No One Size Fits All: How Do You Choose An ID Model?

“Although there are multiple methods for piecing a puzzle together, some strategies are more efficient than others” (Moore, 2016, p. 425)

Throughout our Innovation, Design, and Learning Environments class, we have been exposed to a range of instructional design models and approaches in designing a learning environment. With so many models to choose from, it can feel overwhelming in determining which one would best fit the learning scenario in question. More well-known traditional models such as ADDIE, and Dick and Carey, have been criticized for their inflexibility and linear nature (Bates, 2014; Moore, 2016). Bates (2014) questioned the ADDIE Model for teaching in today’s digital environment which is fraught with VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous). Thomas (2010) argued the need for alternative models that move away from more traditional models that are inflexible and do not support active learning.

With an emphasis on designing learning environments, constructivists favor the use of learning over instruction (Thomas, 2010, p. 240). Constructivism focuses on inquiry learning and problem-based learning (Thomas, 2010). I gravitate toward a more constructivist learning environment design; however, in my current practice as a novice designer I am challenged by how to create such an environment. It’s a worthy challenge which stretches me, but I still find myself looking for some middle ground. A place where I can anchor my practice at this time, yet which enables me to provide some structure in the design process. The TAPPA Process (Moore, 2016) is one of those models which could provide that middle ground – at least for micro-instruction, for which it was intended. TAPPA (Target, Accomplishment, Past, Prototype, Artifact) claims to combine the best parts of ADDIE, Dick and Carey, Rapid Prototyping, and Backwards Design Models for a more agile and responsive process to design (Moore, 2016).

What seems appealing about TAPPA is this flexibility and its ability to leverage the strengths of the established instructional design models mentioned into a blended process. However, even this design has limitations and although it incorporates learner feedback, this doesn’t happen until the fourth stage (prototyping) because “learners are often unable to articulate exactly how they wish to receive instruction” (Moore, 2016, p. 431). That learners would need to express how they wish to receive instruction invites some reflection. Is the meaningful learning happening as a result of instruction or is it the use of what is being learned? In any case, the TAPPA Process provides an interesting and useful option to consider and given both strengths and limitations, it also reminds us that a one size fits all model does not exist.

I liken the process of choosing an instructional design model to that of deciding upon a learning theory – it is dependent upon the context. No single learning theory can best serve all learning contexts as it depends on the situation and the learner’s needs in that context. For more on this discussion, see my blog post on Learning Theories: Value Added for Instructional Design.

Recognizing that selecting an instructional design model is not easy, I am curious to know what factors influence you in choosing an model for your practice?


Bates, T. (2014, September 9). Is the ADDIE model appropriate for teaching in a digital age? [Blog post].

Moore, R. L. (2016). Developing distance education content using the TAPPA process. TechTrends60(5), 425–432.

Thomas, P. Y. (2010). Towards developing a web-based blended learning environment at the University of Botswana. (Doctoral dissertation, University of South Africa, Pretoria). Retrieved from

2 thoughts on “No One Size Fits All: How Do You Choose An ID Model?”

  1. Hi Mel,
    After reading your post you have shared similar struggles that I have had trying to identify which design model is the best for my own practice. In both a post on wrote on the ADDIE model (Bates, 2014) as well as a post I wrote on the TAPPA process (Moore, 2016) I agree with you that every model has its strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps it is more about trying to find a way to adapt a model and mold it to your own individual purpose, than it is about finding a rigid model to work for every purpose?
    In my own practice, although I have been tasked with building an entire program, I find I am more drawn to the TAPPA process. I prefer to take a large task and break it into smaller pieces. I also find that I prefer to work backwards by identifying the end goal, and then identifying how to get there.
    Similar to learning design, I feel like we will develop our own methods. Ertmer and Newby (2013) suggest “Each experience would serve to build on and adapt that which has been previously experienced and constructed.” Every experience will have an impact on future decisions. Perhaps the models should be used as a starting point, rather than a rigid format that cannot be changed

    Bates, T. (2014, September 9). Is the ADDIE model appropriate for teaching in a digital age? [Blog post].

    Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (2013). Behaviorism, cognitivism,constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43–71.

    Heck, T. (2018, November 19) Does it ADDIE up? [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

    Heck, T. (2019, January 7) How can you get where you want to go if you don’t have a destination? [Blog Post] Retrieved from

    Moore, R. L. (2016). Developing distance education content using the TAPPA process. TechTrends, 60(5), 425–432.

    1. Hi Tanya,

      I agree with your point that instructional design models can serve as a starting point to be adapted to the context and tweaked as needed rather than being used as a rigid structure. From the discussions around this topic, what stands out the most is the layering of factors around the learning context that will help guide this decision. I went back to Bates (2015) and reviewed his chapter on choosing teaching methods. Bates (2015) emphasized that in choosing an appropriate teaching method, we need to look at “the suitability of the method and/or design model for developing the knowledge and skills that learners will need in a digital age” (p. 168). Bates further elaborated that the type of teaching method we decide upon will develop knowledge and skills needed in today’s digital age.

      From my own experiences, I can see the value in different types of teaching methods and how they’ve influenced my learning journey and perhaps that is where my dilemma as a novice designer arises. Knowing that the design has the potential to negatively impact a learner’s experience, the struggle becomes how do I combine or choose a model that will maximize the learning environment. I am hopeful that with more experience, I will feel more confident about these decisions. At this stage, I find myself gravitating toward more structured approaches as a novice designer – probably because it gives me a false sense of security! I rediscovered Bates’ chart (p. 169) which presents a snapshot of key elements (epistemology, industrial vs digital types of learning, quality of learning and flexibility). It is a great starting point, especially as it can be adapted to represent criterion that is pertinent to the differing contexts we all work in. As we continue to move along in the program, I am going to adapt it to my context and see how it serves as a tool in helping to decide upon design models, or the mixing of them!


      Bates, A. W. (2015). Teaching in a digital age. BC Campus

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