Saturday, January 30, 2010

What Is Instructional Design?

It’s Saturday night, and I’m reading an ID book. Just because.

Instructional-Design Theories and Models: An Overview of their Current Status, edited by Charles M. Reigeluth, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1983.

[I ordered it used a few weeks ago.  When I opened the package on Friday, the nostalgic aroma of the library stacks hit me.  Oh how I love the smell of books!]

Consider the following my highlights and margin notes on the first chapter. 

Instructional design, defined:

“The discipline of instructional design is concerned primarily with prescribing optimal methods of instruction to bring about desired changes in student knowledge and skills.”  (p.4) (my emphasis in bold italics)

Instructional Design is “a ‘linking science’ between learning theory and educational practice.” (p. 5)

Curriculum vs. instruction:

“curriculum is concerned primarily with what to teach, whereas instruction is concerned primarily with how to teach.” (p. 6)

What does an ID do?

“Instructional scientists want to determine when different methods should be used – they want to discover principles of instruction – so that they can prescribe optimal methods.” (p. 12)

Understanding the difference between theories of instructional design and theories of learning:

Theory of ID focuses on methods of instruction – what the teacher does; theory of learning focuses on the learning process – what happens to the learner. 

“…much of what is called instructional theory is really learning theory.  Instructional-design theory is relatively easy to apply in the classroom because it spells out methods of instruction.  Learning theory is usually difficult to apply in the classroom because it does not spell out methods of instruction; at best it spells out ‘conditions of learning’” (p. 23) 

This is my aside:

Very interesting to read an almost 30 year old book.  In the intro Reigeluth talks about the 25-year old field of instructional design.  30 years later many things have changed, but probably not as much as one might have hoped…??

Have you read this book? 


Harold Jarche said...

Ah yes, I remember it well. Back in the days when I thought that good instruction was all that we needed. But the more I learn, the less I know.

Neil Lasher said...

I love this book. As he says. Anything we do to help someone learn is Instructional Design. Harold, you are so right too.

Jane Bozarth said...

Yes, read it, loved it, but get this: I have a master's degree in Training & Development/Technology in Training and a doctorate in Training & Development/Adult Education. The Reigeluth book was the assigned textbook for an elective course -- outside the T&D program. Back to our conversation about the problems with grad programs in training and instructional design...

(PS: For those who haven't seen it, you can get a good taste of the book at )

gminks said...

I read it too (for class).s I think its one of the ones I kept.

Unknown said...

Ha! I just found a print out of a Lunch and Learn presentation that I did in 2003 titled "What is Instructional Design?" for a company that had hired me but no one knew what the heck it was that I did. (I'm thinking of recreating the slides to share on my blog for some giggles.) This book is an oldie but a goodie...definitely on the list of good ID foundations!

Unknown said...

I love the "green book." I used it extensively in my grad program at Nova Southeastern U. It is one of those books that gets better with each chapter and each time you pick it up. Legendary ID folks are chapter contributors.

kelly_smith01 said...

I have a familiarity with this book, but have greater familiarity with Reigeluth’s “Instructional Theories in Action” (1987). The author describes this book as simpler and more concrete than “Instruction Design Theories and Models.” In “Instructional Theories in Action” Reigeluth includes descriptions of each theory by the originator(s) of the theory (except for Gagne and Briggs) and a lesson developed using the corresponding theory.
It is a nice approach which includes concrete examples. However, the example lessons (a variation on how to use a microscope) do not address a performance-based issue.
I love the “description – application” approach and continue to refer to “Instructional Theories in Action.”

Allison Rossett said...

Green book or red book or no book. What makes ID ID?

• Theory drives practice. There are reasons for the decisions that are made, and those decisions come from the literature, best practices and positive deviants regarding learning, communications, technology and culture.

• Data direct decisions. Instructional designers make decisions based on data from
many sources, including clients, job incumbents, the literature, participation, and
error rates. Data focus attention, with output from one phase of the effort enlightening subsequent actions and decisions. Data is also gathered to examine individual and program efficacy and to continuously improve. Complacency is bad.

• Causes count. Once the mission is scoped, instructional designers want to know why? Why are appraisal forms flawed? Why is line 7 filled out inconsistently? Why do they not persist? Is it that they don’t know how or that they don’t think it’s worth doing or that doing it results in a hassle? Why does the group in Belgium do it, when the group in Boston doesn’t?

• Instruction is good, but not sufficient. Wise instructional designers ask questions
about causes in order to tailor solution systems. The system might involve statements of expectations, challenges and tasks, self-assessment, scenario-based elearning, performance support, a blog and an e-coach. The next effort might look totally different. It depends.

• Outcomes are king. While there is disagreement from constructivists about how very
royal outcomes are, most instructional designers are keen on outcomes, favoring the loose or tight, the grand or petite.
• More voices add value. Cross-disciplinary teams, with content experts, programmers, artists, users, and clients, join instructional designers to create programs.

What did I forget? What is the essence of ID, the essence we admire?

Tex Brieger said...

Well, I have the Second Edition (green book) from 1999 and that is a great book. Reigeluth has really helped me keep things straight and how it all connects. Obviously the second one is more updated. It's really informed my design projects. But I do think things have changed and that's a great connection to the famous ADDIE debate.

Mark said...

Great book! So much useful information. Its one of those books you just keep coming back to. You need to get your hands on volume 2 from 1999 now - excellent stuff in that too!

Geoff Cain said...

I like that instruction is something that can be applied like an ointment or a baseball bat.

Cammy Bean said...

On February 26th, we'll be interviewing Reigeluth on the EdTechTalk Instructional Design Live show.

The focus of the conversation will be key issues for designing instruction for the Information-Age paradigm of instruction. Should be interesting! Instructional Design Live is every Friday at noon EST.