Introducing ADDIE, the Mother of Instructional Design Models

Ruh Row

We Have a Problem

It’s been a while since I blogged on this site. I’ve been busy designing¬†instruction. So busy, in fact, that I completely forgot how to log in, how to get to my control panel and my dashboard, how to embed videos and other media…

After I initially set up this blog as part of my graduate coursework on instructional design and technology, I felt like an expert. The process itself was challenging, but once I’d been successful a few times, I really felt like I “knew my stuff.”

And then a few months passed. And then a few more months passed. And then I started to initiate this post, and suddenly, I drew a complete blank. See, we’ve got our blogs attached to websites hosted by an outside source. We’ve got WordPress installed for blogging ease, and we’ve got the whole thing linked to Moodle so we can show off our instructional design prowess with real online courses!

If you’re a fellow blogger or an instructional designer, it’s likely that none of that sounds very complicated to you. If, however, you’re a novice or a casual reader, you might get the sense that using multiple tools requires a bit of know-how.

Well, it does. It’s not complicated, but it’s a lot of information to remember. And after several months on hiatus, it’s a lot to retrieve.

When Good Instructional Design Works

This brings me to the topic at hand: instructional design.

Thankfully, my previous instructor was an expert at instructional design, and my university makes previous courses readily available. So all I had to do was go back to good ol’ EDU520, pull up the instructions for initiating our websites and our first blog posts, review some of the materials, and voila! Presto! I’m in, and I’m blogging!

The video here is six minutes long. If you’ve got six minutes to spare and an interest in instructional design, it’s worth the watch:


A is for Analyze

But just in case six minutes is too much to ask, here’s the gist:

Good instructional design doesn’t just center around transmitting tons of information to unwitting “learners.” Rather, it should follow a process that starts with analyzing what information learners actually need to achieve their goals. If you’re not familiar with the ADDIE model, that’s the “A for Analyze.”

The ADDIE Model

While the exact origins of the ADDIE model aren’t clear, it’s usefulness is. It’s not enough to just throw a lump of information at a learner. It’s not even enough to break the information down into digestible pieces, or to create fun or engaging activities to help the learner digest the giant beefsteak of information.

Rather, an instructional designer ought to think first:

  • Who’s receiving the information?
  • What are the desired outcomes?
  • What information is needed to achieve those outcomes?

By first ANALYZING what to teach and to whom you’ll be teaching it, an instructional designer can filter down to the essentials, the information needed to accomplish the goal. It sounds pretty simple, but it’s not automatic. It takes conscious analysis, a process, deliberate and critical thinking.

Since my previous instructor likely followed this process and actually thought about what bits of information would get me to this page in the most efficient way, here I am. It took me ten minutes of review, and I’m up and running. What if she hadn’t thought about it? What if she’d just thrown the whole book,¬†WordPress for Dummies at me, and said, “Here’s all the information you need. Go!” Well, I wouldn’t be posting right now. I’d be reading. I’d be frustrated. I’d be searching.

Analysis is critical. It’s a logical and needed first step. And it starts with “A,” so it’s place at the beginning of the instructional design process seems natural, doesn’t it?


ADDIE in Practice

I mentioned that I’d been busy designing instruction. I have. I’ve spent almost two years on the first two steps of ADDIE – Analysis and Design. I’m designing an interactive reading intervention for struggling middle school readers. The theme is the hero’s journey through world history, and the objectives include basically all of the standards from all of the states, plus the Common Core.

If I hadn’t spent a year on the analysis phase of ADDIE, carefully combing the standards for the most critical skills and objectives and the most important pieces of information contained within those standards, as well as deciphered the best examples from world history and the history of human storytelling to use to help learners actually acquire those skills, as well as carefully analyzing the learners themselves, including their strengths, weaknesses, and learning tendencies, well, I’d be writing an encylopedia¬†of the world as well as a dissertation on learning standards and objectives that would make this exceptionally long sentence look like a dot on a star in the galaxy somewhere in the universe.

A! A! What Is It Good For, Anyway?

In short, analysis prevented me from overloading my audience with unnecessary information. It prevented me from making assumptions about what they know or don’t know or how they learn. It prevented me from trying to cram the history of the world into an interactive format. I had to think about how learners would experience the program, and what they ought to take from it. This type of thinking really narrows down the field and makes designing quality instruction possible.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be blogging more about the ADDIE model, how it has impacted me as a learner, and how I hope it will impact the learners who will be experiencing the curriculum I’m designing.

Until next time…



Culatta, R. (2011). Instructional Design. Retrieved August 30, 2012, from ADDIE Model:

Gustafson, K. L., & Branch, R. M. (2002). Survey of Instructional Development Models. ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology.

Hodell, C. (2011). ISD From the Ground Up: A No-Nonsense Approach to Instructional Design. Chelsea, MI: Sheridan Books, Inc.

Molenda, M. (2003, May/June). In Search of the Elusive ADDIE Model. Retrieved August 30, 2012, from Indiana University: