By Mark T Burke
Over the past 20 years, I’ve consistently asked curriculum providers to share their Instructional Models. With few exceptions, I get asked to clarify what I’m asking for. Often an immediate response is “We use ADDIE” or some other in-house instructional design model. It could be that knowing I have an instructional design background, others assume I am interested in learning HOW they’ve built their instructional content. As a client representative however, I want my clients to understand the true value of the content being considered for purchase. I need to hear WHY the content looks and feels the way it does. I need to know the design was purposeful. I need to know that a model was followed based on knowing HOW a learner will build knowledge. I need to know the components of the instructional environment, the methods used to actually get the users engaged in the content and how the user will be guided through a journey to THINK about the content and build knowledge. In other words, I need to know the Instructional Model.
Let’s look at how Instructional Design Models and Instructional Models differ.
Instructional Design Model: I’ll use ADDIE as an example since it’s rather ubiquitous. I won’t go into detail about ADDIE. If you would like to learn more, here’s a great link on the Articulate Heroes page that covers the model components. In brief, an Instructional Design Model (IDM) showcases HOW the content was developed. The IDM model will describe the process followed by the writers, project managers, media developers, artists, instructional designers, subject matter experts, clients and others to assess the need, design the instruction and build the instructional components. Knowing a vendor follows an IDM is nice, but it does little to add value to the end product. It’s very possible to follow an IDM and end up with a poor instructional product. For that reason, I don’t ask to discuss the IDM, I ask for a conversation and visual of the Instructional Model (IM).
Instructional Model: IM’s communicate several important instructional components including:
- The main instructional delivery method.
- The activities learners will engage in.
- The assessment types used.
- The media types (movies, sound, graphics, etc.) and their purpose.
The IM’s overall purpose is to communicate the structure of the learning so that those of us who are reviewing curriculum can “see” its value. Here’s a really simple example of an IM. This one is somewhat incomplete, but it starts to show how an IM should look.
This example shows that at the heart of the instruction, the learners interact (reach, watch, listen) with a story. In this case, the instruction is delivered via stories that convey a relationship between the topic being covered and how that topic influenced either a fictional or non-fictional character within the story. As the story unfolds, the learner is presented with a variety of activities that get the learner to think about the topic from several perspectives, including other experts and their own with the help of other devices such as maps, journals and actual products (other pieces of work including papers, articles, plans, designs, drawings, poems, models, etc.).
In a quality course, the IM will be witnessed throughout. The example above is an adaptation of a model I used to build a course. The model is evident through the course. By building the IM prior to starting the writing and building process, I was able to construct the entire course based on knowing what would best help learners build knowledge. That was discovered during the analysis phase of the project, something demonstrated in the IDM. (NOTE…there is a relationship between the two models). That’s an important aspect of IM creation. IMs are NOT built after a course is written, they are always built PRIOR. They serve as a guide and later a tool to communicate the value of the instruction.
I hope you see the important distinctions between IDMs and IMs. If you’re a vendor and want to showcase the value of your instruction, showing an IM is a must. Not all courses will be the same, and that can cause some providers a bit of angst. However, within curriculum and topic areas, it is important to have a communicable approach. If that isn’t something you have as a vendor, you can work toward that level of systems thinking and ultimately, marketing and promotion.
Thanks for reading this article. I would love to hear how you’ve made use of IMs in your work.