e-tivity 1.2

Lining up wind turbines

Image: Kate Booth

Reiser and Dempsey (2012) attempt to define the field of instructional design in the first 3 chapters of their book Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology. In chapter one they suggest that instructional technology is a difficult field to define as it is constantly changing. They proceed to give a number of historical definitions. In chapter two they outline a number of characteristics of Instructional Design Models including a systems based approach and the popular ADDIE model. In the final chapter of this section they present a history of instructional design and technology. This chapter helps to contextualise where we are currently in terms of how we use and understand instructional design and technology (IDT). If you have access to Reisre and Dempsey I invite you to read all 3 chapters and reflect on what you already know about IDT and how you see it fitting into what and how you are currently teaching.

Chapters 1–3 of Reiser, R. & Dempsey, J. (2012) Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology. (3rd ed) New Jersey:Merrill. On your blog answer one or more of the following questions:

  • Define instructional design? Do you understand it more in terms of ‘product’ or ‘process’?

I understand instructional design (ID) to be a process as my definition of instructional design is:  “the creation of a unit of work or learning experience that identifies all resources needed and is linked to a specific learning outcome.” The educator has carefully scaffolded the learning experience to assist the student in successfully reaching the identified learning objective. Reiser (2001, 2012) defines ID as encompassing analysis, design, development, implementation of evaluation and management of instruction (ADDIE model). This mirrors Blooms Taxonomy where planning a unit of work takes in the areas of remembering,  understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating and creating, though I would flip the order in my design of learning projects for a  class of primary students.

Furthermore, good design projects must be able to foster  metacognition and all educators should look for this when they take their students out of their Zone of Proximal Development (Berk, 2006 ) and into the realms of higher order thinking as new concepts are synthesised and integrated into prior knowledge. Reiser went on further, in his recorded lecture, to state that courses needed to be “well designed to promote active learning/participation and that learning activities should be effective and interesting” (2010). This is paramount to engaging students in taking ownership of their learning by linking meaningful and authentic real world scenarios into course design.

One interesting concept was the definition of a system as highlighted by Gustafson and Branch (2007) and how all components of the system were interdependent of each other. When designing a 10 week unit of work I start with the specific learning outcome/s as dictated by the NSW Board of Studies Syllabus, then indicators must be set that will enable the me to identify outcomes through formative and summative assessment, all resources (digital and hard copy) assembled and accessible (equity) , individual student learning needs accounted for through differentiation of  learning tasks,whole school learning priorities, and the list goes on… Therefore reflecting on past units I have created, I can identify with the systems based approach, as  all of my units were completely reliant on each unique component in order to achieve the identified learning outcomes for my students.

Moving on, I am only just discovering the concepts of ID so for now the product, for me, is the end result or the final objective i.e. a poster, video, audio recording or slide show based on the topic part of the assessment criteria. As I think more deeply there is a grey area where the product could be the actual learning processes as the student moves forward through the carefully designed learning sequences…more food for thought…

    • Is instruction (and hence instructional design) different from training or teaching?

Definition of instruction


1 (often instructions) a direction or order:he issued instructions to the sheriffhe was acting on my instructions
(instructions) Law directions to a solicitor or counsel, or to a jury.
Computing a code in a program which defines and carries out an operation.
2 (instructions) detailed information about how something should be done or operated:always study the instructions supplied
3 [mass noun] teaching; education:instruction in the Roman Catholic faith

Definition of teaching

noun 1 [mass noun] the occupation, profession, or work of a teacher: I went into teaching because I like working with children [as modifier]: a teaching union 2 (teachings) ideas or principles taught by an authority: the teachings of the Koran

Definition of training

[mass noun] the action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behaviour:
in-service training for staff
the action of undertaking a course of exercise and diet in preparation for a sporting event:
you’ll have to go into strict training

Oxford dictionaries Online

No, I do not think ID is different from teaching or training. What I do think is that there are different theories and strategies that are embraced by politicians, educators and other stakeholders and these shape and drive curriculum design and delivery. For example, Noel Pearson introduced Direct Instruction (DI),  underpinned by the behaviourist theories of B.F. Skinner,  into the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy (CYAAA) to a mixed reception. DI is a highly instructional teaching strategy that incorporates ‘scripted’ lessons taught every day- the polar opposite of a constructivist pedagogy.

For more information on Direct Instruction click on the following hyperlinks:

ACER Research: Effective Teaching Strategies; Dr Ken Rowe

Direct Instruction Revisited: A Key Model for Instructional Technology; Susan G. Magliaro, Barbara B. Lockee, John K. Burton

  • What did you find interesting in reading about the history of instructional design and technology?

Firstly, I found it very interesting how Thomas Edison stated in 1913 that “Books will soon be obsolete in the schools…It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture. Our school system will be completely changed in the next ten years” (as cited in Saettler, 1968, p. 98). This didn’t quite come true then but in the past 10 years e-readers have come into their own as more books are delivered digitally. Henley High School in South Australia, for instance, completely did away with their school library (over 10,000 books!). I wonder how they deal with the equity issue regarding access to e-books through digital devices?

Secondly, it was especially interesting to read about the German Chief of General Staff who mentioned, in 1945, that “We had everything calculated perfectly except the speed with which America was able to train its people. Our major miscalculation was in underestimating their quick and complete mastery of film education” (as cited in Olsen & Bass, 1982, p. 33). I had never thought of how powerful war instructional films were to the success of the allied forces. Today YouTube is an enormously successful instructional resource with millions of  video tutorials available in an instant. Why read when you can go to YouTube  and watch how to do it? The Kahn Academy is another example of  a highly successful online instructional resource with over 3000 video tutorials covering  a plethora of different educational subjects.


Berk, L. (2006). Child development (7th ed.). Boston, NY: Pearson Education.

Gustafson, K., & Branch, R. (2007). What is instructional design? In R. A. Reiser & J. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (pp. 17-26). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.

NYUSteinhardt (Producer). (2012, 25 October). Robert Reiser, Ph.D, Ten Trends Affecting the Field of Instructional Design and Technology. [Video] Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxq5WnZ558Y

Reiser, R. A history of instructional design and technology: Part I: A history of instructional media. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49(1), 53-64. doi: 10.1007/bf02504506

Reiser, R. A history of instructional design and technology: Part II: A history of instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49(2), 57-67. doi: 10.1007/bf02504928