Instructional Design Research Paper Starter

Instructional Design

The concept of Instructional Design was adopted as a means of organizing learning and providing objective-based methodologies for conveying knowledge. Instructional Design Theories and Models are still changing over time, as educational philosophies and current trends in modern education evolve. This article presents an overview of the concept of Instructional Design (ID) in American education, and provides further insights into specific aspects of Instructional Design such as the Behaviorist, Programmed Instruction, Constructivist and Direct Instruction approaches which are still used in some form today. Instructional Systems Design is used in technological, computer and industrial learning for training in the rapidly changing environments of the modern information age.

Keywords ADDIE Model; Behaviorism; Bloom's Taxonomy; Classical Conditioning; Constructivism; Dick and Carey Model; Instructional Design; Instructional Systems Design; Instructional Delivery System; Learning Models; Learning Objectives; Mastery Learning; Nine Events of Instruction; Operant Conditioning; Programmed Instruction; Reinforcement; Task analysis


Instructional Design can be defined as the systematic development of instructional specifications using learning theory to ensure the quality of instruction. It includes the analysis of learning needs and objectives and the development of a delivery system including instructional materials and activities to meet those objectives. Evaluation of all instruction and learner activities is central to the theory. Its main foundation is that of an objective-oriented model for managing the instructional process, which is rooted in theories that specify how high-quality instruction should be performed. A successful learning situation is one in which behavior goals are reached through mastery of a series of small steps or tasks which represent a larger objective. Each step or task is clearly defined and outcomes and activities are continually assessed to evaluate efficiency.

Instructional Design theory has evolved over many decades and consists of several different models which can be applied to many types of learning situations. As a discipline, Instructional Design developed slowly from the time of Plato and Socrates to the philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries. By the turn of the 20th century, the concepts of learning theory and educational psychology were beginning to take form in modern thought. The turmoil of the first half of the 20th century brought political and social changes which in turn encouraged new ways to look at the purpose and functions of our education system. By the 1950's, educational theories abounded, and Instructional Design was quickly adapted to many theories and models.

Theories that were used to approach Instructional Design were originally conceived in the military. During World War II, personnel had to be trained quickly and efficiently to perform their duties. Military researchers developed training films and corresponding programs to get the troops ready. The development of this task-oriented method of instructional technology spurred further research into the formulation of theoretical models of learning (Leigh, n.d.).

Influence of Behaviorism

The developers of early Instructional Design models were associated with the Behaviorist school of learning theory. Behaviorism looked at learning as a stimulus, response, and reinforcement process (S-R-R), first outlined by Ivan Pavlov's Classical Conditioning theory, and continued by B. F. Skinner. Such reactive behavior was documented in animals and adapted to human learning situations, positing that all behavior is explained by external events. The influence of Behaviorism on learning led to a form of Instructional Design that incorporated immediate feedback and reinforcement with drill and practice procedures and programmed instruction that allowed the learner to repeat tasks that were not performed correctly until they were mastered. Behavioral outcomes were directly connected to instruction systems.

The 1950's in America were characterized by a huge economic boom which followed World War II. The launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik triggered an education panic in the U.S., prompting politicians and educators to send large amounts of Federal money to research on education, especially concentrating on studies in cognition and instruction. In Universities around the country, theoretical models of learning were being developed by educational theorists and psychologists such as B. F. Skinner and Benjamin Bloom. Skinner's work in Operant Conditioning and Stimulus-Response-Reinforcement theory ultimately led to what is considered a first incarnation of Instructional Design, called Programmed Instruction (PI). PI emphasized formulating behavioral objectives, breaking down instructional content into smaller units and rewarding correct responses early and often. Benjamin Bloom's 1956 taxonomy of educational objectives (Bloom's Taxonomy) and theory of mastery learning formed the basis of a standardized design process introduced by Robert Glaser in 1962. Glaser's model linked learner analysis to the design and development of instruction. His 'instructional systems' assessed students' entry-level behavior to determine the extent to which they would learn needed objectives. This not only tested the learners, but tested the learning system as well.

Also in 1962, Robert Mager developed the idea of Learning or Behavioral Objectives. His central concept was that training needs should be analyzed and the learning goals (objectives) of the program be defined. Each objective should then be broken down into smaller tasks. Each behavioral objective should have three criteria: Behavior, Condition and Standard. In 1965 Robert Gagné introduced the Nine Events of Instruction, a series of distinct steps necessary for learning to occur. Gagné also introduced the concept of task analysis, previously used in military training, which broke each task to be mastered down to its most basic components, or subtasks. The theories of both of these scholars are still used today in modern Instructional Design systems.

Instructional Design in the Schools

During the 1960's and 1970's, Instructional Design in one form or another was widely adopted in the public schools as the most effective teaching process available. Robert Morgan and Leslie Briggs conducted several studies which demonstrated that an instructionally designed course could yield up to a 2:1 increase over conventionally designed courses in terms of achievement, reduction in variance, and reduction of time-to-completion. This was four times greater than that of a control group which received no training. New teachers were extensively trained in Instructional Design, primarily with the Behaviorist approach.

Instructional Design models flourished in the 1970's and into the 1980's, with many researchers contributing to the field, such as Robert Branson and W. Dick and L. Carey. With the onset of the Information Age, many organizations established formal education and training departments to educate employees in the rapidly developing uses of computers and technology. Instructional Design programs proved effective and efficient in introducing employees to new technological methods and concepts and training them to perform the new skills needed.

Instructional Systems Design (ISD), as the field is now sometimes called, has become a significant tool in the computer and technology training fields, as well as in computer-aided education in the schools. It has also been adopted in one form or another in corporate training programs for technical and other employees. Today, the ADDIE Model of Instructional Systems Design is widely used in all forms of instruction, particularly web-based and on-line computer instruction. Second to ADDIE is the Dick and Carey Model of Instructional Design, although it has recently been criticized as rigid.

Since the 1990's, the models have moved away from the Behaviorist approach and adopted a Constructivist approach to creating learning environments with less formal structure and facilitated by teachers. These are based on the theory of Constructivism, which differs vastly from Behaviorism in that it...

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