Instructional Design: Overkill or Good Practice

For the next couple of years much of my time will be spent on coursework as I have enrolled in George Washington University's Graduate Certificate in eLearning, the first step toward completing the Masters Degree in Education Technology Leadership. In the spirit of learning in public, I plan to use my blog as a thinking and processing space. I'll use the #GWETL tag here on the blog and the same hashtag when tweets are course related. At the moment, I'm registered in Instructional Design and Applying Educational Media and Technology

planworkworkplanInstructional Design & Lesson Planning

Lesson planning gets easier, and more intuitive with experience. The flow of a lesson through activation, exploration, engagement, and assessment becomes a natural part of what you do. Working with more than a dozen teacher candidates over the years, almost all roll their eyes when the time comes to submit formal lesson plans for an observed class. It's a chore, to be sure, and seems like overkill, yet these activities help a new teacher internalize the elements necessary to maximizing learning. One of my favorite things to do with teacher candidates is to plan - to dig into curriculum, make connections, sequence out ideas, scaffold experiences, consider criteria and rubrics for assessment, set timelines, and anticipate how students will personalize their product to demonstrate learning.

Instructional Design is as formal a process as I've worked with and is reminding me that some elements of my own planning have been under-emphasized. Below is an outline taken from the course syllabus reflecting the Dick & Carey Model of Instructional Design (Dick, W., Carey, L., & Carey, J. (2009). The Systematic Design of Instruction (7th Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.)

Instructional Design Process:
  • Needs assessment and front end analysis
  • Identifying instructional problems
  • Conducting instructional analyses
  • Analyzing learner, context and task characteristics
  • Writing performance objectives
  • Developing assessment instruments
  • Developing an instructional strategy and sequencing content
  • Selecting delivery methods and resources (media selection)
  • Developing instructional materials
  • Designing and conducting formative and summative evaluation
  • Developing a project implementation and management plan


Of course in day-to-day teaching it is unreasonable to expect this depth of instructional planning, but bringing those under-emphasized elements to mind can't be a bad thing. A good comparison is formative assessment - while it can be formally prepared, implemented, and assessed, it can also be ongoing, at-the-moment informal observations and remediation. Fundamentals of instructional design are formal processes, but can also be implemented on a micro level within a class period.

I am employing the instructional design process today in preparation for workshops and training seminars I'm delivering in the coming weeks. The process prompts me to be thoughtful about elements I may normally have glossed over. I suspect that as I continue using the instructional design process I'll internalize more of it and it will become a natural part of what I do and how I see instruction.

1 Comment

  1. Good point: Thinking deliberately through formal lesson plans is a help to new teachers. It's also a good refresher for veterans once in a while, especially when creating a new unit or tackling a new course.

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