into the rationale behind each model and areas of learning that they touch on. By reading this article, educators and course developers will have at least four notable options for building and developing educational programs. They can also come up with their own models by leveraging the strong points of the four ones that the write-up covers.
4 Types of Instructional Design Models Table of Contents
- What is instructional design?
- Why use an instructional design model?
- ADDIE Model
- Merrill’s Principles of Instruction
- Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction
- Bloom’s Taxonomy
- How the Models Differ
What is Instructional Design?
Instructional design is the systematic process of creating and developing training and educational programs (Reiser & Dempsey, 2007), aiming to boost the retention of knowledge, promote the acquisition and application of new learnings, and enhance the engagement of learners (Clark, 2015). Psychology, education, and communications are the foundations upon which effective education courseware and training materials are underpinned (Purdue University, nd).
Ideally, before an educator or a courseware developer can come up with a training or educational program, the process of learning should be mapped out, with its various stages itemized. This has led to a wide range of instructional design models used today in offices and educational institutions. In all models, the stages of learning are identified and then sequenced in a manner that promotes the absorption and application of new concepts.
With its broad coverage, instructional design accounts for the training materials to be used, whether they are handouts and paper-based manuals or multimedia and elearning products, and the methods of learning leveraged to meet the learners’ academic or professional goals (Purdue University, nd).
Why Use an Instructional Design Model?
Instructional theory is about “how to help people learn better without losing the focus of how people learn” (Reigeluth, 1999, cited in Caliskan, 2010). And this precept is emphasized in all instructional design models. In using one, courseware developers gain a clear view of the intellectual foundations of a learning module. Rather than building the framework from scratch, they can base the course’s rationale and structure in accordance with the design suggested by an instructional model. They can also communicate the strategies behind the courses better (Gutierrez, 2018).
In addition, the organized approach of instructional design models allows the course development team to adjust and update courses without having too much trouble since all the lessons and activities are compartmentalized into various learning stages. Revisions are encouraged by some models throughout the course development process so that the final product will deliver the desired effects on learners. This flexibility and open-source framework bode well for learners who have to keep up with the steep learning curve in the fourth industrial revolution.
Furthermore, instructional design models consider the learning capacities of students as well as the psychological strategies involved in enhancing knowledge retention and learner engagement (Purdue University, nd). They can be adjusted to suit the preferences of educators and can be leveraged to quantify results across an academic course’s or training program’s every stage. Some models even include an evaluation stage where educators assess the performance of a course and apply the necessary adjustments to make them more effective.
According to Brown (2008 cited in Brown & Green, 2018), ‘‘Now, …rather than asking designers to make an already developed idea more attractive to consumers, companies are asking them to create ideas that better meet consumers’ needs and desires’’ (p. 86) An effective instructional design model does exactly that since it suggests an incisive approach to identifying those needs before recommending the most ideal actions to obtain them.
Source: GP Strategies 2019
ADDIE is an instructional design model most commonly used for training programs among instructors, software developers, and university principals (Trust & Pektas, 2018 cited in Yeh & Tseng 2019). The model presents a five-stage instructional design framework through the stages of analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation (Onguko et al., 2013), in that particular order. Also, it suggests revisions after every stage to minimize errors and foster continuous improvement (Quigley, 2019).
Before developing an instructional program, course developers are to analyze the current setting, be it in the office or a classroom. It starts with probing questions like “Who and how many are the learners?”, “Which areas have knowledge gaps?”, “How can those gaps be filled?”, “What is the timeframe of the course?”, “How much is the budget?”, and the like. The logistics should also be accounted for.
The goal of this phase is to clarify the issues faced by the organization as well as the objectives of the learning course to be developed (Mazhar, 2018).
After analyzing the situation, course developers will have to come up with the format of the program. They have to think of learning activities that bridge knowledge gaps, the media used for those activities, the order in which those activities will be administered, and the structure of the course (Apostolopoulos, 2018).
For instance, developers can determine the length of each lecture, the number of quizzes needed, the lessons that would require educational videos and those that necessitate face-to-face teaching, and the structure of the curriculum.
Before proceeding to the next stage, the development team has to analyze the course’s framework and then adjust it as needed.
This phase is all about putting the course design and the ideas behind it into action (Apostolopoulos, 2018). For courses with numerous components, it is advisable to create a storyboard so that the team has a point of reference through the course of development (Quigley, 2019). The curriculum is to be developed while its content is produced and arranged, as planned in the previous stage. The same goes for the course’s branding and design scheme, which includes the graphics, color patterns, and the layout of lectures and quizzes. Also, a page dedicated to collect student feedback about the course is added at the end of the program.
After developing the course, the next step is to check for grammatical and design errors. The effectiveness of the learning activities and the program as a whole will also be tested, with revisions performed as needed.
With the course developed and fully tested, applying it to learners comes as the next phase (Gutierrez, 2018). The program is uploaded to a learning management system (LMS) or delivered face-to-face based on what was planned in the previous stages. Since the course is new, scripts and cue cards might have to be prepared to help instructors in face-to-face lectures and discussions. The functions and links of the uploaded course are also checked for errors.
When everything’s ready, classes can finally be held. Learners are asked for feedback at the end of the course as they point out the program’s strengths and areas of improvement (Mazhar, 2018). This is instrumental in the succeeding phase.
Feedback analysis from students and members of the course development team is central to the Evaluation stage. In processing their comments, improvements can be made to the course. Further testing of the program may also be performed to identify new training requirements or a possible change in approach to the lessons (Quigley, 2019).
An evaluation report is prepared to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the program as well as recommend and quantify actionable changes if necessary.
- Versatile. The model is flexible enough to accommodate online, offline, and blended learning (Apostolopoulos, 2018).
- Widely accepted. Being commonly used for training programs (Trust & Pektas, 2018 cited in Yeh & Tseng 2019), this model has delivered results and is responsible for many of the effective learning materials on the market.
- Promotes analysis. With this model, course developers can assess the needs and performance of an educational course in nearly all of its stages (Apostolopoulos, 2018).
- Clear and simple. Categorizing activities is a straightforward process since the model only has five clearly defined phases (Quigley, 2019).
- Potentially costly and takes too much time to accomplish. Each of ADDIE’s stages is broad and may involve its share of consultations, so accomplishing all of them could cost a lot of time and money (Mazhar, 2018).
- Possibly dated. As 0ne of the earliest instructional design models, ADDIE has been the subject of discussions on its relevance as a model for modern training/educational programs (Gutierrez, 2018).
- Rigid structure. Broad as its phases may be, ADDIE strictly follows a linear structure. This could curtail ideas for its latter stages if the development team is following a rigid workflow (Mazhar, 2018).
Source: Flexible Learning Australia
Merrill’s Principles of Instruction
Founded by educational researcher David Merrill, this instructional design theory is described as a set of interrelated principles that can be used in a task or problem-centered cycle of instruction (Merrill, 2007 cited in Chin et al., 2015). In studying existing instructional design models, he realized that the most effective learning products or environments are those that involve the participant in five distinct phases of learning: problem-centered, activation, demonstration, application, and integration (Jghamou et al., 2019).
Merrill believes that using real-world problems to define a course’s objectives induces engagement among learners even before the operation level of the course (Greenwood, 2017). After all, they can relate to the theme and could be facing such problems themselves. Complex problems are usually formed from less complex concerns, thus Merrill suggests that simple problems should first be solved by learners before moving on to more complicated ones, which progressively increase in complexity (Greenwood, 2017).
Learners are believed to absorb more concepts and practices if they see them in action or observe how they function in the tangible realm (Pappas, 2017). For instance, instructional videos that demonstrate how the components of a machine work can be emulated by learners then applied in real-life. Observing a process also allows them to find areas for improvement and come up with solutions to streamline such.
When casually stating opinions, people have a tendency to invoke past experiences or thought processes to make their statements relatable. Merrill’s Application phase follows the same concept. Learners can grasp information if the new lessons are related to past subject matter or human experiences since their memory is triggered (Pappas, 2017). The gap between old and new concepts is bridged by memory.
The concepts learned from the course should be applied to concrete situations for them to be fully appreciated (Gutierrez, 2018). A possible approach to this is to have the learners perform exercises that require them to apply the theories they learned in various scenarios or problem cases. Group activities may be performed if the lessons call for collaborations among learners.
The knowledge and skills picked up from class or training should be transferable to different scenarios. At the most basic level, the course must demonstrate how its concepts apply to learners’ daily lives (Pappas, 2017). At the professional or academic level, showing how particular concepts and skills resolve concerns in the classroom or office could drive results.
- Increased engagement. This model, in theory, makes all lessons relatable to learners, boosting their engagement in the process.
- Focused on learning. Merrill’s Principles of Instruction target learners’ capacity to absorb and apply knowledge and were formulated with their success in mind (Merklein, nd).
- Versatile. Since this model focuses on relatability and transferability rather than suggesting course structures, it can be applied in conjunction with other models, especially those that do not cover much ground on learning strategies.
- Activates multiple intelligences. The model taps on various methods of learning, from hands-on exercises to relatable presentations of concepts (Kodani & Day, 2010).
- Promotes creativity. Learners are required to creatively solve problems based on what they have learned (Kodani & Day, 2010)
- Not fully applicable to all teaching styles. To fully roll out this model, the school or organization must afford ample time for exploration on the learners’ part. It may not work in a setting confined to the lecture and assessment format (Merklein, nd).
- Potentially bears a lot of requirements. This model could entail additional resources to conduct demonstrations and have students apply what they have learned (Kodani & Day, 2010).
Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction
Educational psychologist Robert Gagne developed positions that evolved into a theory that is based not only on the standards of behaviorists but also on cognitive theories and the theory of information processing (Domou & Kameas, 2016). His mode of instruction consists of a taxonomy of learning outcomes, conditions of learning, and nine events of instruction (Ullah et al. 2015). These nine events follow a design process that reflects a variety of learning situations, which is why this model is among the most used ones in the development of elearning products (Gutierrez, 2018).
Gain the Learners’ Attention
Catching the attention of learners, in the beginning, is essential for them to gain genuine interest in the course. The stimulus can come in the form of humor, a tidbit on current events, a thought-provoking question, or a controversial topic to have their minds latched on to the instructor (University of Florida, nd). This helps learners sustain their level of engagement through the more complex topics in the course.
Inform Learners of Objectives
With the learners engaged, the next step is to communicate to them the objectives of the course and the expected outcomes after completing it. These can include the required performance or outputs, the criteria of which will be discussed by the instructor (Northern Illinois University, nd), the importance of each goal, and how the learners will benefit from the course.
Stimulate Recall of Prior Learning
Some concepts are not easy to grasp, thus this instructional design model suggests that new lessons be connected to any of the ones previously discussed, which activates the learners’ long-term memory (DeBell, 2020). The integration of memory makes the information relatable and relevant, paving the way for knowledge absorption and retention. This means that the course developer will need to find pertinent connections between concepts in building a lesson plan.
Present the Content
This phase is where formal teaching takes place. Prior to conducting the lecture, the content must be arranged and distributed to various media, with the lessons that require instructors duly scheduled. In the case of elearning programs, adding photos, videos, and interactive features and activities can boost the engagement of learners, especially when dealing with complex lessons (DeBell, 2018). The items that can be leveraged when presenting content include articles, books, lectures, educational videos, written tests and exercises, group activities, and homework.
Provide Learner Guidance
Delivering lectures or making learners digest 0nline content is not an assurance that all the participants will fully grasp the ideas being presented. As such, mentoring is necessary to ensure that the learners will not build on an incorrect understanding of the lessons, which weakens their ability to solve problem cases (University of Florida, nd). This also increases the likelihood of learners scoring well in quizzes.
Repetition is a proven strategy for knowledge retention, and Gagne utilizes this method in this phase along with the stimulation of old knowledge (DeBell, 2020). In other words, this stage is where quizzes, culminating activities, graded recitations, role-playing, and individual and group presentations are administered. The point is to determine how much of the lessons were absorbed by the learners and if they can apply the concepts in various scenarios.
Through feedback, participants will know how much of the lessons they understood while instructors can identify if there are gaps in understanding that need to be addressed (Northern Illinois University, nd). Instructors can provide various forms of feedback, including immediate feedback, personalized feedback, comprehensive evaluations, and peer evaluations, among others.
This stage intends to ascertain if the expected outcomes listed earlier on the course objectives have been achieved (Northern Illinois University, nd). Post-tests may be conducted to assess the concept recall of learners. Course-wide assignments are likewise given. Afterward, assessments are performed.
Enhance Retention and Transfer to the Job
An effective educational program sees its participants apply the learned concepts to real-world situations. This can be achieved through interactive activities as well as solving problem cases using the concepts and skills learned from the course (DeBell, 2020, University of Florida, nd). Further discussions can likewise be performed should the transferability of knowledge remain unclear. Moreover, group activities are effective in simulating workplace scenarios.
- Comprehensive and organized. The extensive approach to instruction allows course developers to properly organize their thoughts and course objectives in assembling the curriculum (Corry, 1996).
- Fosters learner engagement. Participants are engaged from the start, which can carry over to the rest of the course.
- Provides a structural basis for courses. Although the exact names of a course’s stages are not explicitly stated, the nine steps represent the various areas a program should have (Northern Illinois University, nd).
- Can be used as a checklist. In creating a lesson plan or an elearning course, the nine events of instruction can function as a guide if the program is lacking in certain areas (DeBell, 2020).
- Adjustable stages. The phases can be molded to fit various workflows, teaching styles, and the participants’ pace of learning (Northern Illinois University, nd)
- Classification problems. Though most activities are easily slotted within the categories, some could fall under more than one classification, which causes confusion (Corry, 1996).
- Could be too systematic for some instructors. Even though the nine events are individually flexible, the model in its entirety might be too rigid for teachers who prefer to have a wider room for creativity in developing courses (Corry, 1996).
- May not be agreeable with some teaching styles. Instructors who do not subscribe to cognitive information processing, which deals with how information is stored in human memory, might have trouble using the model (Corry, 1996).
In the 1950s, Benjamin Bloom and several collaborators created a framework for categorizing education goals built on the importance of foundational knowledge (Armstrong, 2010 cited in Spence, 2019). They went on to revise and refine the model’s components each year until they came up with the final version in 1956. This taxonomy consisted of six levels (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation) (Bibi et al., 2020).
With each level lying in a continuum that represents an increasing degree of cognitive processing, the model appears as a pyramid; its lowest level (knowledge) representing the basic level of learning while the topmost layer (evaluation) is the most complex stage (Persaud, 2018).
In 2001, a team of psychologists and researchers spearheaded by a former student of Bloom’s, Lorin Anderson, revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (Forehand, 2011). They kept its hierarchical structure but replaced the tiers’ labels with verb-based ones, calling for action on the part of course developers. Now the model consists of Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating. Also, the use of verbs also extends to labeling the activities under each level (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001).
This resulted in a dynamic model that can be used for designing school curriculums, assessment tools, training programs, and elearning products (Clark, 2015; Persaud, 2018).
Remembering might be the most basic level of Bloom’s Taxonomy but it serves as the foundation of the model, from which deeper learning can commence (Persaud, 2018). This stage calls for learners to recall previously learned information or tap into previous experiences. Meanwhile, instructors are to relate new concepts to the recalled information so they are taken with familiarity.
To denote action, educators and course developers are advised to use verbs like choose, find, how, label, list, match, name, select, who, why, recall, and tell in labeling the tasks to be assigned (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). The learners need to remember concepts and elaborate on them on a topical level, but the demonstration of deeper understanding is reserved for the next stage.
To understand is to be able to fully expound on concepts, interpolate information in other bodies of knowledge, deduce results from given scenarios, and interpret sets of data (Clark, 2015). This phase gauges the level of understanding learners have over the information they recalled in the previous stage along with the new concepts introduced by instructors. Teachers can relay lessons while inserting analogies that denote information previously learned by the participants to make them relatable and easier to grasp.
The possible activities in this stage include classifying, comparing, contrasting, demonstrating, explaining, inferring, interpreting, outlining, summarizing, and translating (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001).
Upon gaining knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, learners have to apply the absorbed information in relevant situations, say, theoretical scenarios in an office or outside the classroom (Shabatura, 2013). Typically, students are asked to solve problems, whether through computations or by predicting outcomes, using the information they learned. The recommended activities for this stage are labeled as apply, build, choose, compute, develop, identify, solve, interview, plan, utilize, and organize, among others (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Clark, 2015).
Deconstructing meaty concepts is the key to effecting a deeper understanding of learners. In this phase, students have to break down big ideas and thoroughly examine each component, so much so that they can figure out how the whole concept works and how it applies outside of the theoretical realm (Clark, 2015). Compared to the Understanding phase, the level of knowledge acquired here is much deeper as learners can distinguish fact from fallacy and identify and expound on the so-called moving parts of concepts (Persaud, 2018).
The recommended activities for this stage include analyzing, examining, categorizing, classifying, comparing, dissecting, inspecting, listing, surveying, simplifying, dividing, differentiating, finding the motive, testing, and taking part in (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Persaud, 2018)
Upon analyzing concepts, learners are able to form their own opinions and theories on the subject matter and make critical judgments (Persaud, 2018). The solutions that they come up with are to be explained thoroughly and defended through essays and other written exercises. In some cases, they can be given a variety of possible solutions, and they have to choose the correct one, which will be defended with a mix of empirical evidence and justified opinions. Moreover, learners may be asked to critique generally accepted principles or theories, discuss their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to improve. They can even formulate their own principles if they are at a particularly high level of cognitive processing.
The activities advised for this stage include concluding, appraising, evaluating, estimating, defending, critiquing, judging, interpreting, supporting, measuring, proving, disproving, justifying, perceiving, and recommending (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001).
This stage is the culmination of everything that the participants have learned. They will have to come up with their own solutions based on what they have learned throughout the course (Persaud, 2018). In the office, learners may be required to develop a new system or framework of operations that could potentially be used by the company. In school, students could be asked to propose solutions better than what is being implemented by organizations or create company models that they may or may not pursue after graduation.
The recommended activities for this stage include building, changing, composing, constructing, creating, designing, developing, discussing, elaborating, modifying, proposing, theorizing, inventing, combining, and solving (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001).
- Effective in harnessing learners’ critical thinking skills. The taxonomy was designed to help students delve into concepts, break them down into various components, come up with solutions, and justify their assertions (London School of Management Education, 2019).
- Encourages action. The use of verbs implicitly suggests that the learners act on their assignments in a dynamic fashion.
- Clearly defined learning stages. Bloom’s Taxonomy clarifies which activities educators and course developers should include in each stage, simplifying the process of structuring learning programs (Forehand, 2011).
- Clearly defined objectives. Given the hierarchical structure of this model, the objectives for each stage of the learning process have already been identified (Forehand, 2011). Objectives for the course can be formulated with the stages’ aims in mind.
- Develops transferable knowledge and skills. Bloom’s Taxonomy has learners thoroughly understand concepts to the point that they can use them in situations outside of the learning space (Persaud, 2018).
- Rigid structure. Following the suggested workflow to a tee could be problematic for some teachers, particularly those who do not believe that learners should strictly follow the stages to imbibe lessons (Persaud, 2018).
- The lowest level might not be universal. Some educators believe that not everyone is privileged enough to have sufficient access to critical information, thus putting them at a disadvantage in the model’s “Remembering” tier (Berger, 2018).
- Does not encapsulate everyone’s learning process. According to Ron Berger (2018), chief academic officer of EL Education, understanding is achieved through the creation of things and the application of knowledge, not by following the taxonomy’s hierarchical model. He also stated that “no framework can match real life.”
How the Models Differ
An effective educational or instructional program does not only organize lessons and activities, it accounts for the cognitive process learners will ply through as well. Instructional design models serve as a basis for developing such, as they generally ascribe to the precept, “people learn better without losing the focus of how people learn (Reigeluth, 1999, cited in Caliskan, 2010).” The incisive approaches recommended by four of the most widely-used models aim to compartmentalize courses according to learner capacity and to reinforce the structural integrity of courses.
The ADDIE model is more centered on course structure than the learning process of learners, but it does imply the latter in the activities suggested per stage. As the most popular among all instructional design models (Treser, 2015), it is known for its versatility and simplicity as well as its focus on data gathering and continual revisions. It is not without its weaknesses, however, as it presents a rigid structure that potentially curtails the creativity of educators and course developers (Instructionaldesign.org, 2007). Nevertheless, one can draw inspiration from this approach even when leveraging a different model.
The other three models, on the other hand, either prioritize the learning process of participants over structural integrity or strike an ideal balance between the two. Merrill’s Principles of Instruction focuses on learner tasks across five stages of learning (Jghamou et al., 2019) while Bloom’s Taxonomy presses a specific cognitive process in which learners will develop critical thinking and transferable skills (Persaud, 2018). Both models stress the importance of memory in sustaining learner engagement and activate multiple intelligences. Picking one between the two revolves around which suggested learning process is more suitable to the type of learners who will participate and the nature of the subject matter to be taught.
Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction marries the approaches of the other three models in the sense that it suggests an exact learning process while building a course’s framework in its entirety (Gutierrez, 2018). It also reflects the key concepts of the other models, such as its focus on learner engagement, the development of critical thinking and transferable skills, and the relevance of memory (stock knowledge) in absorbing new information (DeBell, 2020). Meanwhile, its comprehensiveness allows it to function as a checklist for courses in development, potentially even those that use other models. This model is ideal for lengthy courses that carry numerous components with varying degrees of complexity.
No single model can definitively be declared as the best since they all present distinct processes that are more appropriate for certain learners and subjects than others. As such, what truly matters is suitability. A model that is agreeable on all counts for both educators and learners should be utilized.
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