The Development Phase: ADDIE Serves Up Humble Pie

If the ultimate goal of any instructional designer is to create a course that imparts knowledge and changes behavior, then the development phase of ADDIE is the ultimate test for the instructional designer.

Depending on how things go, it might be a plateful of Humble Pie.

Does the Visible Work Match the Invisible Work?

See, when you get past all the thinking that goes into the analysis and design phases of ADDIE, in the development phase, it’s time to actually create the course. It’s sort of like the midterm exam for the instructional designer, because this is the part in the process where the designer gets to test whether he or she conducted adequate analysis up front and/or whether he or she thought of EVERYTHING in the design plan.

See, if all the nearly invisible work of instructional design wasn’t done thoroughly, with careful consideration of the audience, the organization, the goals, the learning objectives, the desired outcomes, the environment, the technology and materials available, the mode of delivery, and the facilitation of the learning experience, then the development phase is going to reveal any and all critical mistakes or omissions.

Not only that, but the development phase presents new opportunities to make decisions, and each must be carefully weighed against the goals and objectives of the instructional design project.

If you’ve analyzed thoroughly and designed instruction well, then development should be smooth and satisfying, like a cold drink on a hot day. If you haven’t, it’s going to get bumpy. The materials won’t match your objectives. The questions you ask of learners won’t actually assess their mastery of the content. The materials will be patchy, or confusing, or worse – ugly!

So what happens if you get to the development phase and you realize that it’s time to backtrack a little, time to reassess whether what you’re actually creating is what you intended to create?

The eLearning Coach (fast becoming a professional hero of mine) shares some tips:

But wait! There’s more!

Team – Work or Play?

The development phase also offers opportunities for collaboration. At this stage of the game, most instructional designers have to play nice with all the others involved with the project. They’ve got to be excellent communicators (and we’re back to the efficacy of the design plan here), so that everyone involved understands what deliverables are needed and envisioned for the project.

Instructional designers get to be financial planners and project managers, too. Are the materials within budget? Does everyone have a clear idea of their roles and responsibilities in the development phase?

Do the art, graphics, engineering, authoring, and management teams agree on the look, feel, and outcome of the instruction? What about technology? Will the designer build the course himself, like Pa Ingalls built houses in the Little House series? Or will the designer need to rely on an army of others to see his instructional vision come to life?

Testing, Testing…

And of course, the development phase offers opportunities for testing. Depending on the scope of the project and the budget allowed, the designer may simply present prototype materials to a single decision maker for review. Or, the materials may be subject to committee review. Or, formal pilot testing may be implemented.

Even the best laid instructional plans with the most savvy and talented development teams behind them are going to reveal room for improvement. It may be as simple as adding more graphics or changing a font. The testing may reveal that some of the learner activities which the designer envisioned as absolutely captivating may be as boring as watching hair grow, or that they don’t match the evaluation or assessment of content mastery, or that the interface isn’t user-friendly, or that learner evaluations don’t really measure what they’re supposed to measure.

Because analysis and design are both incredibly detailed, but relatively high-level phases in the process by comparison, the development phase takes instructional design down to the nitty gritty. The good news is that it also allows opportunities to make adjustments, to be creative with solutions, to nudge or tuck or bend just enough so that the final product matches the designer’s vision. This is a good thing.


Of course, for many instructional designers, not to mention the management teams who anxiously await the product of all those dollars they’ve pumped into a project, the development phase is the best part of the whole process. It’s the part where they get to see all the analysis, all the planning, all the design considerations and vision and goals and objectives take shape. Everything they’ve thought and discussed and measured and considered over the course of the process so far starts to happen. When the process of instructional design is working, development is the incredibly gratifying “AHA!” moment. It’s the birth of a vision. And that’s pretty cool.



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Clark, D. (2011, September 26). ADDIE. Retrieved from Big Dog and Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition:

Gordon, A. (2012). ID Roles and Responsibilities. Retrieved from Gordon Computer:

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

ISU College of Education. (2012). ADDIE: Develop. Retrieved from Idaho State University College of Education, College of Science, Math, and Technology Education:

Malamed, C. (2012). When Your Content Resembles Spaghetti. Retrieved from The eLearning Coach: