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Vol. 7, No. 6: February 15, 2001

Why ID? The Benefits of Instructional Design Models

by Nadeen Thompson,
Program Development Specialist, University of Wisconsin-Extension

Defining Instructional Design (ID)

As I view this issue, you are an instructional designer if you have had training in and consciously use an instructional design model for lesson planning. If you’re an educator, the steps in an instructional design model will look familiar. That’s because you’ve unconsciously used steps in this process to design your own instruction many times.

Instructional design (ID) models grew out of the teaching profession and came to fruition during World War II when the nation had to be quickly trained and troops mobilized to run the equipment of war. A combination of face-to-face, hands-on, individualized, and group units of instruction were developed by the armed forces using ID models to effectively train massive numbers of troops. Today there are many ID models (one useful site to consult is Sherri Braxton-Lieber's at However, all of them share some basic features:

Many ID models are depicted in little step-by-step rectangular boxes leading to the impression that you complete each one in the order shown. On the contrary, ID is a dynamic process with constant movement back and forth between the steps. For instance, evaluation is based on objectives but it also helps to clarify the objectives. If evaluation alters the objectives, it also alters the content, and both need to be re-addressed.

Why Use ID?

Design teams representing various fields of expertise (producers, instructors, editors, etc.) developed individualized packets of instruction during the war years. Today, teams who work over extended periods of time to do "anticipatory" and "participatory" planning also develop individualized or technology-enhanced instruction. Because these classes are not traditional, instructor-led, face-to-face classes, design teams must anticipate the needs of learners and design instruction that "builds in" clarity, resources, activities, feedback, and the like. Teams also need to choose an appropriate delivery mode (i.e. computers, television, video, etc.) which requires expertise from various fields along with participation in the planning process.

These teams use ID models to:

ID Models…Not Just for Teams

In Conclusion

Instructional design models can help both individuals and design teams work through the process of planning instruction. Consciously working back and forth through the steps of an ID model will add speed and clarity and insure that key instructional principles are addressed. Instructional design models can also be used to assess existing educational material and help in everyday planning.

Instructional Design: Resources for Further Reading


Dick, Walter, Carey, Lou, and James O. Carey. The Systematic Design of Instruction, 5th ed. New York: Longman, c2001.

Reigeluth, Charles M., ed. Instructional-Design Theories and Models: An Overview of Their Current Status. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1983.

Wilson, Brent G., ed. Constructivist Learning Environments: Case Studies in Instructional Design. Foreword by David N. Perkins. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Educational Technology Publications, 1996.


Sherri Braxton-Lieber, Ph.D.

Professional Organizations:

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology

American Society for Training and Development

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