ISD at Warp Speed - 2002

First, the Wrap-up

After looking at the earlier models of ISD, it almost seems inevitable that we would end up with the present ADDIE model that contains the five phases of analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. Almost every version throughout its history either had or alluded to the five phases of the model. Thus, this could conceivably be the most stable part of ISD as even its opponents have a hard time arguing against the five phases as Diane Gayeski notes in A Hard Look at ISD.

Good Points of ISD

Bridges the gap between the "science of learning" and the "art of teaching"

A Cyclic process or spiral arrangement of ongoing continuous improvement

Its purpose is "learning" rather than "instruction"

Capable of prototyping

More than a is a relationship of processes

Bad Points of ISD

It is a cybernetic system that seems to be able to steer its way towards a desired destination

Orientated towards the use of behavioral/performance objectives

Designed for large organizations


ADDIE was originally built for the U.S. Armed Forces, thus it is aimed at large training projects — if you have a large project or several designers working on a project, then this is probably one of the best choices for keeping everyone on track and within budget.

Being quite large in scope, it can often overwhelm smaller projects. However, the model itself is quite easy to understand.

Being a fairly simplistic looking model, some people fail to do even some basic research on it, thus they tend to make wrong conclusions about it, such as: it's linear or it's not learner centered. Yet, as we have seen, none of these are true.

And since it is fairly easy to understand if one does do some studying, then it can be a vital building block for new instructional designers as it covers the basics. However, part of the reason it looks simplistic is that it has a cybernetic quality to it, so we often have a tendency to think that it will take care of the project at hand, yet it is we, the instructional designers, who control it, thus if a good learning process gets built using the model, we congratulate ourselves, however, if a bad learning package gets built, then we tend to blame the tool.

To bring the ADDIE model up to date, I have changed some of the steps within the five phases to give it a more modern look.

Warping with ISD

The total model still looks the same as in the Fit of ISD since the various components are probably the most basic building blocks of any good training program:


However, the main changes are the steps within the phases. In the The New ISD (2002) by Ruth Clark, she rebuts the claims that ISD is dead. The author argues that ISD is based on similar system methodologies used in other professions and science. She gives several ideas for bringing ISD up to date. Below, are some of those ideas, plus others, for bringing ISD up to warp speed.

Needs Analysis

Analysis ensures movement from ambiguity to “the heart of the matter.” - Robert Mager.

The first analysis should answer at least two main questions for the training professional when confronted with a potential training problem:

In other words, you need to find the real purpose for kicking the ISD system into motion — a good system always has a purpose. And if training is the answer, then the five phases of ISD and ID kick in.


I believe Allison Rossett (2001) said it best when she described analysis as the study we do in order to figure out what to do. This analysis should tell you something about the subject or task that needs to be trained and it should tell you something about the learners. It might require a task analysis, interviewing some SMEs, interviewing the learners, observing the job being performed, or maybe researching the subject. If you will be developing a lot of training for a particular set of job-holders, then it might be feasible to train a SME to do the initial data collection, which in turn, can then be reworked into training by the instructional designer.

Often, there is so much tacit knowledge in a task that it is hard to observe the task being performed, such as writing software or a computer programmer or designing instructional material. This makes it difficult to extract enough information to build the training program. In this case, Ruth Clark recommends am interview technique know as PARI (prerequisite, action, result, and interpretation) in which expert performers are asked specific questions as they solve a real problem in which they are unfamiliar.

For example, the performer is given a case problem and asked, “What would you do first?” The analyst then might ask what it was in the problem situation that prompted that action. The goal is to discover what parts of the problem prompts the performer to take a specific action.

For some other methods see Cognitive Task Analysis


This is where the blueprint is developed. Ruth Clark proposed four main design architectures:

While a course may have more than one of the four architectures, normally, there is only one dominant architecture. In turn, the four architectures help us to learn by various experiences (Wertenbroch & Nabeth, 2000):

Thus, when we combine the two concepts of Design Architecture with Means of Learning we get the following Design Matrix (listed within the matrix are some example activities):




There are two main methods for presenting the instructional content to learners (Merrienboer, 1997):

In addition, there are two main approaches for helping the learners to learn:

Examples are representations of real life, such as case studies, models, scenarios, etc. While general information are principles, concepts, relationships between pieces of information, etc.

These in turn creates four basic instructional strategies:

Normally, the best method for building deep knowledge structures (having the most viscosity) is the inductive-inquisitory strategy. However, it is normally the most time-consuming (lacking in velocity). This is why training developers often become experts in the subject matter — while creating the concepts, principles, procedures, etc. for the training program, they produce within themselves deep knowledge structures; while in turn, the users of these training design products only produce surface knowledge.

The deductive-inquisitory is also quite good but requires a bit more work as the designer normally has to ensure the learners have both the basic knowledge and general information to support the deductive aspect of it.

The chart below lists a few examples:


Next Steps

Return to the History of Instructional System Design

Previous page: A Hard Look at ISD

ADDIE Timeline


Clark, R. (2002). The new ISD: Applying cognitive strategies to instructional design. Performance Improvement, v. 41, n. 7. pp.8-14.

Dewey, J. (1933). How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process. Boston: D.C. Heath.

Merrienboer, J. (1997). Training Complex Cognitive Skills: A Four-Component Instructional Design Model for Technical Training. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Rossett, A., Sheldon, K. (2001). Beyond the Podium: Delivering Training and Performance to a Digital World. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, p. 67.

Wertenbroch, A., Nabeth, T. (2000). Advanced Learning Approaches & Technologies: The CALT Perspective. The Center for Advanced Learning Technologies: Retrieved from: