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Instructional Design Models

© 2001, 2004, Elena Qureshi, M.A., M.Ed., Ph.D.

Models for instructional design provide procedural frameworks for the systematic production of instruction. They incorporate fundamental elements of the instructional design process including analysis of the intended audience or determining goals and objectives (Braxton et al., 1995). An instructional design model gives structure and meaning to an ID problem, enabling the would-be designers to negotiate their design task with a semblance of conscious understanding. Models help to visualize the problem, to break it down into discrete, manageable units. A model should be judged by how it mediates the designer's intention, how well it can share a work load, and how effectively it shifts focus away from itself toward the object of the design activity (Ryder, 2001). Instructional models prescribe how combinations of instructional strategy components should be integrated to produce a course of instruction (Braxton et al, 1995).

A variety of ID models have evolved over the years to represent applications among diverse learner audiences and distinct educational contexts (Edmonds, Branch, & Mukherjee, 1994; Gustafson, 1991). These models have generated a wealth of research data that have many implications for instructional design practices and theory development (Richey, 1986).

According to Braxton et al. (1995), instructional models are guidelines or sets of strategies on which the approaches to teaching by instructors are based. Effective instructional models are based on learning theories.  Braxton et al. cited the following ID models as the most important ones among the specific ID models:

Dick and Carey Design Model

The Dick and Carey (1996) design model uses a systems approach for designing instruction. One of the best known models, its approach to designing instruction is similar to that of software engineering. The design model describes all the phases of an iterative process that starts by identifying instructional goals and ends with summative evaluation. This model is applicable across a range of context areas (e.g., K-12 to business to government) and users (novice to expert). It is a learner-centered model. The fact that it is a systems model implies that it is more involved with instructional development than design. One of the limitations of this model is that behavior is not considered.

Some critics feel that the systems approach is too focused on specific objectives to be successfully applied to the development of instruction which supports higher level thinking and the active construction of knowledge by learners.  However, advocates of the systems approach dispute this, and believe the systems approach can be effectively employed to set appropriate goals and construct learning environments that facilitate the attainment of those goals (Merrill, Li, & Jones, 1990). Furthermore, the 1996 version of the model (the original model was introduced in 1968) included many important changes. For instance, Dick and Carey considered the impact of performance technology on the derivation of instructional goals, as well as increased focus on the context of learning. The front end analysis has a focus on instructional and learner analysis, which is very appealing, although this model is very linear.

Hannafin and Peck Design Model

The Hannafin Peck (1987) design model is a three phase process. In the first phase, a needs assessment is performed. This phase is followed by a design phase. In the third phase, instruction is developed and implemented. In this model, all of the phases involve a process of evaluation and revision. The Hannafin Peck’s design model is simple but elegant in the way in which all three phases are connected to "evaluate and revise". This may not be a model designed for a novice, but its focus on constraints in relation to quality and complexity is appealing.

Knirk and Gustafson Design Model

The Knirk and Gustafson (1986) design model is a three stage process which includes problem determination, design and development. The problem determination stage involves identifying the problem and setting instructional goals. The design stage includes developing objectives and specifying strategies. Finally, in the development stage, materials are developed.

It appears that the model is simple in its design but inclusive of details and tries to convey this inclusiveness through circles and arrows. It is a small scale model, which means that it can be used for individual lessons or units. One of the weaknesses of the Knirk and Gustafson’s (1986) design model is that the focus on evaluation and development seems to be very late in the process.

Kemp Design Model

The Kemp (1994) design model takes a holistic approach to instructional design. Virtually all factors in the learning environment are taken into consideration including subject analysis, learner characteristics, learning objectives, teaching activities, resources (computers, books, etc.), support services and evaluation. The process is iterative and the design is subject to constant revision. The immediate feel of being iterative and inclusive, and particularly the fact that the central focus is the learner needs and goals are the strengths of this model. There is also a focus on content analysis, as there would be in any educational design and a focus on support and service, which is not present in other ID models. Much like the Knirk and Gustafson’s (1986) design model, Kemp’s model is also small scale and can be used for individual lessons.

Gerlach and Ely Design Model

The Gerlach-Ely (1980) design model is a prescriptive model that is well suited to K-12 and higher education. It is meant for novice instructional designers who have knowledge and expertise in a specific context. The model includes strategies for selecting and including media within instruction. It also addresses the allocation of resources. The main strength of this model is that practicing classroom teachers can identify with the process it suggests.  The objectives classification taxonomy, for example, is appropriately stated for teachers' use.  The taxonomy is also easily related to specific instructional strategies.  The weakness of this model is that it may unintentionally reinforce the existing organization of learning and teaching in schools, rather than promoting a re-examination of best practices in classrooms. Gerlach and Ely had a good thought regarding "assessment of entering behaviors" as a precursor to needs analysis, but their approach defined no concrete way of doing this.

Rapid Prototyping Design Model

Tripp and Bichelmeyer's (1990) Rapid Prototyping Design Model is a four level process that is intended to create instruction for lessons as opposed to entire curricula. The process stages include performing a needs analysis, constructing a prototype, utilizing the prototype to perform research and installing the final system. This model relies on expert instructional designers to utilize heuristics as well as past experience and intuition to guide the design. One of the strengths of this model is that it is all inclusive and leaves the processes up to the designer as they see fit. It also has the appeal of having extended involvement with the intended user - something that is missing in many models.

According to Richey (1986), there are three categories of conceptual models: the first group includes the models that focus upon the effects of time on the instructional process. The second group includes those models that describe the tasks of instruction. The third group consists of the models that emphasize individual differences of learners.

Time-Focused Models

Time-focused models identify critical variables in the teaching environment and their relationships in an effort to describe optimal learning situations (Richey, 1986). There are a number of conceptual models that are included in this category. The most well-known ones were developed in the 70s by Bennett (1978), Berliner (1979), Bloom (1976), Cooley and Leinhardt (1975), and Harnischfeger and Wiley (1976). Most of these models stem from a model originally developed by Carroll (1963).

Carroll’s Model

Carroll (1963) proposed a model to account for school learning. The researcher’s major premise was that school learning is a function of time. Summarizing the Carroll’s model would look like this:

School Learning = f (time spent/time needed).

Carroll defined time spent as a function of (i.e., resulting from or composed of) two variables: (1) opportunity to learn and (2) perseverance. The measure that the researcher proposed for opportunity was allocated time or the amount of time the classroom teacher made available for school learning. The measure proposed for perseverance was engagement rate or the percentage of the allocated time that students were actually on task. Allocated time was multiplied by engagement rate to produce engaged time or time on task which is defined as the number of minutes per school day that students were actually engaged in school work.

The denominator, time needed, was defined as a function of the following three variables: (1) aptitude for the task at hand, (2) ability to understand instruction, and (3) quality of instruction. By aptitude Carroll meant the ability to learn academic material. One measure of this variable would be IQ. By ability to understand instruction, Carroll meant the preparedness of the student for understanding the specific material to be learned. Quality of instruction included the entire range of instructional methods and delivery techniques.

It is apparent that three of the five major variables in this model – perseverance, aptitude, and ability to understand instruction- are student characteristics. The remaining two components of the Carroll’s model – opportunity to learn and quality of instruction – are imposed upon the learning process by the environment, which includes the teacher, the instructional materials, or the “system.” According to Richey (1986), Carroll’s model is a generalized one, descriptive in nature, including consideration of individual learner characteristics, delivery, and the curriculum. One of the limitations of this model is that it fails to include teacher characteristics and classroom planning and management.   

Berliner’s Model (1979)

Berliner’s (1979) model of classroom instruction is based not only on Carroll’s (1963) time data, but also on the construct of opportunity to learn. As a conceptual model of instruction, Berliner’s model has a more prescriptive nature than Carroll’s (Richey, 1986). The emphasized elements come from definite opinions as to how one should arrange instructional situations.

Berliner’s model focused on teacher behavior classroom characteristics, and student aptitudes as they provide input to a function called academic learning time (ALT). ALT describes time in which students are engaged with appropriate curriculum content. The output is student achievement. 

According to Berliner (1979), ALT has three major time-related elements. Allocated instructional time and actual instructional time include data collected on not only the amount of time, which is scheduled for a subject matter, but also on the minutes actually spent on teaching. Student time is recorded while working on relatively easy learning materials so that practice, repetition, and overlearning can occur. ALT, therefore, is a variable that deals with both students’ use of time and curriculum considerations.

It is a conceptual model of instruction with a more prescriptive nature than Carroll’s model. The elements that are emphasized come from definite opinions as to how one should arrange instructional situations (Richey, 1986). Berliner’s model is generalized. It includes all four scope variables – curriculum, delivery, individual characteristics, and management considerations. In more detailed examinations of the model, one can see that specific teacher behaviors, such as diagnosis, prescription, presentation, monitoring, and feedback, are emphasized.

            Gage and Berliner (1992) developed a model of the instructional process that focuses on those variables that must be considered by the classroom teacher as the teacher designs and delivers instruction to students. This model attempted to define more precisely what is meant by "quality instruction" and presented five tasks associated with the instruction/learning process (McIlrath & Huitt, 1995). The model is classroom- and teacher-based and centers around the question, "What does a teacher do?"

A teacher begins with objectives and ends with an evaluation. Instruction connects objectives and evaluations and is based on the teacher's knowledge of the students' characteristics and how best to motivate them. If the evaluations do not demonstrate that the desired results have been achieved, the teacher re-teaches the material and starts the process all over again. Classroom management is subsumed under the rubric of motivating students. Gage and Berliner (1992) suggested that the teacher should use research and principles from educational psychology to develop proper teaching procedures to obtain optimal results.

Huitt’s (1995) Model

The model of the teaching/learning process developed by Huitt (McIlrath & Huitt, 1995) was derived from a set of model's that relate historically to Carroll's model, specifically Cruickshank's Model (1985), Gage and Berliner's Model (1992), and Proctor’s model (1984). While Carroll (1963) proposed very specific variables related to school learning, the transactional model proposed by Huitt focused on categories of variables with the expectation that the selection of important outcome variables or what is meant by "school learning" will dramatically impact the selection of important context, input, and process variables. For example, if student optimism or social skills were selected as the most important outcome measures, the context, input, and output variables that would predict changes in these "school learning" variables would likely be different than those that would predict changes in scores on a standardized test of basic skills achievement. Huitt (McIlrath & Huitt, 1995) believed that context variables, that were not included in Carroll's model, should be considered. According to the researcher, one reason Carroll omitted these variables was the intention to focus on those variables most directly related to school learning. The inclusion of family and community variables were considered by Carroll to be "indirectly" related to school achievement. Huitt insisted that the changes in the global economy of the last 30 years and the need to focus on additional outcome measures beyond achievement in basic skills, pointed to the need to broaden the scope of important variables.

Furthermore, Huitt (McIlrath & Huitt, 1995) also criticized Carroll’s  (1963) model pointing out that it failed to consider important teacher characteristics and classroom planning and management. Using Carroll's terminology, Huitt proposed the following improved model (See Figure 2) of the teaching/learning process:

Learning (Output) = f (Context, Input and Process).

Output includes the specific measurement or measurements of learning (e.g., student achievement, social skills, cognitive development, etc.). Context includes the environmental or situational factors such as home environment and changing global conditions that influence the definition and measurement of important educational outcomes as well as levels of important input and process variables. Input includes the characteristics of teachers and students that they bring to the teaching/learning process. Process includes the thinking, feelings, commitments, and actions of teachers and students within the classroom or learning situation as well as the interaction patterns and descriptions of the learning environment that result from those interactions.


Figure 2: Huitt’s Model of the Teaching/Learning Process
see page 4 in handouts

Figure 2. Huitt’s Model of the Teaching/Learning Process

In Huitt’s model, Academic Learning Time (ALT) is the variable that has replaced "time spent" or "engaged time" identified in Carroll's (1963) and Berliner’s (1979) models. ALT is a combination of three separate variables: content overlap, involvement, and success. Content overlap is defined as "the percentage of the content covered on the test actually covered by students in the classroom" (Brady, Clinton, Sweeney, Peterson, & Poynor, 1977) and is sometimes referred to as Time-on-Target (Squires, Huitt & Segars, 1983). Involvement is the "amount of time students are actively involved in the learning process" and is often referred to as Time-on-Task (Stallings & Kaskowitz, 1974). Success is defined as the "extent to which students accurately complete the assignments they have been given" (Fisher, Filby, Marliave, Cahen, Dishaw, Moore, & Berliner, 1978). A high level of Academic Learning Time means that 1) students are covering important (tested/evaluated) content; 2) students are "on-task" most of the class period; and 3) students are successful on most the assignments they complete.

Research has demonstrated that ALT is the most appropriate time variable on which to focus (e.g., Berliner, 1978). While changes in ALT are most directly impacted by the teacher's classroom performance in terms of planning, management, and instruction, it is ultimately the result of many decisions about how time is spent in schools and classrooms, as depicted in the Figure 3 below. Small increases in a number of these factors can lead to large increases in ALT.


Figure 3. Levels of Time


Other Time-Based Models

Bloom’s (1976) Model of School Learning is an input-process-output model. It is based upon extensive analysis of research literature and Bloom’s own research. Instead of old thinking that there are good learners and poor learners, Bloom believed there were faster learners and slower learners. The model has three categories: student characteristics, instruction, and learning outcomes. One of the strengths of this model is that Bloom considered the role of attitudes in the instructional process, such as the subject matter, school, and attitudes towards oneself as a learner. It is also interesting that Bloom’s model presented time factors as an outcome of instruction. Learning rate, which is a time factor, is important because learning process skill has been identified as a major goal of instruction, in addition to content area achievement.

Harnishfeger and Wiley’s (1976) Determinants of Pupil Achievement is based on Carroll’s model, but was also influenced by Bloom. It encompasses background characteristics, teaching-learning process, and outcomes. The model recognizes that all pupil outcomes are directly mediated through pupil pursuits. It also emphasizes teacher time and learner time. They include teacher background characteristics as conditions related to student achievement.

This model stands out in the group of time-related models in that it includes teacher background characteristics as conditions related to student achievement. This model viewed both teacher and student time as critical. Also, while it considers individual learner characteristics, the model is geared more to total classroom instruction.

Cooley and Leinhardt’s (1975) Model of Classroom Processes focuses on relationship between school practices and school performance. Variables being predicted included academic achievement and attitudes toward school, peers and teachers. Input included initial student performance. Process included opportunity, motivators, structure, instructional events, output included criterion performance. One of the strengths of this model is that, much like Bloom’s (1976) model, it considered the role of attitudes in the instructional process. The Cooley and Leinhardt’s model cited learner attitudes toward school, peers, and teachers as major conditions that affected the outcomes of instruction. One of the major limitations of this model, as well as, other time-focused models, is that they often overlook student individual characteristics.

Task-Focused Models


Task-focused models outline step-by-step procedures that facilitate learning. Bruner (1966) is one of the researchers, who came up with an instructional model of this type. Bruner has been acknowledged as a major supplement of Piaget's theory of cognitive development. Bruner attempted to extend the scope of the existing theory of cognitive development by creating the "Three Modes of Representation" and pointing out the close relationship between cognitive development and theory of instruction.

bulletThree Modes of Representation
bulletEnactive: Learners acquire knowledge by action, past events and patterned motor response.
bulletIconic: They perceive outside with internal images by using visual and other sensory organizations.
bulletSymbolic: They can understand knowledge by language and reason, moreover they start trying to solve problems by thinking creatively.

Bruner (1966) asserted that the order of these modes is not fixed, rather it can be flexible according to a specific individual. In the variant sequence of stages, the significant factor that affects the process of intellectual development is social and cultural context (environment). The researcher suggested that any subject could be taught effectively to any child at any stage of development.

Contribution of Bruner's thoughts to Instructional Technology

As Bruner’s early emphasis on laboratory research was moved to more practical issues such as teaching of science in American public schools Bruner’s cognitive approach to instruction has influenced Instructional Technology in various aspects.

bulletPreposition to learn: Bruner emphasized that instruction should be set up in relation to learners' experience and contexts because those things tend to make learners be willing and able to learn.
bulletSequence of instruction: The enactive through iconic to symbolic representational sequence implies on an optimum sequence of instruction.
bulletStructure of knowledge: Instruction must specify the ways in which a body of knowledge should be structured so that learners can understand easily.
bulletReinforcement: Instruction should represent good materials to stimulate learners' motivation and recall prior knowledge.
bulletLearning by discovery: From the consideration on the intervention of social and cultural context in learning process, it is very important to provide a rich environment for learning with an accompanying freedom for learners to see their own learning agenda.

Because Bruner’s model is a task-focused model, it does not account for all critical variables affecting learner achievement, but rather emphasizes the processes, which facilitate learning. The model is prescriptive and generalized in nature. Detailed examination of this model shows an underlying concern with learner characteristics. One of the important parts of this model is the selection of motivating activities.  A lot of weight is placed on the influence of a learner’s cultural background and the role of students’ natural learning styles. Both categories of information can help to facilitate more efficient instruction.

Gagne's Model

Gagne's theory is classified as an instructional theory because it seeks to describe the conditions under which one can intentionally arrange for the learning of specific performance outcomes. Gagne's (1988) instructional theory has three major elements. First, it is based on a taxonomy, or classification, of learning outcomes. Second, it proposes particular internal and external conditions necessary for achieving these learning outcomes. And third, it offers nine events of instruction, which serve as a template for developing and delivering a unit of instruction.

This theory stipulated that there are several different types or levels of learning. The significance of these classifications is that each different type requires different types of instruction. Gagne (1977) identified five major categories of learning: verbal information, intellectual skills, cognitive strategies, motor skills and attitudes. Different internal and external conditions are necessary for each type of learning. For example, for cognitive strategies to be learned, there must be a chance to practice developing new solutions to problems. To learn attitudes, the learner must be exposed to a credible role model or persuasive arguments.

Gagne suggested that learning tasks for intellectual skills could be organized in a hierarchy according to complexity: stimulus recognition, response generation, procedure following, use of terminology, discriminations, concept formation, rule application, and problem solving. The primary significance of the hierarchy is to identify prerequisites that should be completed to facilitate learning at each level. Prerequisites are identified by doing a task analysis of a learning/training task. Learning hierarchies provide a basis for the sequencing of instruction.

In addition, the theory outlines nine instructional events and corresponding cognitive processes:

(1) gaining attention (reception)

(2) informing learners of the objective (expectancy)

(3) stimulating recall of prior learning (retrieval)

(4) presenting the stimulus (selective perception)

(5) providing learning guidance (semantic encoding)

(6) eliciting performance (responding)

(7) providing feedback (reinforcement)

(8) assessing performance (retrieval)

(9) enhancing retention and transfer (generalization).

These events should satisfy or provide the necessary conditions for learning and serve as the basis for designing instruction and selecting appropriate media (Gagne, Briggs & Wager, 1992).

Gagne's work has contributed greatly in the field of instructional technology especially regarding the design of instruction. According to Gagne, the following steps should be clearly thought out when designing instruction.

-Identify the types of learning outcomes

-Each outcome may have prerequisite knowledge or skills that must be identified.

-Identify the internal conditions or processes the learner must have to achieve the outcomes.

-Identify the external conditions or instruction needed to achieve the outcomes.

-Specify the learning context.

-Record the characteristics of the learners.

-Select the media for instruction.

-Plan to motive the learners.

-The instruction is tested with learners in the form of formative evaluation.

-After the instruction has been used, summative evaluation is used the judge the effectiveness of the instruction.

The researcher is best known for three of his contributions in this area: the events of instruction, the types of learning, and learning hierarchies. Gagne used the information-processing model of internal processes to derive a set of guidelines that teachers could follow to arrange optimal conditions of learning (Bostock, 1996).

Gagne's model is very simple. It is designed for system wide (large scale) curriculum. One of the strengths of this model is that the design is focused on front end analysis with the learner in mind. Furthermore, the fact that all the steps of the model are sequenced makes it easy for teachers or instructional designers to implement and follow. Using this sequence should help to ensure that the learner masters the desired objective. Richey (1986) noted that by sequencing instruction, one creates external conditions, which compliment the internal conditions of learning.

The framework can be adapted for use in a variety of classroom settings, including college teaching. Gagne’s model could also be effectively used for developing distance education courses or programs. However, one can see that adapting the "events" to many classroom settings might be problematic. Most teachers do not use the kind of language contained in this framework (e.g., terms such as "presenting the stimulus", or "eliciting performance"). In fact, the whole idea of framing a course as a series of skills that can be practiced and performed by students is an unfamiliar concept to some teachers.

One of significant weaknesses the previous research found out is that time and task-focused models do not consider the learner characteristics as a major instructional condition variable that should have been incorporated into the strategies and tactics of instructional organization. Learner control, for instance, has not been prescribed either in instructional management or in instructional organization level (Lim, 1998)

Learner-Focused Models

This category of conceptual models of instruction emphasizes the learner. They also make recommendations for effective instruction based on the individual differences among learners (Richey, 1986). There are two types of learner-focused models. The first one is based upon adult learning concepts, for instance, developmental model designed by Knowles (1978). The second one stems from the body of research relating to interactions that occur between particular learner characteristics and a given instructional approach (e.g., Snow’s (1977) model).




Knowles’s theory of andragogy was an attempt to develop a theory

 specifically for adult learning. Knowles emphasized that adults are self-directed and expect to take responsibility for decisions. Andragogy makes the following assumptions about the design of learning: (1) adults need to know why they need to learn something, (2) adults need to learn experientially, (3) adults approach learning as problem-solving, and (4) adults learn best when the topic is of immediate value.

The model, proposed by the researcher, related entirely to delivery strategies that considered the unique characteristics of adults. Knowles also identified the following assumptions underlying the model of adult instruction. The assumptions highlighted differences between adults and children as learners, and provided the rational for Knowles’ recommendations. First, as one becomes older there is movement from total dependency to self-directedness. Moreover, there is resistance when adults are put into situations where they are not allowed to be self-directed. The second assumption relates to the role of personal experiences in learning. This assumption posits that there should be a decreasing emphasis on traditional teaching techniques, such as lecturing, and increasing use of techniques that incorporate the learner’s experience as an integral part of instruction. Third, adults’ readiness to learn is dependent upon their needs and the developmental phases of the various roles played. Roles include worker, spouse, and parent. So planned learning activities for adults should coincide with current needs evolving from these various roles. Fourth, Knowles assumes that instruction should focus on problems rather than subject matter. Such curriculum organization is designed to facilitate immediate application in everyday life.

These assumptions have been translated into a process model for organizing and delivering adult instruction. The steps are:

-Establishing a climate conductive to learning.

-Creating a mechanism for mutual planning.

-Diagnosing the needs for learning.

-Formulating program objectives (which is content) that will satisfy these needs.

-Designing a pattern of learning experiences.

-Conducting these learning experiences with suitable techniques and materials.

-Evaluating the learning outcomes and rediagnosing learning needs (Knowles, 1978).

Andragogy can be applied to any form of adult learning. Knowles (1984) provided an example of applying andragogy principles to the design of personal computer training:

1. There is a need to explain why specific things are being taught (e.g., certain commands, functions, operations, etc.)

2. Instruction should be task-oriented instead of memorization - learning activities should be in the context of common tasks to be performed.

3. Instruction should take into account the wide range of different backgrounds of learners. Learning materials and activities should allow for different levels/types of previous experience with computers.

4. Since adults are self-directed, instruction should allow learners to discover things for themselves, providing guidance and help when mistakes are made.

Knowles emphasized that by using the adult model of instruction, adult learners are helped to acquire information and skills, rather than simply receive information as in a traditional instructional model. This model has a lot of value for DE instruction since it included characteristics of adult learners and outlined instructional strategies that could accommodate the diverse learning styles and preferences for adult learners. Furthermore, applied correctly, the andragogical approach to teaching and learning in the hands of a skilled facilitator can make a positive impact on the adult learner.



The concerns for individual students prompted the development of context-specific theories. Snow (1977) suggested that data derived from continuous monitoring of individuals in a given learning environment could serve as a base for such theory. A primary conceptual base for interpretation of such data is the knowledge of individual cognitive processes (Richey, 1986). According to Snow, what made adaptive instruction a possibility, was that individual differences in aptitude not only predicted learning outcome but also often interacted with instructional treatment variations.

Based on the previous work of Bruner (1966) and Glaser (1976), Snow worked out an eight step instructional theory framework procedural in its nature

-A theory or model of the learning process, describing how learning is presumed to take place in a given situation.

-A specification of instructional objectives. These are derived form value judgments made by governments, educators, parents, and learners themselves.

-A task analytic description of each objective, showing the state of knowledge, skill, etc., to be achieved.

-A description of the initial stage of each learner when learning begins.

-A specification of admissible instructional actions and conditions that can be implemented to bring about changes from initial states to desired states.

-A methodology for interactive design of assemblies of alternative instructional actions, to decide which are likely to be optimum.

-Monitoring procedures that will permit instructional actions to be adapted in midstream for the purposes of quality control.

-Assessment procedures for determining the multivariate immediate and long range outcomes of instruction.

Richey (1986) characterized this model as highly prescriptive, incorporating attention to individual differences, and addressing many practitioner complaints relating to the remoteness of theory. The only remaining question, according to the researcher, was whether this approach required a level of training and time commitment that was out of reach of many local situations which needed the theories.

Richey’s (1986) Model

This model (See Figure 4) is based on four clusters of large and often interactive variables. They are the following:

The learner

The content

The environment

The delivery

Figure 4. Richey's Model of Instructional Design

The Learner

The major design-related components in this cluster are: 1) demographics, 2) capacity, 3) competence, and 4) attitudes.

Demographics. Researchers always collected demographic data on their subjects, using it a method of data interpretation. Data shows differences among the learner performances when subjects are categorized on the basis of such variables as age, sex, and cultural background.

Capacity. Richey made a distinction between capacity and competence in this model. Capacity relates to innate ability, as opposed to achievement, the competence variable. The definition of ‘capacity’ includes intellectual abilities (verbal, mathematical, artistic, and social capabilities), as well as cognitive (perceiving, remembering, thinking, apprehending, sorting, and utilizing information) and physiological (perceptual development and motor dexterity) development.  

Competence. Competence is the result of conscious activity, either a learning experience or another life event. According to Richey (1989), while competence is limited by an individual’s natural capacities, it is influenced by the learner’s attitudes and general profile characteristics. Competence includes prerequisite skills (information processing skills, basic skills, and content prerequisites) and experiential background (family, leisure time, social, vocational and educational background).

Attitudes. They have direct effects on student performances with given learning tasks. Attitudes are defined as likes and dislikes, with roots in social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive experiences (Bem as cited in Richey, 1989). Attitudes include values (aesthetic, moral and religious, school, subject, and work-related), self-concept (academic, personal, professional), and motivational level (goals, interests, perseverance).

            The overall description of learners presented in Richey’s model is one in which learners are seen as individuals interacting with their environments, who change and grow as a result of receiving feedback from others. Intellectual growth of learners is dependent upon the use of language, memory, and incorporation of past experience in to a framework that facilitates future use.

The Content

Content has three major components: 1) the type of learning task, 2) the mental operations required, and 3) the subject matter domain.

Type of Learning Task. This component includes cognitive domain (verbal information and intellectual skills), affective domain (values, beliefs, attitudes, emotions), and psychomotor domain (gross motor skills, fine motor skills discrete motor skills, continuous motor tasks).

The Mental Operations Required. Three major types of mental operations considered by Richey are selective attention (focusing, expectation, reinforce and guide), retention (organize, rehearse for storage, and retrieve for use), and transfer (lateral, vertical, problem solving and creative thinking).

The Subject Matter Domain. It consists of basic skills, general cultural concerns, vocational skills, and personal skills.

The Environment

This component is absolutely critical to design. Environment, according to this model pertinent to instructional design, has two key components – setting and climate.

Setting. It includes schools, business, health care, community and government.

Climate. This component consists of external influences, organizational climate, physical materials and arrangements, as well as participant characteristics. The setting descriptors are not theory-based as are those in climate. However, both seem to influence the effects of using a given program or materials design. According to the researcher, the difficulty with the definition of environmental variables is that it is difficult to isolate their effects. Environment is a network of interactions, and these interactions occur not only within the cluster itself, but among variables of other clusters as well.

The Delivery

Delivery encompasses the organization of content for delivery, and includes decisions relating to hardware, software, and general methodology. Richey summarized this range of activities in four categories: 1) scope, 2) strategy, 3) presentation, and 4) sequencing.

Scope. It is a phenomenological listing of organizational alternatives that are typically available to a designer. Richey divided all the scope elements into two categories: (a) macrostructures (program, course, unit) and (b) microstructures (workshop, lesson, single objective).

Strategy. Strategy refers to basic delivery decisions, media (projected, non-projected, audio, video, computer, real or 3-D) and processes (mass instruction, group instruction, individualized instruction, work embedded instruction).

Presentation. Richey suggested to group presentation decisions under “tactics” and “form.” Presentation tactics have six major functions – to secure attention, to secure a response, to provide reinforcement, to maintain interest, to facilitate retention, and to assess performance.  The following examples of the presentation form are given: receiver/sender control, interactive/non-interactive, expository/discovery.

Sequencing. In this model sequencing encompasses not only ordering information (cyclical, hierarchical, external base), but also determining a delivery schedule (pacing, frequency, reinforcement patterns).

According to Maier (1999), Richey’s model has the following disadvantages: (a) increased design cycle time, (b) knowledge does not directly impact behavior, (c) too much emphasis on contextual factors such as learner background, incentives, resources, culture, group support.

Among the strengths of this model is that it considers a learner to be one of the main variables. In addition, learners’ past experiences also have an effect on the implementation of the program and the speed at which it can proceed. However, the fact that it is not sequential might create certain difficulties for inexperienced instructors during its implementation.

Other Models

Merrill's Component Display Theory (CDT)

Merrill’s component display theory integrates knowledge about learning and instruction from all three major theoretical perspectives: behavioral, cognitive, and humanistic. CDT (Merrill 1983, 1987, 1988) is built directly upon Gagne's principal assumption. Merrill extended the outcome classification system by separating content type from performance level. The researcher also added a more detailed taxonomy of presentation types and clarified the prescriptions of the Gagne model. Nevertheless, Component Display Theory has the same roots as the Gagne model.  

CDT classifies learning along two dimensions: content (facts, concepts, procedures, and principles) and performance (remembering, using, generalities) (See Figure 5). The theory specifies four primary presentation forms: rules (expository presentation of a generality), examples (expository presentation of instances), recall (inquisitory generality) and practice (inquisitory instance). Secondary presentation forms include: prerequisites, objectives, help, mnemonics, and feedback.


Figure 5. Dimensions of Learning in CDT


The theory specifies that instruction is more effective to the extent that it contains all necessary primary and secondary forms. Thus, a complete lesson would consist of objectives followed by some combination of rules, examples, recall, practice, feedback, helps and mnemonics appropriate to the subject matter and learning task. The theory suggests that for a given objective and learner, there is a unique combination of presentation forms that results in the most effective learning experience.

Merrill (1983) explained the assumptions about cognition that underly CDT. While acknowledging a number of different types of memory, Merrill claimed that associative and algorithmic memory structures were directly related to the performance components of Remember and Use/Find respectively. Associative memory is a hierarchical network structure. Algorithmic memory consists of schema or rules. The distinction between Use and Find performances in algorithmic memory is the use of existing schema to process input versus creating a new schema through reorganization of existing rules. A significant aspect of the CDT framework is learner control, that is, the idea that learners can select their own instructional strategies in terms of content and presentation components. In this sense, instruction designed according to CDT provides a high degree of individualization since students can adapt learning to meet their own preferences and styles.  
In recent years, Merrill has presented a new version of CDT called Component Design Theory (Merrill & Twitchell, 1994). This new version has a more macro focus than the original theory with the emphasis on course structures (instead of lessons) and instructional transactions rather than presentation forms. In addition, advisor strategies have taken the place of learner control strategies. Development of the new CDT theory has been closely related to work on expert systems and authoring tools for ID (e.g., Li & Merrill, 1991; Merrill, Li, & Jones, 1991). The main principles of the theory are:  

-Instruction will be more effective if all three primary performance forms (remember, use, generality) are present.

-Primary forms can be presented by either an explanatory or inquisitory learning strategy.

-The sequence of primary forms is not critical provided they are all present.

-Students should be given control over the number of instances or practice items they receive.

Merrill’s (Merrill & Twitchell, 1994) descriptive theory of knowledge consists of a two way classification based on performance level and content type. The performance dimension is: remember instance, remember generality, use generality with an unencountered instance, and find a new generality.  The content dimension is: facts, concepts, procedures, and principles. Merrill proposed a descriptive theory of strategy consisting of primary presentation forms (PPFs), secondary presentation forms (SPFs), and interdisplay relationships (IDRs).  Primary presentation forms consist of: expository generality (rule), expository instance (example), inquisitory generality (recall), and inquisitory instance (practice). Secondary presentation forms consist of information added to facilitate learning such as attention focusing help, mnemonics, and feedback. Interdisplay relationships are sequences involving example-nonexample matching, example divergence, and range of example difficulty.  For each performance-content classification, component display theory prescribes the combination of PPFs,  SPFs, and IDRs that comprise the most efficient and effective instructional strategy.
Some of the strengths of this model include the fact that it separates subject matter and performance. It recognizes four cognitive components of learning matter: facts, concepts, procedures, and principles. CDT does not aim at a sequencing of the instruction process, as for instance Gagne does, but distinguishes four forms of instructional actions, that is “presentation forms.” CDT is also more complex and extensive than Gagne’s theory due to a number of subdivisions in its taxonomy. Another strength of this theory is that it is generic to all types of subjects and settings, and yet still addresses very specific aspects of presenting instructional sequences (Richey, 1986). The model provides guidelines for making detailed design decisions. While these decisions are directed toward group instruction, the underlying assumption is that individual learners would control both content and strategy.  Furthermore, in this model, the specific prescriptions are backed by learning and instruction research, and the theory itself is supported by experience and evaluation data. This model can be applied to the design of programs, courses, materials, or individual lessons.
Reigeluth’s Elaboration Theory

It is a Cognitive Prescriptive theory, which is based on Bruner’s Spiraling curriculum, Norman’s Web Teaching, Gagne’s Cumulative Learning Theory, and Ausubel’s Subsumptive sequencing. Reigeluth’s goal was to integrate all existing knowledge on learning and instruction, including behavioral, cognitive, and humanistic. Like CDT, the Elaboration Theory organizes instruction in such a way as to facilitate learner control, but on the macro level this means control over selection and sequencing of ideas as well as control over frequency and timing of such strategy components as synthesizers and reviews (Reigeluth, 1983).


According to elaboration theory, instruction should be organized in increasing order of complexity for optimal learning. For example, when teaching a procedural task, the simplest version of the task is presented first. Subsequent lessons present additional versions until the full range of tasks are taught. In each lesson, the learner should be reminded of all versions taught so far (summary/synthesis). A key idea of elaboration theory is that the learner needs to develop a meaningful context into which subsequent ideas and skills can be assimilated.

Elaboration theory proposes seven major strategy components: (1) an elaborative sequence, (2) learning prerequisite sequences, (3) summary, (4) synthesis, (5) analogies, (6) cognitive strategies, and (7) learner control.


Elaborative Sequence

The first component is the most critical as far as elaboration theory is concerned. The elaborative sequence is defined as a simple to complex sequence in which the first lesson epitomizes (rather than summarize or abstract) the ideas and skills that follow. Epitomizing should be done on the basis of a single type of content (concepts, procedures, principles), although two or more types may be elaborated simultaneously, and should involve the learning of just a few fundamental or representative ideas or skills at the application level.


Prescriptions for Sequencing

Once the elaborative sequence is developed, the lessons within each unit are similarly sequenced. The rules for sequencing are simple:

  1. Begin with the most familiar or organizing concepts.
  2. Put supporting content immediately after the organizing information.
  3. Place learning prerequisites before new content.
  4. Group related concepts.
  5. Teach principles before procedures.

The above five rules repeat at different levels. It is the theme of moving from the simple to the more complex. First, introduce new material in the order of familiarity, that is, maximize the connections learners can make to material they already know. When possible, start with material that can organize, or provide mental hooks for, new material. Connect new content immediately to the familiar content and show the relationships. Be sure that learners know what they need to know before learning new information. Then, group related concepts to increase the number of connections. Increasing connections both facilitates learning and promotes effective and efficient movement from short- to long-term memory. Finally, teach underlying principles before the procedures that make use of those principles (e.g., have a model for development before you begin.)



Summarizers collapse lessons to single, easily handled concepts. These summarizers can be presented by the developer or drawn from the learners as insights.



Synthesizers make the connections both to previous learning and to current learning. They allow us to make connections, so that we can begin to make sense and new meaning. Synthesizers may be lessons in and of themselves (depending on the complexity of the material), but typically they are simple ways to connect content (subject matter), procedures (what to do), or theories (why to do what you do).



Analogies relate new material to old. They take two forms: examples and non-examples. Examples are those where the resemblances between objects, situations, or ideas are similar, and the similarity is extensive. Non-examples are instances in which the similarities may be superficial or misleading. The combination of the two helps the learner understand how the new material is similar to the old and equally important, in what ways they differ.


Cognitive-Strategy Activators

Activators are cues to the learner to apply the learning skills they already have, for example, asking, "How does this relate to your past experience?"


Learner Control

Learner control is a relatively advanced function. Basically, entry-level learners learning primary skills tend to need a lot of structure to facilitate new learning. More advanced learners, however, learn more quickly when they have control over their learning decisions. Typical participants bring a wealth of information to the community. Therefore, it is critical that instruction is set up to maximize the number of choices the learner can make.

It is claimed that the elaboration approach results in the formation of more stable cognitive structures and therefore better retention and transfer, increased learner motivation through the creation of meaningful learning contexts, and the provision of information about the content that allows informed learner control. Elaboration theory applies to the design of instruction for the cognitive domain. The theoretical framework has been applied to a number of settings in higher education and training (English & Reigeluth, 1996; Reigeluth, 1992). Hoffman (1997) considered the relationship between elaboration theory and hypermedia.  

Reigeluth's (1999) model of instructional-design theory has two components for facilitating human learning and development:

-methods of instruction which relate to the context in which learning can take place and

-situations for learning which effect the methods of instruction.

Reigeluth's (1999) model is illustrated in Figure 6


Figure 6. Reigeluth's Components of Instructional Design Theories

The strength of this model is the provision of numerous aids to guide the development process.  It is thus suitable for use with novice instructional designers.  Limitations of this model include lack of attention to project management and implementation  

The analyses of various instructional models showed that even though each model had its differences, they were fundamentally similar in their need to provide certain components or stages that are universal to teaching. At times, the components were called different things or several steps of one model were lumped into one step of another, however, they were all attempting to create effective educational tools.