There is a growing chorus of critics who cite that there is a dearth of empirical evidence to support the overall instructional design model. Practitioners, particularly agile enthusiasts like myself, are increasingly wary of heavyweight process and design models that proscribe methods tools and deliverables.
Academic research on the effectiveness of instructional design is scant at best.
The fact is that the experimental research in the field has consistently produced inconsistent and conflicting results. There is a relative dearth of empirical evidence that supports the use of instructional design in general and ADDIE in particular.
Why is there a lack of clear empirical data?
I think the reason is that there so many variables that contribute to human performance that is difficult at best to say that an instructional intervention is the casual factor of successful performance improvement.
Culture, whether in the workplace or the schools is at the center of the “performance architecture” and there are just so many other factors that contribute including motivation, structure, environment and learning. Vision, values, beliefs and management practices are all factors in the equation as well. Instructional design in general is just one factor that can contribute to improving performance.
At its core instructional design is a system of procedures for developing education and training programs in a consistent and reliable fashion. It is a complex process that is creative, active and iterative. Instructional designers believe that the use of systematic design procedures can make instruction more effective, efficient, and relevant than less rigorous approaches to planning instruction.
I think the key term for the question at hand is that we “believe” that ISD makes us more efficient and effective; however the harshest critics continue to point to the lack of empirical evidence as proof that there is a lack of rigor or that no process really “works”. That ignores a lot of experience by a lot of great practitioners who can point to a level of success.
Academics and practitioners have been charged with having an agenda to turn training from an art into a science. Some have even claimed that the ultimate goal of ISD was to devise a technology out of what is essentially an art-form. Garry Rummler has stated, “the beginning of the end was when universities developed curricula to produce Ph.D.s in ISD. The whole thing became process-driven rather than results driven”.
That’s an awful lot of blame to lay at the feet of the academic side of the discipline and I take issue with that somewhat. Do we need better models? Absolutely! But no one is holding a gun to the head of every practitioner out there and forcing them to use a prescriptive process.
Next blog: If used as directed, does ADDIE produce inherently bad solutions?