My History with and Without ID Models

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

This week I would like to explore my personal experiences with instructional design (ID) models. More specifically, I will discuss the various factors that go into my design and decision-making processes as it pertains to ID. But first, I would like to explain one aspect of my ID philosophy.

Ali Carr-Chellman depicts ID models as having a pedagogical purpose, saying they teach the basics of ID, but that the “real ID process is not captured by a model … you have to approach it more as art, as a holistic process” (Ali Carr-Chellman, University of Idaho as cited in Dousay, 2017). This idea rings true to me; ID is a process that can be both taught and attained through intuition, logic, and natural systematic thinking – ID is both a science and an art. To illustrate this point, I like to compare ID modeling to strategic planning in business. Can a business survive if it has no formal strategic plan in place? Some might say no, but the reality is that any business or business venture can be successful as long as some form of a systematic process has been implemented. Those without formal business training and knowledge of strategic planning principles and models can, and do, succeed in business – in fact, it happens all the time! The same can be said in education. You do not have to be up to date with the latest and most relevant ID research and pedagogical theories to understand how to develop effective learning plans, courses, and systems, hence the artistic side of ID reigns true. (Scroll below the references for anecdotal evidence in support of this paragraph)

That said, knowledge of ID models can take your ID potential to the next level, thus allowing educators and designers to successfully “overcome gaps in what is learned due to either instruction, motivation, or resources” (Dousay, 2017, p.423). Throughout my career, I have always analyzed applicable learning factors prior to designing any lesson plan, course, program, or system. Considering factors like content delivery, learning objectives, learner experience, learning preferences, socioeconomic and sociocultural backgrounds, and so on, enable us, as educators and designers, to design effective and useable education projects – projects that can make a difference and satisfy real-world problems. Considering ID models are plentiful, it can be overwhelming at first to choose a model for a given project. Dousay (2017) explains that choosing an ID model is actually quite straight forward, that it is all about “align[ing] [the] components of an instructional problem with the priorities of a particular model … through [a] systematic process” (p.423). To me, this reiterates the need to understand the learning conditions and requirements of a project prior to selecting an ID model, as doing so will help generate high rates of success for the design. Conveniently, Goksu et al. (2017) have streamlined the ID model selection process by connecting many of the most used ID models to specific learning circumstances (including some of the factors stated above). Goksu’s 2017 study is certainly one I will pay close attention to when selecting ID models moving forward.

Although I am not well-versed in all ID models, one specific ID model I have come to know is ADDIE, primarily for its foundational qualities in ID (Dousay, 2017). I’ve always advocated the need to combine various elements into a particular design simply because each learning project presents something different from the next, and there might not be one specific framework or solution to abide by in all circumstances. Where some argue that ADDIE lacks direction as to what technologies and assessments should be used (Bates, 2015), I value the opportunity it presents to explore additional ID models to form an integrated and unique design framework (Goksu, 2017). For this reason, I am excited to investigate other ID models such as the ARCS and Dick and Carey models to address learner motivation, Cognitive Load Theory and Laurillard’s Model to improve complex learning for subjects such as biological sciences, and the CLE and 4C-ID Models to support problem-oriented learning (Goksu, 2017). Quite honestly, there is a long list of ID Models that I look forward to getting into.

In contrast to the paragraph above, as a post-secondary educator who is well-versed in ID, I still see countless instances where instructional designers and team leads make no mention of ID models when developing courses and programs – it makes me wonder how significant ID modeling actual is, and if a lot of this education science is really just education researchers fulfilling grant aspirations to further their academic careers. But don’t get me wrong, as I learn more and more about ID models and pedagogical practices, I have begun to understand how the art and science of ID truly interject. Looking back at my career thus far, are there instances where knowledge of ID models could have saved me time, money, and design catastrophe? Absolutely. So, my intentions are to continue to study the foundations of ID to better myself as a professional, for without these principles and models, I realize but half of my potential as an instructional designer and educator.



Bates, T. (2015). Chapter 4.3 The ADDIE Model. In Teaching in the digital age. BCcampus.

Dousay. T. A. (2017). Chapter 22. Instructional Design Models. In R. West (Ed.), Foundations of Learning and Instructional Design Technology (1st ed.). Available at

Göksu, I., Özcan, K. V., Çakir, R., & Göktas, Y. (2017). Content Analysis of Research Trends in Instructional Design Models: 1999-2014Journal of Learning Design10(2), 85-109.



Effective ID without the use of ID models:

I grew up in a business-orientated household. My dad was a self-employed architectural designer, and my mom helped my older brother establish his own Olympic-style Taekwondo (TKD) School. Accordingly, I followed suit and became a business-minded, Taekwondo instructor by the tender age of 12, and by 14, I had partnered with my older sister, and together, we overtook the Taekwondo School operations – my brother had moved on to raise a family and establish a new martial arts business in the discipline of authentic Muay Thai kickboxing. My sister and I taught both adult and children’s classes as we grew up and attended high school. We had no formal education on learning and teaching, and we certainly had no knowledge of ID models, yet for years we developed successful learning plans, curriculum and teaching principles that catered to all demographics. Sure, we had traditional and modern TKD frameworks to follow, but we had to put the pieces together ourselves in such a way that our services were rewarding for our students and aligned with their individual needs. Over time, when I was around age 15, we developed our own instructor training manual, a textbook of sorts to educate our up-and-coming instructors on TKD instruction, how to incorporate fitness theory into martial arts, and what curriculum to include in their lesson planning. My point is, our Taekwondo School was successful without us having prior knowledge or formal education of pedagogy, ID models and principles, and the endless learning theories that have emerged from the fields of psychology and education.

6 thoughts on “My History with and Without ID Models

  1. Jonathan,
    I think you touched on a very valid point re: “how significant ID modeling actual is”. I believe this is where the ‘theory vs practice’ debate happens. Like you, my formal training in ID is limited to pedagogical best practices and hands-in-the-dirt training. For me, a lot of my work comes down to experience with what works and good ole’ common sense. Also, like you, I am looking forward to being educated more on the ‘theory’ end of design. 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading and providing your thoughts, Sandra. I felt that point was provocative but necessary considering my experience thus far as an educator. I know you have a rich background in ed. yourself, so it’s nice to hear you too have utilized “common sense”, natural talent, and pedagogical best practices to garner success in the industry. I look forward to continuing to learn with you!

  2. A really great read, Jonathan. Thank you.
    I can really identify with your comments about the lack of mention of any instructional design during the creation of courses and programs in the post-secondary world. I could be way off base here, but I think the knowledge of ID models might simply be lacking at the institutions at which we teach. Certainly in the college system, educators are hired more for their expertise in their chosen fields… not for their skill as educators. As a result, we don’t have the foundational teaching knowledge that K-12 educators have. This is definitely true for me.

    What was your first exposure to ID? Did someone bring it to your attention… or did you seek it out?

    1. Thanks for reading and for your feedback, Christopher. It’s much appreciated. I completely agree that higher ed. instructors are hired for their vocational experience and/or relevant education in a specific subject. These days it seems many Canadian colleges are moving away from traditional course offerings to offering students a more applied approach to workforce readiness, and I think within this new system resides greater opportunity for non-PhD holders to teach – great news for us!

      I first got into ID after my wife, who is also a higher ed. instructor, introduced me to a private vocational college here in B.C. She was doing some teaching and course development for them but was finding the workload too much, so knowing that I had an informal background in ID, she had me put together some course content for her. It turned out the teaching and learning team lead really enjoyed my work, so they hired me at the college soon after. This opened the door for me within the system, and not before long, I began to land more and more contracts with other institutions, and the rest is history. I am now happily employed and working full-time as an educator who’s required to do some ID along the way. That said, I will be returning to ID to help develop a new program, so this course couldn’t have timed out any better for me.

  3. Hi Jonathan,

    I really enjoyed reading your post and found myself agreeing with a lot of your ideas. One statement that really stood out to me was your idea that ” ID is a process that can be both taught and attained through intuition, logic, and natural systematic thinking – ID is both a science and an art.” As a high school teacher for the last 7 years, I have been teaching without referencing any formal design models, and simply relying on my “intuition, logic, and natural systematic thinking.” Now that I am engaged in learning about design models, I am looking forward to being more intentional about applying them and seeing how my instruction changes and the outcomes for my students. I am aware that perhaps it won’t be a significant change (as I’ve never heard a colleague mention an ID model before maybe not as valuable as the readings would have us believe), but I’ll never know until I try. Cheers to lifelong learning and bettering ourselves as educators!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *