An Overview of Instructional
By: Erin Hatfield
Table of Contents
Slide 3 - History of Instructional Design
Slide 5 - Definition of Instructional Design
Slide 7 - ‘Systematic’ Instructional Design
Slide 9 - Models of Instructional Design
Slide 11 - Constructivism
Slide 13 - Empiricism
Slide 15 - Behaviorism
Slide 17 - Information Processing Theory
Slide 19 - ID & Educational Technology
Slide 21 - APA References
History of Instructional Design
Instructional Design has been around for as long as people have been trying to improve things. It was
formally named around 1961 when Michigan State University used the term (Gustafson, ERIC
Clearinghouse on Information & Technology, & United States, 2002). Since then, people have been
looking into how humans learn. These ideas have come together to form many theories concerning
how to design instruction for optimal learning. Although each model is slightly different, they all share
many of the same components. (Reiser, 2001) However, our understanding of instructional design is
always growing, moving and changing.
Definition of Instructional Design
Commonly known as ID, instructional design is a process. It combines learning and teaching theory to
create a program that produces student knowledge. This process is used in almost every sector of
society including the military, graduate programs, and businesses. (Reiser, 2001) All of the pieces
have to work together to form a quality product.
“Systematic” Instructional Design
Organization is key to Instructional Design. Although there is a step by step process, often these steps
happen simultaneously. Without organization, the operation will fall apart. However, when all the
pieces come together are are easy to find, the whole outfit is successful.
Models of ID
Instructional Design models share many of the same charistics. They each are a process that is
somewhat linear. Reflection and planning are big parts in most. However, they are not simply carbon
copies with different names. Each has been designed to meet the needs of the creator and applies in
unique situations. Programmers prefer the instant feedback they get from using the ‘Rapid
Prototyping’ approach. As people use a model, it grows and changes ever so slightly. The DNA is
essentially the same, but like puppies, each is unique in markings, personality, and other more subtle
Constructivism is a philosophy that believes that knowledge is created through experiences and
personal interpretation (Smith & Regan, 2005). It began with Jean Piaget and continues today. Often it
can be found throughout curriculum in classrooms. This philosophy calls for learners to discover the
knowledge for themselves instead of telling learners the information directly. Much like a caterpillar
creates a cocoon and becomes a butterfly, students take the discoveries they make and create their
own understanding, making learning a personal and sometimes social process.
Empiricism stipulates that knowledge is gained through physical experiences. Its main founder, John
Locke said that very little is ingrained in a person, and most everything they know comes as children
grow and learn. (Smith & Regan, 2005) This theory dictates that people have no knowledge of things
because they have no experience with these things.(Borghini, n.d.) A good example is chopsticks.
These are widely used in Asia as the main utensil. As such, children grow up using these in their daily
lives and can pick up anything with them. In other parts of the world, however, chopsticks are
unknown. When presented with a pair at an ethnic restaurant, many people have no idea how to use
them and opt for the utensil they are most familiar with.
Behaviorism is an educational theory in which teachers only concern themselves with observable
behaviors of their students. It stated that everyone is born with a ‘blank slate’ and their environment
and behavioral patterns determine their destiny. (McLeod, 2007) Educators cannot concern
themselves with why a student does things because that is out of their control. They can only control
what a student can do. By observing and taking notes, teachers can condition their students to behave
and react certain ways. Educators can condition students much like writing pages in a journal.
Information Processing Theory
This theory is actually a collection of theories that follow the idea that the brain interprets the
environment and how a person reacts to it. (Smith & Ragan, 2005) These reactions can be changed
slowly over time by introducing new information and ways of thinking. The system depends on three
types of memory: sensory, working, and long-term. Most learning takes place in the working and longterm sections of the brain. This theory works at transitioning information from the working memory to
long-term memory which makes things seem easier to do (i.e. comprehension vs. knowledge) (Schraw
& McCrudden, 2013) This process is much like taking strands of yarn and weaving a beautiful cloth.
ID and Educational Technology
Although they are two different fields and can function independently, Instructional Design and
Educational Technology do naturally go together. As time goes on, instructional designers are going to
be required to produce instruction that can be transmitted via technology. Without a good grasp of
what this technology is fully capable of, these designers may miss out of fantastic opportunities for
learner engagement. Likewise, without ID, Educational Technology can sometimes be more of an
afterthought. Educational technologists that can also design instruction can create quality lessons that
target students where they need it and improve them frequently. Just like the clownfish and sea
anemone, these two fields benefit from shared knowledge and collaboration.
Borghini, A. (n.d.). Empiricism. About.com Philosophy. Retrieved February 12, 2014, from http://philosophy.about.
Gustafson, K. L., ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology, & United States. (2002). Survey of instructional development
models (4th ed.). Syracuse, N.Y: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology.
McLeod, S. (2007). Behaviorist Approach. Simply Psychology. Retrieved February 9, 2014, from http://www.simplypsychology.
Reiser, R. (2001). A History of Instructional Design and Technology: Part II: A History of Instructional Design. Educational Technology
Research & Development, 49(2), 57–67.
Schraw, G., & McCrudden, M. (2013, July 12). Information Processing Theory. Education.com. Retrieved February 10, 2014, from http:
Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (2005). Instructional Design (3rd ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.