Why we do what we do

The role of an instructional designer.
Puzzle Maker

Think about the role of a puzzle maker. Their job is to construct a self-learning experience for the person making the puzzle. Their role, is to provide the learner with a framework of pieces so that they can learn from each piece how the pieces fit together. Ultimately when all the pieces are placed in the right position it constructs the outcome.

In the same manner an instructional designer builds the structure that allows the learners to construct their own learning pathways allowing them to successfully reach the learning outcome. At the center of why we do what we do is the learner. All the decisions we make need to be based on the learner’s needs, motivation, success, and self-efficacy.

The major components of instructional design:

The Learners: Instructional designers need to conduct learner analysis, learner centered objectives using best practices like Bloom’s Taxonomy, self- evaluations, pre-evaluations, and motivation analysis.

The Design: Make sure the learning experience is theory based. Examples of some theories that I tend to use are, Constructivist (Chen, 2014), Social (Bandura, 1971), Connectivism (Manning, 2015), and if applicable Adult Theory (Yarbrough, 2018). Follow ID frameworks like, ADDIE (Chevalier, 2011), backwards design model (Graff, 2011), or Merrill’s First Principals (David Merrill, 2002). Include latest trends, technology, intended engagements, collaboration, reflections, tutorials, UDL standards (CAST, 2019), Mayer’s 12 Principals of Visual design (Issa, et al., 2011), and evaluations.

Evaluations: Make sure to evaluate the learner, the course, and yourself. Conduct evaluations pre, during, and post course. Include informal as well as formal evaluations. Do not focus only on the learner's outcome in relation to the learning goal but of their interactions with the course. Use Kirkpatrick’s Evaluation Model (Reio, Rocco, Smith, & Chang, 2017) or an established checklist and rubric. Follow up with evaluations on yourself and your course design work.

Self: As the designer, adhere to fair use laws and ethics, learner privacy, and reflect on each experience. Share out to the community, give globally, and collaborate with industry peers. Practice professional development and self-efficacy. Create a personal learning network.

Design work can be rewarding and challenging, the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. We learn through connections, self-efficacy, and creating our own learning experiences.


Bandura, A. (1971). Social learning theory. New York City: General Learning Press. Retrieved from http://www.asecib.ase.ro/mps/Bandura_SocialLearningTheory.pdf

CAST. (2019). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.org

Chen, S.-J. (2014). Instructional design strategies for intensive online course: an objectivist-constructivist blended approach. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 13(1), 72-86.

Chevalier, R. (2011). When did ADDIE become addie? Performance Improvement, 50(6), 10-14. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1002/pfi.20221

David Merrill, M. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59. Retrieved from https://mdavidmerrill.com/Papers/firstprinciplesbymerrill.pdf

Graff, N. (2011). "An effective and agonizing way to learn": backwards design and new teachers’ preparation for planning curriculum. Teacher Education Quarterly, 38(3), 151-168. Retrieved from http://www.teqjournal.org/

Issa, N., Schuller, M., Santacaterina, S., Shapiro, M., Wang, E., Mayer, R., & DaRosa, D. (2011). Applying multimedia design principles enhances learning in medical education. Medical Education, 45, 818-826. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2011.03988.x

Manning, C. (2015). The construction of personal learning networks to support non-formal workplace learning of training professionals. International Journal of Advance Corporate Learning, 8(2), 4-12. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3991/ijac.v8i2.4367

Reio, T., Rocco, T., Smith, D., & Chang, E. (2017). A critique of Kirkpatrick's evaluation model. New Horizons in Adult Education & Human Resource Development, 29(2), 35-53. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/nha3.20178

Yarbrough, J. (2018). Adapting adult learning theory to support innovative, advanced, online learning - WVMD model. Research in Higher Education Journal, 35, 1-15. Retrieved from http://www.aabri.com/manuscripts/182800.pdf

Posted 9/8/2019 © Marisette Burgess