Exploring 4 Models of Instructional Design

If you’re reading this, you know that online course design is tricky. While there are numerous online training tools available, it’s nearly impossible to pick one that works best for your organization. Let’s be honest, every new training course presents its own unique set of challenges and nuances, so there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all instructional design tool that works!

At The Bob Pike Group, we’ve outlined four steps that should be applied to every single instructional design process.

  1. Identify your goals for training. What will success look like?
  2. Generate results-driven training objectives.
  3. Design and develop engaging training materials.
  4. Measure and evaluate training results.

Along with utilizing these steps, being familiar with foundational principles behind instructional design can also help you create more effective online learning experiences. This is where the instructional design models come in.

4 Instructional Design Models Explained

Instructional design models help you create learning experiences that offer real-world value to your participants. In other words, you'll have a firm grasp on how the mind absorbs, assimilates, and retains information. Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all. The choice is yours to find which of these models best suits your training situation! Here’s a quick summary of four popular models:


Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate: These equate to five phases instructional designers should apply while designing instructional materials. The linear structure of this model is useful as it helps instructors know what action they need to take before moving to the next.

  1. Analyze: Define the problem, identify the source of the problem and determine possible solutions.
  2. Design: Using outputs from the first phase, write out learning objectives and determine the instructional strategies that will be utilized to achieve them. How the instructional materials will look, operate, and be delivered to the learner are developed here.
  3. Develop: Building on the first two phases, assemble content and media, and incorporate those into the design to produce lesson plans and lesson materials.
  4. Implement: This is the finished course and actual delivery of the instruction, whether it is classroom-based, lab-based, or computer-based. It’s rolled out to the intended audience and its impact is examined.
  5. Evaluate: Use various methods to determine whether the course and supporting learning tools delivered upon the expected objectives. Bloom’s Taxonomy The goal of an instructor using

Bloom's taxonomy

is to encourage higher-order thought in participants while building up from lower-level skills. There are six levels of cognitive learning in this step-by-step framework. The simplest is at the bottom and the deepest, most complex is at the top.

  1. Remembering: The lowest, simplest level. Participants are asked questions of previously learned material by recalling facts, terms, and basic concepts.
  2. Understanding: Participants demonstrate understanding of ideas and facts by organizing, comparing, interpreting, and stating main ideas.
  3. Applying: Participants are encouraged to solve problems to new situations by using knowledge gained during the lesson.
  4. Analyzing: Participants examine and break information into parts to identify motives or causes to pinpoint evidence that will support generalizations.
  5. Evaluating: During this synthesis level of questioning, participants are expected to come up with a theory about what they learned or use predictions.
  6. Creating: The top, most complex level. Participants compile information together in a different way by combining elements into new patterns or propose alternate solutions.

Merrill’s Principles of Instruction

Merrill’s five principles are focused on task-based learning. Its foundation lies in the thought that effective learning experiences are rooted in problem-solving. Learners must actively engage with the content to fully grasp the info and be able to apply it in the real world.

  1. Task-centered: Learners are engaged in solving real-world problems that they can relate to.
  2. Activation: Learners connect their existing knowledge and skills to their previous knowledge base.
  3. Demonstration: New knowledge is demonstrated to the learner in multiple ways so that it leverages different regions of their brain and increases knowledge retention.
  4. Application: Learners must apply new information on their own and learn from their mistakes.
  5. Integration: Integrate the knowledge into the learner’s world through discussion, reflection, and/or presentation of new knowledge.

Robert Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction

Robert Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction is based on a behaviorist approach to learning. As each step is completed, learners are much more likely to stay engaged and retain the information or skills they’re being taught.

  1. Gain attention: Emotional buy-in is the first step in laying the foundation for learning retention. This can be done by telling a story or asking an ice breaker question.
  2. Inform learners of the objectives: Clearly state the goals of the course. Letting learners know what you expect helps them to focus their learning.
  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning: Let learners know what skills or knowledge they will apply to the task as well as how the subject matter is connected to info already in their knowledge base.
  4. Present the content: Use chunking for easy consumption of the content. A lesson should focus on one core objective, which allows the learner to master that topic before moving onto the next.
  5. Provide learner guidance: Supplement the content with case studies, activities, discussion questions and other instructional support materials.
  6. Elicit performance: Challenge learner’s activities that help them recall, utilize, and evaluate knowledge. Include plenty of opportunities for learners to apply the knowledge they have acquired and practice behaviors that can aid them in the real world.
  7. Provide timely feedback: Give learners the power to improve learning behaviors and identify their weaknesses and strengths in real time.
  8. Assess performance: Test learner knowledge against established criteria and use those learnings to improve or make changes to course content.
  9. Enhance retention and transfer to job: Include real-world scenarios and other interactive activities to show learners how to apply the information and skills they’ve worked so hard to develop.

Incorporating the four design steps above with an instructional design model will ensure an optimal training experience for you and your participants! At The Bob Pike Group, we like to help trainers like you navigate through the sea of instructional design tools and methods. We provide consulting and workshops that give professional trainers the keys to successful Instructional Design. Be sure to check them out here!

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