Critique of Design Models

In this article, I will analyze two ID models (Agile and Critical ID models) in terms of aspects such as origins, principles, pros and cons, and applications.

The Agile Design is developed by Agile Alliance in 2001, based on the principles of Embracing change to deliver customer value, delivering learning processes and platforms frequently, human centric, technical excellence, and collaboration with business people (Sidky & Arthur, 2008). The assumption of the model is to help knowledge workers to deal with new challenges and conditions in a VUCA environment, which means volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (Adamson, 2012). As for the question how the model fits within the continuum of innovation, the model doesn’t simply impart knowledge or skills to learners, but to teach them the managerial skills to deal with knowledge. Students cultivated in this model will have the ability and critical judgement to search, scrutinize, evaluate legions of resources available online, and then can learn to tackle problems in the real world (Bates, 2015).

The key advantage of agile design is adaptability to different situations in which it operates. It responses instantly to students’ feedbacks during a course and makes adjustment accordingly. The differences between to the agile model and its counterparts is describe as a jazz combo to a big band (Bates, 2015). Another benefit is the accessibility of courses. Agile courses are open to diversified learners rather than registered students, such as training sessions in YouTube available to anyone interested in the topic. Nevertheless, the above benefits can be also considered from a negative angle. One apprehension may be the course content being misguided by students. As mentioned before, the contents are influenced by feedbacks of learners over the course, the discussion during the course might be involved in sensitive topics (e.g. politics, religions, etc.) if not well controlled. To make things worse, the openness to the public online may exert undesired repercussions. One example regarding this is from my personal experience of an open course on different ways of thinking between children China and Canadian. The topic transformed from academic field to political debate when some students introduced the political influence in relation to democracy and autocracy on younger generations. The problem might have been avoided should it be designed in a less agile and open model.

The other ID model analyzed in this article is the Critical Instructional Design, which was proposed by Sean Morris in 2016, the Director of Digital Pedagogy Lab. Rather than an iteration of traditional instructional design based on behaviorism or the ideologies of B. F. Skinner, the principle of the Critical Instructional Design stems from the philosophy of Paulo Freire and its contemporary counterparts, namely Howard Rheingold, Audrey Watters, Henry Giroux, bell hooks, and Jesse Stommel (S. Morris, n.d.).

The target learner in this model are students of all backgrounds, particularly groups such as minority groups (e.g. people of color, aboriginal students), LGBTQ folk, people with disabilities, etc. The model aims to cultivate practical capabilities such as job-related skills and mentality; these qualities are more prioritized in their future roles as an informed member of society (Aronowitz, 2015)

As for the question how the model fit within the continuum of innovation, the model doesn’t iterate the methodologies employed by other instructional designs; Rather, it follows a concept derived from Zen – to have “beginner’s mind” , meaning educators eradicate their stereotype of theories and preferred pedagogies, but explore a new method to re-approach the understanding of teaching, materials, and digital environment.

Its benefits include stimulating innovation of digital pedagogy (not limited to a set of supposed best solutioins), greater freedom to explore alternative pedagogies – it encourage a culture of questioning, which I see ass the key contribution to the understanding of innovation. It helps practitioners go out of their entrenched perception of distant learning and look for new answers. Likewise, the culture of questioning also changes the forms of students’ self-and social recognition, forming a space of translation between the private and the public. Nevertheless, the supposed new possibility may lead to risks caused by uncertainty. One apprehension is about the jeopardy of privacy online, given that the new learning activities will go beyond the surveillance of Learning Management System (LMS) and extend into students’ online life (M. Morris, 2018).

One case of using the Critical model can also be seen from my experience of an online course of Chinese speaking, where my methods align with the Critical design. I let myself go out of the normal way of simply ingraining knowledge into students, thus, but questioning the problems in existing material relative to students’ feedback and adjust content and tools to meet discrete needs of individual student, which is highlighted by the critical design as respect and care for students.

The implications of both models for practice is to transform traditional instructional design to an innovated measures share the same characteristics – to let me question the existing principles based on positivist and empirical knowledge, but to explore alternative strategies to achieve innovation.


Adamson, C. (2012) Learning in a VUCA world, Online Educa Berlin News Portal,

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Aronowitz, S. (2015). Against Schooling: For an Education That Matters (1st ed). Routledge.

Bates, T. (2015). Chapter 4.7 ‘Agile’ Design: flexible designs for learning. In Teaching in the digital age.

Kent, B., Mike, B., Arie, B., Alistair, C., Ward, C., Martin, F., James, G., Jim, H., Andrew, H., Ron, J., Jon, K., Brian, M., Robert, M., Steve, M., Ken, S., Jeff, S., & Dave, T. (2001). Manifesto for Agile software development.

Morris, M. (2018). Critical Instructional Design. In An Urgency of Teachers.

Morris, S. (n.d.).

Sidky, A., & Arthur, J. D. (2008). Value-driven agile adoption: Improving an organization’s software development approach. SoMeT_08 – The 7th International Conference on Software Methodologies, Tools and Techniques.

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Eric Yu is a dynamic English Second Language Instructor in the areas of distant learning. He holds a Bachelor degree from the Shanghai International Studies University and is currently studying in the MS degree from Royal Roads University in Victoria, BC, Canada. Since moving to Canada in 2011, he acclimated himself to the local anculture, and quickly built a cross nation online learning practice, getting involved in IELTS teaching and other online training projects between China and Canada. Eric Yu currently lives in Shanghai, China and work as the team leader of online after-school education in Global Eduation of Puxin Limited. He loves music and is fascinated to search for rare CDs and LPs of rock and jazz musicians in 1960s. Eric Yu has performed well in a diverse range of team environments, from every corner of the world. He lives in Shanghai, China but travels around the world frequently both for work and leisure.

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