Something Different? Model-Centered Instructional Design Products

“Hey. What’s that?”

Last week, I learned about The Nature and Origin of Instructional Objects theory by Gibbons, Nelson, and Richards (2000).  The theory was based on Gibbon’s and Fairweather (1998) that focused on the seven key steps for designing computer-based instructional programs. In their later work, the theorists sought to explain that the complexity and multifaceted nature of instructional technology require intense focus on the “instructional objects”, or “model-centered instructional products.” The researchers defined these terms as any element of instructional design that can be assembled independently to create an instructional event including problem and problem sets, interactive aspects, instructional models, messaging, and content.  

After pointing out that instructional objects involve database structuring, knowledge storage, format and process controls, modular tutors, machine discovery information, non-programmer designs, knowledge capture, decision-making, and data management, the theorists explained model-centered instructional design requires “real-time assembly” of objects (p. 25-28). (Humph. Interesting.)

Model-Centered Instructional Design Key Constructs

Gibbons, Nelson, & Richards saw the need to address two basic issues related to technology-based instruction. The first was the need to address individual adaptivity, instructional message generativity, and cost-sensitive scalability. They next saw the need to address the issue of multi-layering and multi-staging mechanical and functional technological design space, the “Convergence Zone.”  The latter spoke to the constructs designers envision while creating instructional design systems (media, messaging, instructional strategy, and interactive cause-effect and performance expertise and supplemental environments (p. 33-35). The theorist saw the convergence zone as the origin of the design space that holds the instructional design together (p. 38).

Model-Centered Instructional Design Guiding Principles

Referring to Gibbon’s (1998) earlier work, the theorists explained taking a model-centered approach to instructional design would address the issues of adaptability, generativity, scalability and technological design space. Specifically, they proposed the below model-centered principles be considered during the instructional design process:

  1. Experiences that give learners the opportunity to interact with the content’s environment cause-effect system, and expert performance;
  2. Problem-solving interactions for learners;
  3. Denaturing aligned with the learners’ knowledge and comprehension levels;
  4. Sequencing of problems within the environment;
  5. Goal oriented problem-solving that enable learners to attain a specific instructional goal;
  6. Resources within the design that connect the learner to supporting information, materials, and tools within the design; and
  7. Instructional augmentation that provides learners with access to dynamic and specialized supports during problem-solving (p. 39).

“The Semantic String”: Integrated Accountability

Gibbons, Nelson, & Richards also explained that instructional design should follow a logical and unique hierarchical structure that provides an environmental, system, expert performance, and problem structure view sequenced and connected elements (p. 45-46).

The theorist also introduced me to the new term, semantic string, defined as the integration of the instructional design architecture and its analytical processes.  They felt that integrating the two constructs increased accountability for the design and provides a method for determining the designer’s competency (p. 50). Ouch.  Gibbons, Nelson, & Richards also recommended strategies for generating problems and weighting problem sets before concluding that the standardization of the process using the principles they described could “open the floodgates” for instructional design with the necessary interoperability and increased sustainability and use (p. 54).

Jennie’s Perspective

I liked the logic Gibbons, Nelson, & Richards used to make the business case for why model-centered instructional products should become the new “thing” in the instructional design field. However, I would have to do additional research before determining if the approach is capable of usurping ADDIE as the go-to in our field.

By the way, my ADDIE group appears to have made it! After our rocky “forming” and “storming” start, last week, we entered the “norming” stage and got a lot of work done (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977).  We consolidated our ideas then collaboratively created a design for our ADDIE lesson plan and design presentation.   Did we make it to the “performing” stage? Well. We’ll know soon.


Gibbons, A. S., Nelson, J., & Richards, R. (2000). The nature and origin of instructional objects. The instructional use of learning objects, 25-58.

Model-Centered Instruction/Design Layers (Andrew Gibbons) – (n.d.). Retrieved from

Soulier, J. S. (1988). The Design and Development of Computer Based Instruction. Allyn & Bacon/Logwood Division, 160 Gould Street, Needham Heights, MA 02194-2310.

Tuckman, B. W., & Jensen, M. A. C. (1977). Stages of small-group development revisited. Group & Organization Studies, 2(4), 419-427.

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