What is Instructional Design?

Traces of it can be found in various branches of psychology, but instructional design is very much a theory on its own. The term refers to the process of enhancing the effectiveness, productivity and enjoyability of instruction in a range of forms. There are countless ways to do this, but the recommended approach is to base any decisions upon a person's own needs and preferences as a learner. Let's take a look at the theory of instructional design in more depth, and see the ways in which it is commonly practiced.

The first step to take in instructional design is to analyze the position of the learner prior to making any changes to how they are taught. Next, what the individual wants to to achieve through the changes must be defined, as these needs must be considered when constructing a plan.

Once the process is underway, the learner will usually require support of some description to help them make successful changes. Transforming the way you learn is a big step to take, but an effective move if done under expert supervision and the correct guidance.

For maximum success, an instructional system must be implemented. This incorporates the required resources for accurately executing the plan, and the approaches that should be taken to deliver the instruction. Creating a system like this is a vital part of instructional design.

Whilst all of this is going on, the needs of the person going through the process must always be kept in mind. Catering to the individual is the secret ingredient of instructional design. Of course, some ideas can be taken from what has worked with others in the past, but these must first be passed by the learner to check their compatibility.

Despite the need for flexibility, though, the vast majority of systems are based around some well-known models, of which the popular ADDIE system is probably the most widely-used.

ADDIE is an acronym for the five main stages of applying instructional design. In order, the letters stand for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate.

The first of these, Analyze, requires an in-depth analysis of what the learner needs to have for success. This encompasses their ability at the time, their learning preferences, and what it is they want to gain an improved understanding of.

Design and Develop are two closely linked stages, which demand task objectives to be drawn up and instructional systems prepared. Implement - the penultimate stage - is self-explanatory, and is the process of carrying out the plan using the previously-made learning materials.

After the plan has been carried out, it should be evaluated to see how well it met the objectives and requirements of the user. Questions such as 'what went well?' and 'what weaknesses were evident?' can be raised to look at the aspects of the plan that should be used again in the future, and equally, the elements that should be avoided and replaced by new, improved techniques.

With all of its proven successes considered, it's clear to see: instructional design really can help to revolutionize one's learning.