Quick Guide: Instructional Design

Introduction to Instructional Design

Formally speaking, instructional design is a term that refers to the process of evaluating student needs, crafting learning objectives and outcomes, identifying learning events, and building formative and summative assessments that will help meet and measure performance to goal.

Implementing an instructional design model shows that an institution or organization takes instructional design seriously and employs it consistently. Using an instructional design model also enhances an organization’s reputation, shows consistency in its products, and connects design to value.

While instructional design principles are also relevant to writing textbooks and structuring their pedagogical components, the Active Learning team focuses on applying those principles to the activities that accompany, complement, or enhance our textbooks and other products. With that in mind, it may be simpler to think of instructional design as the creation of learning activities using the best methods available to meet learning objectives and outcomes.

Background and Methodologies

Instructional designers are often asked about their design methodology and preferences: ADDIE, AGILE, or backward design? Objectives, outcomes, or competencies? Original or updated Bloom’s taxonomy? This section provides some brief background about various instructional design terms, concepts, and methodologies.


ADDIE is an acronym for the five-part project management methodology originally developed by the U.S. military that has become “the most commonly used instructional design model and the go-to process most training designers use when crafting learning experiences.”* Its steps are analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate. Similar to the organization of the waterfall model in project management, each step in the ADDIE process should be completed before proceeding to the next.

The below table describes each step of the ADDIE model and, to help illustrate it, identifies an equivalent stage in our Active Learning publishing process. (Please note, though, that we don’t use ADDIE exactly or exclusively.) At each stage, we collaborate with the author, who takes the lead in implementation.

*Nicole Legault, “An Introduction to the ADDIE Model for Instructional Designers,” LinkedIn, last modified July 1, 2015, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/introduction-addie-model-instructional-designers-nicole-legault.

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