Instructional Design Best Practices

The Department of Defense has identified the best practices for instructional design. These best practices are included in my approach to instructional design. The DoD uses the “ADDIE” model as a cornerstone of its teaching:

  • Analyze
  • Design
  • Develop
  • Implement 
  • Evaluate

During the “Analysis” stage of ADDIE, it is important to identify learner demographics and the task to be taught during the lesson. What types of students will take the course that I am designing? Will the course be full of millennial learners or non-traditional students taking the course. This information will determine the type of approach that I take with the course. Also, the teaching task at hand needs to be researched. What is the lesson content? What must students learn how to do?


“Designing” the course begins with determining the learning objectives/outcomes that will ultimately align the learning material and determine whether or not learning has taken place. Fink’s Dream Exercise is a great tool for designing learning objectives/outcomes. As the instructor, we have a unique opportunity to “dream” about what our students might want to learn, and use these as starting points to design learning objectives and outcomes. The learning objectives/outcomes are also going to determine how the students will be assessed in learning task. 

A learning objective is a statement, using a Bloom’s taxonomy active learning verb, that describes an activity that will happen during a lesson. A learning outcome is a quantifiable statement that describes specific tasks learned by the end of a lesson, a module or a course.


“Development” is an important stage of ADDIE that includes making learning materials for students. During the Analysis stage, the instructor found learning resources that addressed the learning task at hand. Next, developing these learning materials into resources for students is tantamount. While a textbook or e-Reading may be a great tool for students, the instructor should design materials for students that will reinforce and support the learning objectives/outcomes and align with the assessment component of the course.


“Implementation” is the most complicated stage of instructional design. The instructor, in the earlier stages of this paradigm, should have used the earlier stages to generate an alignment grid. The alignment grid will contain the learning objectives/outcomes, the technology tool being used, and how the student will be assessed. At this point, the instructor can start building the course materials into “modules” on a learning management system. The instructor should also design a course/learning management system orientation for the student. The student will need to know the appropriate file-naming scheme and format for the course (if the course involves electronic materials), where assignment descriptions are kept, and how to engage he course content effectively.


The “Evaluation” state is a critical component of the ADDIE paradigm. The instructor should use learning objectives/outcomes to construct rubrics for each stage of learning assessment. Student evaluation devices will have likely emerged during Fink’s Dream Exercise, and the instructor can use the Dream Exercise to develop rubrics for assessing students. Finally, evaluation should include robust feedback for students. In addition to point values that are uniformly applied to each student, the instructor should provide robust verbal comments to the student explaining why points were deducted and how the student can further review the material or provide verbal praise for outstanding work submitted by the student.