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Instructional Design

Module 1. Instructional Design Models

Models help designers conceptualize and plan for carrying out their work. Presented here are the most well known models of instructional design.


ADDIE is an acronym created by the initial letter of the five core elements of instructional design: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. The following chapter from Penn State's instructional design handbook introduces the concept of ADDIE:


SAM stands for Successive Approximation Model. So-called "rapid" course designers regard SAM as being more efficient than ADDIE because you can make changes during development that otherwise wait until the ADDIE cycle concludes. Here is more on SAM:

Design Thinking and Agile Design

Most of the models discussed involve a process of large steps that must be taken and completed before progressing on to the next part of the process. At the turn of the century, seventeen software developers (Beck et al., 2001) wrote a manifesto seeking to create a more “Agile” approach to instructional development by emphasizing individuals over processes, interactions over tools, customers over contracts, and solving problems over following plans. Agile developers encourage frequent feedback as they take smaller steps to achieve results. For more on Agile design, follow the links in the following bibliographic references:

Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction

A model that more clearly specifies the instructional process is Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction. These events are enumerated as follows:

  1. Gain Attention
  2. Clarify Expectations
  3. Review
  4. Present the Content
  5. Guided Practice
  6. Independent Practice
  7. Share New Knowledge
  8. Implementation
  9. Authentic Practice

For more on Gagne’s model, follow the link in the following bibliographic reference:


The Pebble-in-the-Pond model of instructional design (Merrill, 2002b, 2007b) aims to provide a more appropriate approach for designing problem-centered instruction. For more on Pebble-in-the-Pond, follow the link to the Pebble-in-the-Pond section of the following bibliographic reference:

Understanding by Design (UbD)

Invented by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, UbD is a “backwards design” or “backwards planning” process that stays focused on teaching for understanding during the entire planning process. There are three stages. Stage 1 identifies desired results. Stage 2 determines the evidence that is needed to assess attainment of the goals identified in stage 1. Stage 3 plans the learning experiences based on the goals and assessment strategies in stages 1 and 2, respectively. For more on UbD, follow the link in the following bibliographic reference:

Dick & Carey

Walter Dick and Lou Carey published the first edition of their Systematic Design of Instruction in 1978. Now published in its xxth edition, Dick & Carey (20xx) is widely regarded as the gold standard in the systems approach to instructional development. Consisting of nine stages, the Dick & Carey model is especially helpful during a project’s initial analysis and concluding evaluation phases. The nine stages progress through 3 phases – Analysis (1-3), Design (4-6), and Develop (7-9). More specifically, the stages are enumerated as follows:

For more on the Dick & Carey model, follow the link in the following bibliographic reference:

Merrill’s First Principles

Before defining his first principles of instruction, Merrill conducted a systematic review of the instructional design models currently in use. He found that there are five processes underlying effective designs. These five processes are demonstration, application, task-centered, activation, and integration. In practice, learning happens when students observe a demonstration, apply the new knowledge, engage in task-oriented instruction, activate relevant prior knowledge, and integrate new knowledge into their everyday activities. For more on Merrill’s First Principles, follow the link in the following bibliographic reference:


Created by Heinich, Molenda, and Russell (1981) and revised by Smaldino, Lowther, Russell, and Mims (2015), the ASSURE model is based on a linear progression of the concepts formed by its acronym:

For more on ASSURE, follow the link in the following bibliographic reference:


Created by Newby, Stepich, Lehman, Russell, and OttenbreitLeftwich (2011), the PIE model simplifies ADDIE by reducing the design process to three categories consisting of Plan, Implement, Evaluate, thereby forming the acronym PIE. Each category is placed on a matrix asking questions about teacher, learner, and educational technology. The resulting nine-cell matrix creates the project’s systematic design model. For more on PIE, follow the link in the following bibliographic reference:

Quality Matters (QM)

Quality Matters (QM) is online at https://qualitymatters.org. QM is an instructional design framework for creating online courses. The QM instructional design model is in a book entitled Bridge to Quality: A QM Online Course Design Guide. Both higher ed and K-12 versions are available at https://qualitymatters.org/bridge. For more on QM, follow the link in the following bibliographic reference:


The February 2023 issue of the Journal of Applied Instructional Design (JAID) was devoted to Trauma-Informed Instructional Design Practices. The entire issue is freely available at https://jaid.edtechbooks.org/jaid_12_1. Subsequently, the special issue’s editors, namely Treavor Bogard and Alison Carr-Chellman, created a model called TI-Addie, pronounced “Tidy”, which modifies the ADDIE process to focus on the care that must be taken during each ADDIE phase to create instructional designs that are sensitive to trauma. To learn more about the TI-Addie model, follow the link in its bibliographic reference as follows:

Comparing Instructional Design Models

If you worked your way this far down the page, you must be wondering how all these models compare, and which one should you use. Follow this link to compare ADDIE, Gagne, Merrill, and Bloom:

The following blog from the Digital Learning Institute identifies their five core instructional design models, including ADDIE, SAM, Dick & Carey, Kemp, and Understanding by Design:

For still more, fasten your seat belt and follow this link to compare 26 different models of instructional design: