The Revelation of Instructional Design

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

The Blind Expert

I was introduced to education by accident.  After being continuously employed in the broadcast industry in Winnipeg, Manitoba for ten years, I moved to London, Ontario for family reasons and found myself without work.  I spent a couple of months applying to every job that I felt I was qualified for, until I saw an opening as a “Broadcast Support Advisor” at Fanshawe College… a fairly ambiguous job title.  After reading the job description, which included mention of mentoring student broadcasters in the field of sales and promotions, I saw that it was something that I could do and applied.  Upon getting the job, I quickly learned that it was far more than mere mentorship, and that I was a teacher of sorts.  After about a year, upon realizing that I wasn’t completely incompetent, my employers asked if I would like to teach a course on marketing and then it was official… I was an educator… and have been now for eight years.  So, my introduction into teaching wasn’t something that I pursued and I basically fell backwards into it.  Something that surprised me… I love it.  Something that’s less surprising… I didn’t know what I was doing.  My recent time spent pursuing a master’s program in learning and technology has solidified my understanding that while I have a skill for making my subject matter entertaining and can engage with my students on a personal level, I have much to learn about learning theory and instructional design.

A Revelation

I’ve built courses from scratch, created lessons, taught face-to-face and online, but have never used a design model in the creation of my courses.  Any process guiding my decision making in developing courses has been influenced by practical experience, intuition, and a profound sense of responsibility to my students.  My reading this week has been a real revelation.  It’s so exciting to learn about the research and theory behind concepts such as the ADDIE design process, and while I’ve put my teaching on hold to pursue my own education, I’m enthusiastic to get back to it so I can apply what I’ve learned.  But how might I do that?  There are so many models!  Dousay (2018) recommended that when deciding which model to use, it’s wise to begin with considering the delivery method (p. 7).  Is the course you’re developing going to be delivered in person?  Is it going to be online?  Will it

be synchronous or asynchronous?  Additionally, Dousay suggested considering the environment in which the course will be taught.  Will it be in a classroom, or are you developing it as an instructional tool for some other group?  There are many things to consider, and each situation has a suitable model.

Of everything I read this week, I was most excited about the Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction (Merrill, 2002).  A lightbulb went off for me while going through the article and it occurred to me that I’ve been approaching teaching from the wrong direction.  Merrill’s principles, including Activation, Demonstration, Application, and Integration were eye-opening for me and put many other learning models into perspective. While I know that I wouldn’t have been able to manage working full-time, teaching part-time, being a dad, and pursuing this program… there’s a part of me that really regrets temporarily giving up teaching.  I’ll now have to wait to put these extremely valuable lessons into practice.


Dousay, T. A. (2018). Instructional design models. In R. E. West (Ed.), Foundations of learning and instructional design technology. EdTech Books.

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development 50(3), 43-59.

10 thoughts on “The Revelation of Instructional Design”

  1. Hey Chris,

    Thank you so much for creating a reading of your activity; it helps people like me digest it in your envisioned context. I agree with your assessment of Merril’s model; I find it a good overview of different implementations of instructional design. Like Merril’s approach, I appreciate models that think of instructional design from the learner’s view. For example, Merrill’s model could easily be shifted into the stages of learning for learners. Models with a logical approach like Merril’s are an excellent foundation for instructional design.

    1. No worries, Mike. Thanks for taking the time to listen. I think I’m going to record all my future posts. I agree with you that not only does it provide an option for those with accessibility needs… it definitely does add something to the content… you get more into the head of the author.

      You make a good point about Merrill coming at the problem from the learner’s perspective. I’m seeing that this is a fundamental aspect of constructivism. Behaviourism seems a lot more focused on the educator than the learner. I think much of my teaching, in hindsight, has been coming from more of a behaviourist perspective (without my knowledge). Like I said in my post, I’m looking forward to getting back to it and doing a better job.

  2. Your post makes me want to be in one of your classes! First, you included a voice recording. That is one thing I want to do more for kids this year. What app did you use?

    Connecting to prior knowledge is one of the hardest things to do in the classroom these days. There are so many different levels of students in K-12 classrooms today and each student has a different circumstance. However, I do believe this is the trick to motivating students and getting buy-in.

    1. I got the idea of recording the blog post from one of our readings this week (Dousay… I hope I pronounced her name correctly). I listened to it and read along. I really liked it. It definitely added something to the experience. Not only did I get a sense of what she was communicating… but how she was feeling when she wrote it. I basically immediately decided that I would record all my future posts. We’ll see how long I can keep up with it. I used Adobe Audition to record it. I’m fortunate that my college has an institution wide license for the entire Creative Cloud… so I get access to the entire Adobe Creative Suite. It’s a nice little perk.

      I hear what you’re saying about the connection to prior knowledge. We’ve been doing a lot of reading in recent weeks on the concept of constructivism and the importance of that connection… but I didn’t really get it until reading Merrill. Something about that article turned on the light for me. I was actually genuinely excited there for a bit.

  3. I loved how you mentioned “profound sense of responsibility to my students”, Christopher. This is one of the most important aspects of being a teacher and is something that can so easily be lost. We all feel some responsibility, but we balance it against the time we spend teaching/prepping/marking, committee meetings, etc. and sometimes we just get a bit lazy and want to have a break. At the end of the day, that responsibility is what should keep us always trying to improve and make the educational experience a bit better, more bearable, more effective, and more inspiring for students. Hope you’re able to get back to teaching soon!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, David. Teaching is indeed exhausting. I think it’s that sense of responsibility that motivates me most on those days when I’m struggling to sit down at the laptop again to do more marking or prep work. Right now, I’m trying to decide whether I should go back to teaching for the next school year… because I do miss it. But, as you say… it’s so much work. We’ll see.

  4. Christopher! Great work with this blog post and for including a great voice recording. I really enjoyed listening to it.

    I especially appreciate your honesty about your “falling backwards” to the role of teaching. I too have a similar path to teaching and so many of my colleagues. So, you are in good company.

    1. Too right, Vanessa. My story definitely isn’t unique. I thought I would share it as explanation of my lack of exposure to ID. I have so much to learn.

      Thanks for listening to my recording, and I’m glad you enjoyed it. If I can manage the time… it’s something I’m going to continue doing. I enjoyed recording it and editing the audio… and I think it adds a little something to the text.

  5. I, like you Christopher, am teaching without any formal teaching education. I found it interesting that our intuition often aligns quite well with the instructional models. Although I had never hear of the ADDIE model, I use something similar to it to constantly revise my content. And I was taught the BOPPPS model which has remarkable similarities to Gagne’s Nine Events. It’s great to be able to link our intuition to well-founded educational theory.

    1. That’s the truth, Patrick. I think we get by with falling back on our own experiences as students. I recognize that a great deal of my teaching is behaviourist in nature, which is almost certainly a result of having been taught that way myself. I look forward to taking the good from those previous experiences and, as you say, linking it to a stronger constructivist foundation.

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