What is the difference between basic or advanced Instructional Design?

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Question: What is the difference between “basic” and “advanced” instructional design?

Hmm. Good question. After thinking about it for several days, I realized that I had never stopped to delineate and compare the plethora of instructional design models (ID) in use these days. Consequently, like any good scholar-under-construction, I decided to stand on the shoulders of giants. I researched the Education Resource Information Center (ERIC) database for definitions of “basic” instructional design. What I found astonished me.

The Research

Andrews and Goodson (1980) conducted a comparative analysis of ID models almost 40 years ago. The purpose of their study was to analyze research about instructional design models and how they are being used. After collecting a “representative sample” of works, the researchers generalized several findings that I found startling.

Let’s review the process the researchers used first. Andrews & Goodson compared the tasks associated with each of the 40 models and analyzed the tasks using synthesized schema taken from Gropper’s Distribution of Practice Responses Among Major Development Tasks (Gropper, 1977, Table 2, p. 3.5) to draw their first conclusions. The researchers then coded the 40 models by theoretical rationale, or, dimension.  Of the models reviewed, Andrews & Goodson found 65% reported some source as their theoretical origin. But other models appeared to have “no discernable theoretical basis” according to their references and citations (p.175). (Humph.)

The Findings

What was even more disturbing was that the researchers found only 50% of the models emphasized learning theory as their underpinning logic. It was noted that 70% emphasized either controls or analysis of the general systems as their core. Andrew & Goodson was, thereby, led to record that a number of the models they reviewed were not grounded explicitly by a prescribed learning theory (p. 178). (Oh, my.)

Furthermore, Andrews & Goodson found most of the models were focused on the completion of systematic linear sequenced tasks without regard to the complexity or rigor of resultant effectiveness. The researchers also concluded the documentation supporting some of the models was “generally inadequate.” Andrews & Goodson even found a reason to suspect that some developers simply modified previously existing models – then claimed the model as their own. The real shocker is that the researchers found some of the models are not even models at all despite being used for instructional design purposes globally (p. 178). (Huh?)

Finally, Andrews & Goodson opined that weak examples of instructional design are being pushed upon teachers and educators with apparently little concern for theoretical validity or cost-utility. (Ouch.)

Based on their findings, and considering how vital good instructional design is to education, Andrew & Goodson wrote almost 40 years ago that it is ill-advised for educators to depend on one model as their instructional design solution. Andrew & Goodson also warned educators to not be confused by the proliferation of untested – and unproven – models but to focus on guarding against wasteful use of resources. (My. My.)

Based on the research, ladies, and gentlemen, I argue that instructional design focused on the completion of systematic inquiry, disciplines, and the completion of a series of mechanical or linear steps isbasic” instructional design whose performance objective is implementation.

More Research

Now. Back to ERIC for an exploration of “advanced” instruction design.

Kirschner (2002) has long studied human cognition, learning, and instructional design.  Using brain imagining, psychology, memory experiments, and retention studies, Kirschner opined that human learning requires a cognitive load process. During this process, external stimuli, or schema, is captured by our visual and auditory senses and held briefly in our limited capacity short-term or working memories. While in this buffer, our brain tries to extract meaning from the schema by separating intrinsic schema (what we need to know) from extraneous information (stuff that doesn’t matter)What the brain hopes to do is transfer intrinsic schema to our long-term memory for retention and retrieval when we need it (germane cognitive load) and dump extraneous noise as wholly and quickly as possible. To make this even more challenging, Kirschner found our working memory can only process and organize five to seven packets of schemata at a time. So, Kirschner advises efforts should be taken to ensure we select and retain only the schema we need during the germane cognitive load process (Kirschner, 2002, p. 5)

In like manner, Sweller’s (2011) asserts that human knowledge can be divided into two forms: primary knowledge, which is learning acquired through biological evolution, and secondary knowledgewhich is knowledge gained through culturally invented instruction from other humans. Like Kirschner, Sweller explains the human brain can indefinitely organize and store relevant secondary education in our long-term memory storage. But, the process requires conscious learning. Therefore, strategies must be employed to facilitate that process. Otherwise, the cognitive load process will not complete and we will forget most of what we learn within minutes (Sweller, 2011, p. 48 ). (“Hey. What was that guy’s name again?”)

Based on this research, I argue that instructional design that includes techniques, tools, and strategies that provide explicit instructional guidance during the cognitive load process is “advanced” instructional design whose performance objective is learning.

Jennie’s Perspective

So. Back to the question. “What is the difference between basic and advanced instructional design?”

Let’s see. According to me:

Basic” instructional design is a process dependent upon predefined sequential steps with the objective of implementing a learning model. 

Advanced” instructional design is the science of creating supports for the human germane cognitive load process by integrating multi-sensory learning tools, tips, and techniques into instructional models with the objective of facilitating human learning. (Ok.)

Well. That’s how I answered the question. What about you?

Thanks for stopping by.


Andrews, D. H., & Goodson, L. A. (1980). A Comparative Analysis of Models of Instructional Design. Journal of Instructional Development, 3(4), 2–16.

Gropper, G. L. (1973). Development of Course Content and Instructional Materials/Aids for the Training of Educational Research, Development, Diffusion, and Evaluation Personnel. Supplementary Final Report.

Kirschner, P. A. (2002). Cognitive load theory: Implications of cognitive load theory on the design of learning.

Sweller, J. (2011). Cognitive load theory. In Psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 55, pp. 37-76). Academic Press.

Wiley, D. A. (2002). The instructional use of learning objects(Vol. 1). Bloomington, IN: Agency for instructional technology.

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