The Basics of Instructional Design

This module contains the following sections:

  • Where, Why and When Did Instructional Design Come to Be?
  • How is the Field of Instructional Design Changing?
  • Understanding by Design (aka Backwards Design)
  • Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction

Where, Why and When Did Instructional Design Come to Be?

The history of contemporary instruction design demonstrates the use of a variety of models for essentially similar activities “the analysis of instructional problems, and the design, development, implementation and evaluation of instructional procedures and materials intended to solve those problems” (Reiser, 2001, p. 58).   Research about adult learning emerged as a field of study distinct from the pedagogy of teaching children after World War II.  The success of the development of training programs during World War II led to increased interest in psychologists to continue research in the science of learning and instruction (Reiser, 2001).  During the 1960s, a body of research on adult learning came was accumulated from a variety of fields including psychology, sociology and anthropology (Knowles, 1988).  Knowles defined andragogy originally as the “art and science of helping adults learn”; further along in his career he transformed his view to acknowledge that andragogy “is simply another model of assumptions about learners to be used alongside the pedagogical model of assumptions” (Knowles, 1988, p. 43).

The history of online learning in the U.S. follows a similar trajectory – originally rooted in behaviorism, then moving to cognitivism and constructivism (Hillen & Landis, 2014).  This transformation had implications for instructional design and the design process.  “The move away from defining learning as knowledge acquisition and organization to the development of functional skills and judgment has deepened what American scholars require of e-learning designers” (Hillen & Landis, 2014, p. 202).  Recent innovations in higher education in the U.S. include a focus on outcomes rather than information delivery, seat time, and knowledge transfer (Kelly & Hess, 2013).  This shift from inputs to outcomes follows the shift over time from behaviorism to constructivism, and from pedagogy to andragogy, and has implications for the learning process of both students and faculty.

Interested in learning more?  Find a snapshot version of some of the big names and theories in traditional instruction design here.   Note that more contemporary theories like connectivism and heutagogy are not included in that snapshot.

Confused by any of these terms?  Be sure to add them to your eLearning Glossary and look them up!  The format for the eLearning glossary is here, and the rubric for the eLearning Glossary is here.

Play icon indicating proceed to next pageNext, learn about the ADDIE methodology for instructional design and development.


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