With instructional design encompassing a wide and complex set of skills and tasks having a model or framework to follow can be quite helpful.  There are a wide variety of instructional design models that instructional designers leverage to help with best practices and the help ensure steps are not left out.

As you review the different models notice how they seem to be describing the same thing from different perspectives. I recently heard a fantastic analogy regarding the different models of instructional design. Ultimately the analogy is that they are all different recipes for the same dish. And as such describe different ways to get at the same end. Novices tend to follow the models as if they are recipes, experts begin to internalize the steps just as Grandma may have stopped referring to the recipes and seemed to move on instinct.

Some of my favorite instructional design models are:


Addie is a generic process used by instructional designers.  The name is an acronym for the five phases Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.  It is often looked at as a linear process but it is not strictly a linear process since Evaluation should be embedded throughout the entire instructional design process.

In the Analysis phase, the instructional goals are established, the learners and contexts are analyzed, and other constraints are analyzed.

In the Design phase, the assessments, exercises, and content are designed.  This is the stage of the process when instructional strategies are established, and storyboards, wireframes, and prototypes are created.

The Development phase is the “head down” development of the items that were designed.  The Implementation phase is where instruction actually occurs.  Learners move through the material, the workshop or course is delivered to students.

The Evaluation phase consists of both Formative and Summative Evaluations.  The formative evaluation should take place at each stage of the instructional design process before moving on to the next phase and continue throughout the process with the mindset of continuous improvement.  Summative assessment consists of evaluating the overall effectiveness of the training as a whole.

ADDIE while the most commonly referenced and most well known instructional design model has a few weak spots and inspired a few spin-offs such as the Dick and Carey Method and the Kemp Instructional Design Model.


The ARCS model is another acronym which stands for Attention, Relevance, Confidence, & Satisfaction.  It was developed in the 1980s by John Keller.  It is an important concept to consider when developing instruction since it focuses on student motivation to learn.  There are several items to consider when developing instruction for each of the four elements.

Attention: Perceptual Arousal, Inquiry Arousal, and Variability
Relevance: Goal Orientation, Motivation Matching, and Familiarity
Confidence: Learning Requirements, Success Opportunities, and Personal Control
Satisfaction: Intrinsic Reinforcement, Extrinsic Rewards, and Equity

Keeping the ARCS framework in mind as you design your educational experiences you can maximize student motivation and engagement.


Keller, J. M. (1987a). Development and use of the ARCS model of motivational design.Journal of Instructional Development, 10(3), 2 – 10.
Keller, J. M. (1987b). Strategies for stimulating the motivation to learn. Performance & Instruction, 26(8), 1-7.
Keller, J. M. (1999). Motivation in cyber learning environments. Educational Technology International, 1(1), 7 – 30.
Keller, J. M. (2010). Motivational design for learning and performance: The ARCS model approach. New York: Springer.  http://amzn.to/2Dp9aQ8

Backward Design:

Backward Design comes from the book “Understanding By Design” by Wiggins and McTighe and the core premise is that instructional design is the development of a quality assessment.

There are essentially three steps to Backward Design.

1. Identify the desired results of instruction.

2. Determine the evidence you can gather that the learning results have been met.

3. Design the learning experiences and instruction to prepare the learner to demonstrate their learning against the developed assessment.

Backward design can sometimes be criticized as “teaching to the test” or “teaching the test”.  I’ve found this criticism rise in times of increased K12 testing by government mandate.  I believe that much of the criticism is not on the methodology but rather that some teachers feel a loss of control regarding the first two steps in the model.  As a result, when working with this model with K12 teachers in particular I tend to focus on teacher control of the process.

Conditions of Learning:

Robert Gagné’s theory regarding the conditions of learning has two distinct elements to consider.  The first is the breakdown of the different types of learning.  These are verbal information, intellectual skills, cognitive strategies, motor skills, and attitudes.  Each of these types of learning will require a different approach to instruction.  In addition to adjusting the instructional strategy based on the type of learning Gagné outlines nine instructional events that need to happen for learning to occur.  These nine events should be written into the educational experiences that instructional designers are developing.

1.Gaining attention (reception)
2.Informing learners of the objective (expectancy)
3.Stimulating recall of prior learning (retrieval)
4.Presenting the stimulus (selective perception)
5.Providing learning guidance (semantic encoding)
6.Eliciting performance (responding)
7.Providing feedback (reinforcement)
8.Assessing performance (retrieval)
9.Enhancing retention and transfer (generalization)

Gagne, R. (1962). Military training and principles of learning. American Psychologist, 17, 263-276.
Gagne, R. (1985). The Conditions of Learning (4th.). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.  http://amzn.to/2mm7bUp
Gagne, R. (1987). Instructional Technology Foundations. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc. http://amzn.to/2mptbhp
Gagne, R. & Driscoll, M. (1988). Essentials of Learning for Instruction (2nd Ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. http://amzn.to/2D4tuZS
Gagne, R., Briggs, L. & Wager, W. (1992). Principles of Instructional Design (4th Ed.). Fort Worth, TX: HBJ College Publishers. http://amzn.to/2Fy85Wv

Dick and Carey:

The Dick and Carey Method was published by Walter Dick and Lou Carey in 1978 in their book “The Systematic Design of Instruction” for many years it was considered the “Bible” of instructional design.  It is also my personal favorite instructional design model since I feel the breakdown is the most complete and allows the instructional design process to be taught most easily.

The Dick and Carey method consists of nine steps (ten if you count the continual revision of instruction that is expected to happen):

Stage 1: Identify Instructional Goals
Stage 2. Conduct Instructional Analysis
Stage 3. Conduct Learner & Context Analysis
Stage 4: Write Performance Objectives
Stage 5. Develop Assessment Instruments
Stage 6. Develop Instructional Strategy
Stage 7: Develop and Select Instructional Materials
Stage 8: Develop and Conduct Formative Evaluation
Stage 9: Develop and Conduct Summative Evaluation

Rapid Prototyping:

Rapid Prototyping is a more contemporary manifestation of the ADDIE model where feedback is gathered during the design phase and that feedback is used to rapidly develop working prototypes seeking feedback and then repeating until a finalized design is that much more robust through the feedback.  There are several ways to implement a rapid prototyping approach to instructional design but they all include feedback from learners early in the process with prototypes that allow for rapid adjustment and correction.

Kemp Design Model:

The Kemp Design model was developed by Morrison, Ross, and Kemp.  One of the key differences is the circular design of the model which is meant to highlight the interdependent nature of the 9 steps.  The model also places an emphasis on the learner throughout the process.

The Kemp Design Model consists of 9 steps:

1. Identify instructional problems, and specify goals for designing an instructional program.
2. Examine learner characteristics that should receive attention during planning.
3. Identify subject content, and analyze task components related to stated goals and purposes.
4. State instructional objectives for the learner.
5. Sequence content within each instructional unit for logical learning.
6. Design instructional strategies so that each learner can master the objectives.
7. Plan the instructional message and delivery.
8. Develop evaluation instruments to assess objectives.
9. Select resources to support instruction and learning activities.

Akbulut, Y. (2007). Implications of two well-known models for instructional designers in distance education: Dick-Carey versus Morrison-Ross-Kemp. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 8(2).
Morrison, G. R., Ross, S. M., Kemp, J. E., & Kalman, H. (2010). Designing effective instruction. John Wiley & Sons. http://amzn.to/2DpdzTa
Spector, J. M., Merrill, M. D., Van Morrienboer, J., & Driscoll, M. (2008). Perspective principals for instructional design. In Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (3rd ed., pp. 173-183). New York, New York: Routledge. http://amzn.to/2CUtffV

Commonalities between the models.

When looking at the different models some of the key commonalities become clear, much of the similarity comes from ADDIE being the common ancestor of many of them.  Instructional design requires a clear understanding of the learning objectives, a clear understanding of who the learners are and how they learn, and a separation of the design and development phases with input and revision in the design phase which allows for the development phase to happen more quickly and without costly revisions.

Practical Day to Day application of the models.

Few instructional designers rigidly follow one of the instructional design frameworks in a day to day practice, although it can be helpful for the novice before they internalize the different components and develop their own personal work habits.  The frameworks are not meant to be checklists.  That said having a clear understanding of the different instructional design models and the different elements within them can help instructional designers design more effective instructional experiences with more efficiency and a lower cost and can help instructional designers identify the components of the quality instructional design.