Instructional Design... Creativity Inhibited?

Prompt: Many support the argument that recognized instructional design models embed inherent weaknesses. To illustrate this and focus our discussion, the ADDIE Model’s weaknesses are shown below.

  • Typical processes require unrealistically comprehensive up-front analysis. Most teams respond by doing very little at all and fail to access critical elements.

  • Ignores some political realities. Opportunities are misses, vital resources aren't made available, support is lacking, and targets shift.

  • Storyboards are ineffective tools for creating, communicating and evaluating design alternatives. Poor designs aren't recognized as such until too late.

  • Detailed processes become so set that creativity becomes a nuisance.No accommodation for dealing with faults or good ideas throughout the process.

  • Learning programs are designed to meet criteria that are measured (schedule, cost, throughput) and fail to focus on identifying behavioral changes.

  • Posttests provide little useful information to assist in improving instruction

DISCUSSION TOPIC: Do formally recognized instructional design models actually inhibit creativity and shift the focus from the student to the actual sponsor and the process itself. OR, Is a standard and methodical process needed to assure instructional design best practices that will be to everyone's benefit?

Here I must vent about Instructional Design as a field.

When I left NC State to head to the middle school classroom 5 years ago, I had never heard of such a thing as "instructional design".

When I returned a year ago (beginning part-time) the place was a-buzz with talks of instructional design.

At first I was intrigued... and I even bought a few books which I read cover to cover when I got them.  I tried on the role of instructional designer.  It felt okay.

And then I realized something.  An instructional designer is a teacher who doesn't teach.  They take the human being out of the equation, design instruction, and then plop them back in like widgets.  Plug in a teacher here, drop in 20 students here, add a dash of objectives and online quizzes and poof!  Eighteen weeks later out comes students who have "learned."

You have got to be kidding me.

I first thought that instructional design was a relatively new field.  And the way some folks wax eloquently about it you would think it was a newborn, the savior of education.

After further research I realized that ID came as a direct result of the behaviorist psychology and functional sociology movements in the 1940s and 50s.  If you peel back the nice and pretty "technical" language, the entire domain is simply positivist science applied to instruction.  If we ring the bell and give the correct treatment, then the students should salivate when they start the quiz.

Here we come back to the hill I will die on.

Teaching... learning... these are human activities.  They are not bound by universal laws and they are most certainly not solely focused on explanation of cause and effect.  ID supposes that if we use just the right model, instruction will be effective and efficient and all students will learn.
When it doesn't work out like this, something was wrong with the students or the teacher or the design.  Then we tweak and try again.  Tweak and try again.
I'm in another course this semester on instructional design and it is about to suck the very life out of me.  Can you tell?

Teaching and learning are not about being efficient and always 100% effective.  We are, in fact, human.  Not machines.  I am not a factory manager and my students are not widgets.

Another thing that is problematic about ID - it reinforces the commodification of education.  The "true" knowledge must simply be formatted in the best way possible so that it can be shoved into the students' heads.  Problem solved!

ID stifles creativity - at least in the way it is currently implemented and the boundaries/rules that it requires of teachers, educators, and instructors.

A final thought.  I was in a technology office on campus a few weeks ago where there was a discussion about how professors have been complaining because Moodle - a learning management system - is changing how they create and present their instruction.  I'm not talking here about not wanting to change... they were actually expressing that they did not like how the technology was changing how they structured their learning environment.  They felt like their hands were tied - and the IDs shrugged their shoulders and sighed.


Who has the power here?


Originally posted on October 23, 2010 per the requirements of EAC 539: Teaching in the Online Environment at NC State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.


  1. Wow... A lot here. I think the place of ID is in the hands of teachers who are using Moodle in their courses. I have seen online courses and portions of hybrid courses that the use of Moodle just makes my head hurt. I had students taking classes online who failed because they had no idea where / when / what was due. Turns out that some of the due dates were in the syllabus, some in the main thread and some where linked to in a different area. -- This is where ID comes in.

    You cannot replace the teacher. You cannot tell the teacher to teach a class he or she has not created without allowing them to modify it.



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