Blinded by the Light

Spread the love

Bear with me as I try and combine some thoughts that came to me as I read through the readings for the first two weeks of this course. I am suffering from the mid-autumn cold/flu that has struck my family and I feel that my thoughts are interesting, but I am struggling to make them clear.

Albert Einstein spent a lot of time in Gedankenexperimente, or Thought Experiments. It was in this space of free thinking, without being under the influence of any particular instructional design model, that he realized the General and Special Theories of Relativity, which are the most beautiful scientific theories ever developed (Isaacson, 2015). He also had a spirited exchange with another scientist, Erwin Schrödinger, about quantum superposition using a thought experiment called “Schrödinger’s Cat”, which has been described in popular culture and remains important in my work. Both of these thought experiments dovetail beautifully with the readings from this first two-week period.

One of the hallmarks of Einstein’s work in Special Relativity was how he approached his view of the nature of light. According to the famous equation E=mc2, it is basically impossible for matter to travel at the speed of light (Jones, 2021). We can get close, but we cannot do it. One of the things that is important to consider when selecting design methods is how no method will be perfect and so we need to choose one and try it out. Dron (2014) noted that, as we learn, we are moving “towards a peak of fitness that forever moves as we approach it”. As with matter approaching the speed of light, we can never quite get there. It is therefore important to note that, even as we get better at refining and developing design models, we will never achieve a perfect model. We will never be perfect at learning.

The next question is how we should make design decisions and what role design models and innovation play in the process. Well, choosing a design model is choosing your preferred method of change. By choosing a design model, you are choosing the future path of your organization, whether that is for incident investigation, as Rothwell et al. (2015) said, or to hopefully make a lasting impact on learners, as Veletsianos (2011) said. You are choosing where you think you want to go next, but you can only set an intention. It is impossible to know how it will turn out. As Veletsianos (2011) said, “it is not possible to construct transformative experiences but, to provide opportunities for transformation”. An organization or even an individual can choose a design method, but can never choose what the learners learn. Similar to the thought experiment between Schrödinger and Einstein, the cat is both alive and dead at the same time. As we make design decisions, our learners are both learning and not learning at the same time. I would argue that design models and innovation are both less important than we make them out to be. Veletsianos (2011) took some pains in his paper to point out that learning is not something that we do TO learners. It is their experience, not ours as the instructor or instructional designer. The model therefore matters less than the learner.

Finally, for the question about which models I have found particularly effective, I think I have been a victim of my own industry. The classic ADDIE basis (Analysis, Design, Implementation, Evaluation) is the most common in the nuclear industry and so it is the one that I have been forced to work with. I fit with the models that Göksu et al. (2017) described as most common, given that I am in North America and I work in science. I look forward to learning about more methods but recognize that my experience so far is quite narrow. From what I have seen in my career, that type of design model is justified by the nature of the risk posed by nuclear technology. From the readings for week two, I am curious to see how Gagné’s “behaviorist-turned-cognitivist” (Heaster-Eckholm, 2020) method might work in my work to focus on the learner. In my experience, the organization protecting themselves from liability in the event of an event is the usual reason for choosing a particular design model.



Dron, J. (2014). Chapter 9: Innovation and Change: Changing how we Change. In Zawacki-Richter, O. & T. Anderson (Eds.), Online distance education: Towards a research agenda. Athabasca, AB: AU Press.

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.

Heaster-Ekholm, K. L. (2020). Popular Instructional Design Models: Their Theoretical Roots and Cultural Considerations. International Journal of Education and Development Using Information and Communication Technology, 16(3), 50–65.

Isaacson, W. (2015, October 30). Opinion | The Light-Beam Rider. The New York Times.

Rothwell, W. J., Benscoter, B., King, M., & King, S. B. (2015). Chapter One – An Overview of Instructional Design. In Mastering the Instructional Design Process: A Systematic Approach. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Alternate link

Sutter, P. (2020, July 16). Why is the speed of light the way it is? Space.Com.

Veletsianos, G. (2011). Designing opportunities for transformation with emerging technologiesPublished in Educational Technology, 51(2), 41-46.



6 Replies to “Blinded by the Light”

  1. Corie, I enjoyed reading your post for two reasons. While it helped me reflect and think deeper about my own takeaways, it also provided me new learning in a succinct and relatable way.

    I am intrigued by your analogy of Schrodinger’s Cat and am keen to know how you relate it to our readings so far. I have often read and thought about the Schrodinger’s Cat experiment (gruesome!) and another tenet of quantum mechanics, quantum entanglement nut could never understand it fully. Would you explain your statements around this a little more for me?

    “An organization or even an individual can choose a design method, but can never choose what the learners learn. Similar to the thought experiment between Schrödinger and Einstein, the cat is both alive and dead at the same time. As we make design decisions, our learners are both learning and not learning at the same time”
    I find this particularly interesting because I have thought learners to be “learning and unlearning at the same time” now your statements are making me review my thoughts and explore the differences.

    Thank you for this interesting, intriguing and invigorating post. You have given me a lot to think about.

  2. Thanks for your comment Sharmila!

    In answer to your question about Schrödinger’s cat, I find that it is more about the fact that we cannot know at any given moment if the cat is dead or alive once we put it in the box. With our learners, once we build and launch the course and before we do some sort of summative or formative assessment, we do not know if our learners are learning, so it could be said that they are both learning and not learning at the same time until we measure them – just like the cat. Our choice of model (instructional design or learning design) is therefore the best we can do in the absence of more information. That is why I said that there is no perfect model and we can just do the best that we can and keep striving for improvement.

  3. First of all, we have to say you had us hooked as soon as we saw your blog banner, Afterall, it is a squirrel, and those creative creatures are alright😉

    Sorry to hear you were unwell while you were writing, we can certainly relate to working while under the weather. Nice to hear that the readings were stimulating.

    Interesting comparison to Einstein’s special principle of relativity, great way to ground the concept of models in a practical way for your lens. This also leaves space for a new consideration: if “we will never achieve a perfect model”, are there models that might fill the gap? ADDIE might be tried and true and works well in your context (if it’s not broke don’t fix it right?), but what impact would the addition of one or more models have on the effectiveness of the design? Are there peripheral principles that might get us closer to perfection? It is great that you are considering how Gagné’s “behaviorist-turned-cognitivist” method might work to reframe your approach to be learner focussed – the juices are flowing!

    thanks for posting!

    Lisa & Leeann

    1. Thanks Lisa and Leann! Yes, the squirrels around my place are VERY creative!

      In answer to your comment about models that might fill the gap, I’m hoping to learn about some options for that as part of this course. Like I said, my background is very ADDIE and kind of shallow in that way.

      I would also argue that ADDIE is not necessarily “tried and true”, but rather “tried” (read: “what we’ve done for a long time”). I tried to word my post diplomatically. What I’m saying is that maybe ADDIE is not the best method, but just the one that got uptake when models first started being assessed in the nuclear industry and I’m looking forward to digging into other methods that might work complimentary to ADDIE for this.

  4. Hi Corie, I like your post because it provides the organizational’s perspective which I can relate too. I like the history background and your honest view on ADDIE. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

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