In order to consider cultural implications of the process of instructional design and the role of its practitioners, this post considers the objective, analytical positioning of instructional designers perpetuated by the field's central model, ADDIE, by asking the question: Does the A in ADDIE provide optimal guidance in increasingly global and constructive learning environments? This question is contemplated with attention to 1) cultural implications of the ADDIE model’s analytical positioning, 2) the flexibility of ADDIE in practice, and 3) a proposed modification to replace the A, for analyze, with E, for engage.
ADDIE or EDDIE: Analyze or engage?
If you are an instructional designer or a subject matter expert (SME) asked to design instruction or produce an instructional tool, and you turn to resources from the field of instructional design, you will most commonly be greeted by the ADDIE model or its progeny. Because the ADDIE model begins with the A, Analyze, this model tells you that your first step is to objectively approach your audience and the problem. With this beginning, the model sets in motion a process of taking apart and examining the problem, learners and the environment in order to progress to the rest of the process of designing, developing, implementing and evaluating.
As the field of instructional design continues to open up to considerations of culture, it is important to consider how this objectivist model positions its practitioners. There is an established and growing body of literature acknowledging the need to better understand the function, impact and implications of culture in instructional design (Damarin, 1998; Heemskerk, Brink, Volman & ten Dam, 2005; Henderson, 1996; Seufert, 2001; Willis, 2005). This body of literature highlights the need for cultural awareness and attention to individual differences in design, content and delivery in the areas of primary, secondary, higher education and e-learning settings (Bonk & Cunningham, 1998; Ezer, 2006; McLoughlin, 2001; Powell, 1993; Vrasidas & Zembylas, 2003; Wild & Henderson, 1997).
In order to continue to make strides in this area, we also need to consider cultural implications of the process of instructional design and the role of its practitioners. Does the A in ADDIE provide optimal guidance in increasingly global and constructive learning environments? This essay will contemplate this question with attention to 1) cultural implications of the ADDIE model’s analytical positioning, 2) the flexibility of ADDIE in practice, and 3) a proposed modification.
Cultural implications of an objective analytical model
The negative impact of objective paradigms in learning environments has been highlighted in the robust body of literature that values constructivist models for taking culture into account in education (Huang, 2002; Jonassen, 1994). Though still a topic for debate in instructional design, there is wide-spread attention to the need for transitions in teacher-directed, knowledge acquisition models of learning (Knowles, 1975; Mezirow, 2000).
There is also growing attention to how instructional designers are positioned by the analytical focus of the ADDIE model (Thomas, Mitchell & Joseph, 2002; Wilson, 2005). Borrowing from cultural studies, this discussion seeks to examine the implications of instructional designers as central analysts.
Studies and models of the roles of instructional designers clearly indicate the central role of communication and negotiating relationships (Rossett, 1998; Wang, 2007). Buber (1947/1970) philosophized dual modes of communicative relationships: 1) an I-Thou dialogue, where individuals encounter others equally in a mutual exchange of perceptions or 2) an I-It monologue, where individuals impose perceptions on others with no mutual exchange. Buber’s dualistic model is useful in examining the cultural implications of the A in ADDIE. The instructional designer, initially positioned as an analyst, works from a paradigm of I am I, and you, the problem, stakeholders, learner, environment and solution are to be taken to pieces and examined from my perspective.
In Buber’s model, this type of I-It positioning results in a monologue, where the analyst ends up in a conversation with him/herself about his/her own perceptions. This analytical structure presumes objectivity and also sets up a process that values the data gathering choices, interpretations and decisions of the analyst.
For years now, cultural critics have effectively highlighted the inaccuracy and damaging effects of such hegemonic models for inquiry (Bhaba, 1994; Said, 1978), and the impact of this critique is clearly evidenced in cultural studies of education (Giroux, 1996). With attention to both cultural and constructivist considerations, instructors now situate themselves in the classroom as facilitators. However, instructional designers are only sometimes instructors, and the classroom is only one location of the instructional design process.
The A for analyze in the ADDIE model may poorly situate instructional designers as actors in a paradigm of objectivity who are asked to break things apart in environments that are increasingly collaborative and constructivist.
ADDIE in practice
It is fair to argue that instructional designers have been positioning themselves as collaborators and facilitators for years, just look at Thiagi (1976) and his career crusade to “let the inmates run the asylum.” The ADDIE model, then, could be viewed as flexible enough to encompass transitions and diverse perspectives in the field.
In a review of the history and emerging trends of instructional development models, Gustafson & Branch (1997) defend the fundamentals of ADDIE and its progeny of models as broadly applicable and accurate against claims that they are not well-suited to current pedagogies or conditions of dynamic, constructivist and cross-cultural environments. However, in a later collaboration, Gustafson with Visscher-Voerman (2004) found that the activities of highly reputable designers “indeed, do deviate from the activities and order proposed by ADDIE models” (p. 70) and go on to examine how these activities fit into different design paradigms. As
(2007) acknowledges, the rules and theories of instructional design and
technology (IDT) must be examined in different settings because “the knowledge
and skills required for effective practice tend to be extremely sensitive to
local conditions” (p. 342). A collection
of studies edited by Armstrong (2004) illustrates the sensitivity of the
process of IDT to environments and systems by presenting cases in a variety of
situations and discussing implications for instructional designers. In this
collection, scholars and practitioners reflect on the use of ADDIE across
sectors and across borders and suggest expanding the ADDIE model. Wilson
As a model, ADDIE prescribes a course of action and a way of conceptualizing design, and its purpose is to provide guidance for instructional designers. If this is the case, shouldn’t this model accurately describe transitions in the field that have been prompted by attention to culture and constructivism?
The ADDIE model has been changed before. Even though it is considered the basis for most instructional design models, the exact origin of the acronym ADDIE, is unknown (Molenda, 2003). In tracing the model back to a closely matching model used by the military, Molenda (2003) finds the acronym to be ADDIC, where the C stands for control. In its evolution, then, ADDIE has already been modified to acknowledge how one component, such as control, might be subsumed into implementation. The ADDIE model might be modified again to subsume analysis into a more encompassing and essential first step in participating in the creation of opportunities for learning: to engage. The term “analyze” might be better replaced with “engage” in order to set a tone that is inclusive of all participants and more reflective of what is happening in the field of instructional design and technology.
EDDIE: The first step is to engage
Isn’t analysis still centrally important? It’s difficult to imagine project management or even thought processes without analysis; arguably, analysis is an underlying part of every stage of the design process. By replacing analysis with engage, the EDDIE model acknowledges the crucial importance of dialogue and the inclusion of a variety of perspectives in analyzing and solving instructional design problems.
If not analyze first, why engage? The term engage could set a tone for the design process that prioritizes entering into mutual exchanges. The crucial role of relationships in the design process is highlighted by works influential to the field of instructional design (Rogers, 1995; Rossett, 1998), but not reflected in its fundamental model. The image posted above shows the role of the designer in constructive engagement the problem, stakeholders, learner, environment and solution.
Is this just a matter of semantics? In part, but it is a matter of semantics under a cultural lens that acknowledges the importance and implications of language and semiotics (Barthes, 1957/1972). ADDIE, as an acronym, is well-suited for internet information retrieval and quick assimilation into the practice of instructional designers or subject matter experts who will never take on an in-depth study of the field. With this acronym so well-designed for access and memorization, there are far-reaching implications of how it positions its practitioners in the instructional design process.
Should we just do away with models all together?
The roots of instructional design cling to the soil of the military-industrial complex and its call for more effective, efficient and productive processes for uniform training. Though still of legitimate concern in today’s learning environments that reflect the transitional growth from industrial to knowledge based economies, calls for effectiveness, efficiency and productivity are now accompanied by calls for equity, sustainability and innovation.
Petrina (2004) argues that the models proposed by instructional designers are lacking because “universal formulas” could only work in apolitical environments which arguably, do not exist. However, a model for the process of instructional design that incorporates the political, by positioning the designer to engage rather than analyze the environment and diversity of voices, may work towards more equitable, sustainable and innovative approaches and outcomes. EDDIE, as a model of inclusion, prompts practitioners to position themselves as engaged participants in a process that can make room for both objectivist and constructivist approaches, depending on the circumstances. This blended and balanced approach is advocated by a growing number of scholars and practitioners in instructional design (Christensen, 2008; Wilson, 2005).
If you are an instructional designer or a subject matter expert (SME) asked to design instruction or produce an instructional tool, and you turn to resources from the field of instructional design, how might your process and results differ if you were met with the EDDIE model for guidance? Studies gathering evidence from the literature about how current practices reflect constructive engagement and studies designed to test the EDDIE model would provide useful guidance in answering this question. This discussion provides a framework for further research considering the role of instructional designers in the transitioning environment of globalized instructional design.
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