Is the instructional system design (ISD) model too slow to meet today’s business challenges? Is ADDIE Dead? Is there a better way to design performance interventions?
These are some of the questions that we occasionally wrestle with at TiER1. There is a healthy amount of research on this topic (a quick list of resources is listed at the bottom of the blog). But these are not merely academic debates. We are attempting to find better and faster ways to help our customers improve performance within their organizations.
I summarize the two sides of the debate in the first of four installments on the blog.
The defenders of the analysis, design, development, instruction and evaluation (ADDIE) model lay out some of the following arguments:
The systems approach to instructional systems design (ISD) has a long history of success and continues to be the best and most easily understood of any model that has been developed to enable effective instruction.
The ADDIE model in particular has come under a lot of scrutiny from practitioners and some scholars. Typically, those who are most negative about it provide little in the way of information or data to back up their claims or they point to some large failure that has been well publicized. This is an unfair and biased way of looking at ISD in general and the ADDIE model in particular.
If you look at the historical foundations of ISD it is a field that has always drawn from multiple disciplines, has been difficult to define and has never produced a unified theory of how to produce instruction. In fact, the ADDIE model itself is something that has grown organically within both the academy and amongst practitioners…there is no one ADDIE model that is the standard.
The model grew out of the military, in other words the original model was highly prescriptive and perhaps overly bureaucratic to begin with. The Interservice Procedures for IDS (IPISD) was adopted by the military as a way to standardize instruction across the branches of the military. That said, the field has developed a variety of instructional theories and perspectives that amount to a working theory.
Eclectic theory and practice is what underpins much of ISD: “Reasoned and validated theoretical eclectism has been a key strength of our field because no single theoretical base provides complete prescriptive principles for the entire design process” (Smith & Ragan, 1993).
Analysis, design, development, instruction and evaluation (ADDIE) are the standard of instructional design; however, there is a fundamental charge against ADDIE in general: it is too slow and clumsy (is because ADDIE is being misused or used in an unimaginative manner.
The defenders of ADDIE would say that by its very nature the ISD process is flexible. There are circular models that have evaluation at the center of the process, other models are profoundly simple or are organized around central themes for metaphors. At the end of the day the usability of any given model depends on clarity and completeness. The VALUE of the model depends on the suitability to your given situation.
No model has emerged that is as easily grasped and executed by the novice to intermediate practitioner than the systematic models of ISD as represented by ADDIE. Who could argue that instructional program development should NOT follow the Analyze, Design, Develop and Evaluate sequence?
Today’s training challenges are no different than yesterday’s – at least not in any truly meaningful way. Do organizations want better results that are also faster to implement…of course. But we do not have to throw away a proven and successful model because of the failure of a few to properly grasp and implement the model.
The skeptics of the analysis, design, development, instruction and evaluation (ADDIE) model lay out some of the following arguments about its ability to deliver timely and/or quality results:
ADDIE is being used in an overly linear fashion that slows down the process: it essentially follows a sequential waterfall model. Each step in the ADDIE model has to be completed before the next step can begin. It shares an orientation to overall project management methodology as embodied in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) that is the bible of Project Management International or PMI. This is a deeply flawed model for the development of instruction.
Using this process forces a linear progression: the outputs of the first step become the input of the second step. If an initial needs analysis takes one month longer than was scheduled, then the design process is on hold until the analysis is complete. Likewise, if the design step requires many modifications, the development step is further delayed. This contributes to the slowness of the traditional ADDIE model.
Waterfall methodology gathers all the requirements, then creates the design, then develops the course, then tests the course etc. Between each of these steps or phases are a series of review meetings. Stakeholders are invited to these meetings to review progress and provide input on whatever is being developed…basically asking the customer the fundamental question: is this what you really want?
Pity the customer who says no because what we are really saying is you better say yes or it is going to be very difficult and expensive for you to change your mind! We have to get out of this mindset and start developing the capability to develop smaller more complete slices of instruction that can be rapidly prototyped, changed on the fly and built in much smaller iterations or chunks.
We need to look to other disciplines such as software development, lean manufacturing and quality assurance protocols to drive efficiency AND instructional integrity. There is no reason why we can’t have both.
These models are what that some rebel practitioners who get it done day in and day out in field, are starting to work with. They have no choice or they will find themselves out of a job. Businesses, and increasingly schools, are results driven and not process driven. We need to start thinking backwards from the result and then determining what other strategies will best fit to get the job done.
Basically, the key culprit in the whole issue is that the analysis step has become overly complex and time consuming. By the time the audience and task analysis is complete the product or course has become redundant. This is incredibly frustrating and costly for clients and customers. Business opportunities have come and gone while we are still in our lockstep analysis phase.
So the question begs how are people using the model improperly?
Users of the model can make the mistake that every step and every sub-stage of the process must be carried out regardless of the situation. Some have compared it building the Brooklyn Bridge over a creek in Oklahoma. It was never meant to be the one-size fits all model – but from a lack of knowing how to approach instructional design, people have reverted to ADDIE as the one means of completing the task of instructional design.
Next blog: There’s no “there” there. Does ADDIE have any theory behind it?
Addison R., and Johsnon, M. (1997). The Building Blocks of performance. Business Executive 11:68, 3-5
Branson, R. K. (1991). Instructional Systems Development in the Military and Industry. L. Briggs, K. Gustafson & H. & Tillman (Eds.), (Chap. 14). New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications.
Carroll, J. M. (1990). The Nurnberg Funnel: Designing Minimalist Instruction for Practical Computer Skill. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Collins, A. (1991, September) The role of computer technology in restructuring schools. Phi Delta Kappan, 28 – 36.
Gordon, J., & Zemke, R. (2000, April). TheAttack on ISD. Training, 43-53.
Gustafson, K. L., Branch. (1997). Re-provisioning Models of Instructional Development. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 45(3), 73-89.
Merrill, M. D., Drake, L., Lacy, M. J., Pratt, J., & ID2_Research_Group. (1996). Reclaiming instructional design. Educational Technology, 36(5), 5-7.
Molenda, M.(2008). Historical foundations. In J. M. Spector, M. D. Merrill, J. V. Merriënboer, & M. P. Dirscoll (Eds.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (3rd ed.) (pp. 3-20). New York: Taylor & Francis Group.
Molenda, M., Pershing, J. A., & Reigeluth, C. M. (1996). Designing instructional systems. In R. L. Craig (Ed.), The ASTD training and development handbook 4th ed. (pp. 266-293). New York: McGraw-Hill.
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