What is an instructional design model?

Simply providing learners with a manual packed with information, which may or may not relate directly to their specific job, won’t help them learn. The information must be necessary, relevant and organised in a way that aids understanding and retention. That’s where an instructional design model can help.

An instructional design model is a framework to develop learning material, including elearning. It provides a starting point and method for ensuring that a course will address the needs of learners and meet the expectations of an organisation. It also helps instructional designers to visualise the training need and break down the process of designing the training into a series of steps – ensuring that a course addresses learning objectives and meet desired expectations.


Why use one?

One of the biggest reasons to use an instructional design model is to save time. From the outset it’ll be clear if the training is really needed and which parts can be left out. This will also answer the question ‘do I need this training or not?’

An instructional design model helps you see how much content you need and how much of it you currently have. Through using a model to analyse how employees currently do their job you can make sure the course includes only relevant content, making it as pertinent to the learners as possible.


Some well-known examples

Now we’ve looked at what instructional design models are and why they are useful, let’s take a look at some well-known examples, from the 1950s to the present day.


Bloom’s Taxonomy

In 1956, a committee chaired by Benjamin Bloom published a taxonomy which presented three domains of learning:

  • Cognitive – what a person knows or thinks
  • Psychomotor – what a person physically does
  • Affective – what a person feels; their attitude.

These domains are used to classify learning into levels of complexity and specificity. They help to structure learning objectives, assessments and activities. Bloom’s taxonomy still influences instructional design today, and has been the primary focus of most traditional education for over half a century.

instructional design model bloom


The Kirkpatrick Model

Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation model was originally created in 1959, and has undergone several updates and revisions since. It is a worldwide standard for evaluating the effectiveness of training, whether formal or informal, across four levels:

  1. Reaction – how do learners react to the training?
  2. Learning – did it increase a learner’s skills or knowledge?
  3. Behaviour – has the learner’s behaviour changed?
  4. Results – did the course have a positive impact on the organisation?

One of the benefits of the Kirkpatrick model is its adaptability. It can be implemented before, during and after the design and build stage. As a result, it helps illustrate the value of a course to an organisation.

instructional design model Kirkpatrick



The ADDIE Model

First introduced in 1975, the ADDIE model is probably the most well-known approach to creating learning solutions and still retains a high level of popularity amongst instructional designers and training developers.

The ADDIE model is a framework that provides a step-by-step guide to planning and creating a piece of training. ADDIE stands for:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

ADDIE is a methodical process. Therefore each step is dependent on the successful completion of the previous step. When one step is completed it’s time to move on to the next, meaning a course may go through several iterations at each stage.

instructional design model addie


The Dick and Carey Model

Developed in 1978, the Dick and Carey Model (or Systems Approach Model) focuses on how to make lesson plans using ten steps. All ten steps are connected, either directly or indirectly.

  1. Instructional goals – what do users need to learn?
  2. Instructional analysis – what skills do your users need in order to learn?
  3. Learner characteristics – what skills do users already have?
  4. Performance objectives – what will users be able to do by the end?
  5. Criterion-referenced test items – what must users be tested on?
  6. Instructional strategy – how will each section of the course work?
  7. Instructional materials – is everything that users need available?
  8. Formative evaluation – how did users react?
  9. Summative evaluation – what went well and what didn’t?
  10. Revise instruction – what needs changing?
instructional design model dick and carey



Action Mapping

Action mapping means stepping away from information and instead focusing on activities that lead to behavioural change. Created by Cathy Moore in 2008, action mapping asks what learners need to do, rather than what they need to know. It involves four steps:

  • Identify the business goal
  • Identify what people need to do to reach that goal
  • Design activities that help people practice each behaviour
  • Identify what people need to know to complete the activity.

A crucial part of action mapping is to use scenarios that mirror what learners need to do in the real world. Therefore they can fail in a safe environment and learn from their mistakes.



Finally there is SAM. SAM stands for Successive Approximation Model and is a form of rapid prototyping. Introduced in 2012 by Allen Interactions, it is an alternative to ADDIE that emphasises collaboration, efficiency and repetition.

SAM is a cyclical process consisting of small steps, and there are two versions to choose from depending on the needs of your project.

SAM 1 suits small projects. It is a design loop consisting of analysis/evaluation, design and development. You can use the loop as many times as necessary until you have what you’re looking for.

SAM 2 is for larger projects. It has three main phases:

  • Preparation – analysing your audience
  • Iterative design – collaborating to produce a working prototype
  • Iterative development – refining the prototype into a final piece of learning.
instructional design model sam

eLearning wiki


So this is just a selection of the many instructional design models out there. In the coming weeks, I’ll be looking into the pros and cons of each one in more detail. If you’d like to get into contact with us about your elearning needs, please email enquiries@gladsolutions.co.uk.  You can also follow us on Twitter.

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