Instructional design, also known as instructional system design or instructional systems development (ISD), is the practice of creating learning experiences to support learning. It is a systems approach to analyzing, designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating any instructional experience based on the belief that training is most effective when it gives learners a clear statement of what they must be able to do after training and how their performance will be evaluated. (This definition and more information ISD can be found in the Talent Development Body of Knowledge.)
In the context of workplace learning, instructional design provides a practical and systematic process for designing effective training and is one of the 23 capabilities in the Talent Development Capability Model™.
An instructional designer applies learning theory and a systemic approach to design and develop content, learning activities, training, and other solutions to support the acquisition of new knowledge or real world skills. Instructional designers develop all instructional materials of a training program, including presentation materials, participant guides, handouts, and job aids or other resources. They are also responsible for evaluating training, including assessing what was learned and whether the learning solution led to measurable behavior change.
Prior to course design and development, an instructional designer conducts a needs assessment to determine stakeholder goals, if the training is necessary, and the needs of the learning event. A needs assessment will determine:
One way to determine learner needs and course objectives is by using Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a system used to define and distinguish different levels of learning. The three domains include cognitive (mental), affective (emotional) and psychomotor (physical). Once an instructional designer collects and analyzes this information and understands the outcome and learning objectives of the learning event, the course creation process can begin. Instructional design requires the analysis and selection of the most appropriate strategies, methodologies, learning activities, and technologies to maximize the learning experience and knowledge transfer.
Instructional designers can use adult learning theories to identify learner characteristics and appropriate instructional design methods to create effective and appropriate learning solutions.
Common adult learning theories include:
Common instructional design models include:
Instructional designers are responsible for creating the course design and developing all instructional materials, including presentation materials, participant guides, handouts, and job aids or other materials. Instructional designers are commonly also responsible for evaluating training, including assessing what was learned and whether the learning solution led to measurable behavior change.
Since our founding in 1943, ATD’s focus has been to help talent development professionals succeed in their roles, applying best practices and improving organizational outcomes. With instructional design, ATD curates the best content from the world’s leading experts in the field, providing opportunities for designers to learn the latest techniques using the latest technologies. Because we look at talent development holistically, we understand how instructional design fits with evaluation, training, evaluation and other aspects of workplace learning. In addition, we are the leading organization that defines standards for the field in instructional design and talent development as a whole.
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