The Systematic Development Of Instructional Specifications Education Essay

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Instructional design is defined by Berger and Kam as 'the systematic development of instructional specifications using learning and instructional theory, to ensure the quality of instruction. It is the process of analysis of learning needs and goals, and the development of a delivery system to meet those needs. It includes development of instructional materials and activities; and tryout and evaluation of all instruction and learner activities."

History of Instructional Design

The concept instructional design has its origin in WWII, when the US military researchers created instructional material that provided a methodology for systematic and efficient training of hundreds of military personnel.

The 1950's brought about further development in theoretical models of learning. Exponents at the time included Skinner and Bloom. In 1962, Robert Glaser combined the works of previous researchers. The concept of modern instructional design was born.

Learning Theories and Instructional Design

Learning theories help us understand the mechanism of learning. Let us now look at some of the learning theories that have contributed to the growth of instructional design.

Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism


Aristotle is considered to be the propounder of Behaviorism and his essay Memory had descriptions of associations made between events such as lightening and thunder.

The theory of Behaviorism is based on the assumption that learning is manifested by a change in behavior. This theory does not consider the underlying thought processes of the learner and views learning as the acquisition of new behavior through conditioning. There are two types of conditioning:

Classical conditioning: Here, a neutral stimulus becomes associated with a reflex. Remember Pavlov's experiment wherein the bell (stimulus) became associated with salivation (reflex).

Operant conditioning: Developed by B.F.Skinner, the theory says that any behavior results in either positive or negative reinforcement, which influences the possibility of recurrence of that behavior.


In 1920's, Jean Piaget identified four distinct stages of development of a child. As the child passes through these stages, he builds concepts about reality and how it works, through physical interaction with the environment.

This theory introduced the concept of schema, which is an internal knowledge structure. Any new information enters the sensory register, gets processed in the short-term memory, and is finally transferred to the long-term memory for storage and retrieval.


Constructivists believe that learners construct their own reality or at least interpret it based upon their perceptions or experiences. Major contributors include Malcolm Knowles, Carl Rogers, and David Kolb.

Bloom's Taxonomy (1956)

Benjamin Bloom, in The Taxonomy of Education Objectives, identified six levels within the cognitive domain starting from simple recall or recognition, and ending with evaluation.

Instructional Design Theories

Reigeluth defines instructional design theory as follows:

"Instructional design theories are design oriented, they describe methods of instruction and the situations in which those methods should be used, the methods can be broken into simpler component methods, and the methods are probabilistic."

Robert Gagne's Nine Steps of Instruction

Robert Gagne, a behaviorist, is viewed as the foremost contributor to the systematic approach to Instructional Design. His book, The Conditions of Learning, put forward the nine-step process of instruction.

Steps of Instruction


Gain attention

Let us try to solve….

Inform learner of objectives

Today we are going to….

Stimulate recall of prior learning

In the previous module, we learnt about…

Present stimulus material

Click on the link below to see a demonstration….

Provide guidance

To do this, you have to….

Elicit performance

Now that you know how to…., try this on your own

Provide feedback

You need to ….

Assess performance

Let us now have an assessment….

Enhance retention and transfer

Let us now apply these principles to a new situation….

Reigeluth's Elaboration Theory

The Elaboration Theory states that instruction is made out of layers and that each layer of instruction elaborates on the previously presented ideas. By elaborating on the previous idea, it reiterates, thereby improving retention.

Elaboration begins with the overview of the basic ideas and is followed by a zoom in to explain the details and specifics. This is referred to as sequencing. The sequence of ideas or principles is known as epitomes.

Epitomes can be sequenced in different ways:

Forward Chaining is presenting them in the order in which they are performed.

Backward Chaining is presenting them in the reverse order.

Hierarchical Sequencing is presenting all the major sub steps separately before integrating them into a step in the sequence.

General to Detailed Sequencing is presented by summarizing.

Simple to Complex Sequencing is presenting them by their shortest paths with each successive path becoming more complex.

Merrill's Component Display Theory

This theory has three parts:

Performance dimension which comprises of facts, concepts, procedures, and principles; and content dimension consisting of remembering, using, and generalities

Four primary presentation forms, which are rules, examples, recall, and practice

A set of prescriptions relating the level of performance and type of content to the presentation forms

The instructional designer forms a matrix using performance and content dimension to determine which elements on the matrix are the goals of the learner.








Instructional Design Models

Since 1950, a variety of instructional design models have been developed.

The ADDIE Model

There are several instructional design models, the most popular being the ADDIE Model. According to this model, there are five phases in the development of instructional material which are Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.

Rapid Prototyping

This is an adaptation of the ADDIE model. Here, a model is selected based on the result of analysis phase.

Dick and Carey Systems Approach Model

Walter Dick and Lou Carey, in their book entitled The Systematic Design of Instruction, proposed a systems view of instruction as opposed to viewing instruction as a sum of isolated parts. This model has ten components, which are executed iteratively:

Identify instructional goals

Conduct instructional analysis

Analyze learners and contexts

Write performance objectives

Develop assessment instruments

Develop instructional strategy

Develop and select instructional materials

Design and conduct formative evaluation of instruction

Revise instruction

Design and conduct summative evaluation


Learners and learning situations are unique; each of them poses a unique challenge to the instructional designer. An in-depth analysis of the instructional theories reveals that no theory provides a perfect solution which can be applied across diverse learning situations. There are advantages and pitfalls to each of the theories. Also, a closer look reveals that these theories overlap in more ways than one.

The instructional designer should ideally adopt a scenario-specific approach for creating a dynamic and learner-centered training program.