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Top 5 Instructional Design Methods for Effective Teaching


Instructional design is at the core of all learning materials.

Based on theories about how people learn, instructional design models ensure that any instruction that teachers create allows students to acquire new knowledge and skills.

Oftentimes people will use “curriculum design” and “instructional design” interchangeably. These two concepts work in tandem but tackle different aspects of the learning process. Curriculum design models take a wide-angle view and determine the overall learning goals, content, evaluation methods, and more. Effective instructional design, on the other hand, takes a more focused view to determine and design specific learning objects, strategies, etc. 

Curriculum design models are the “what.” Instructional models are the “how.”

Popular Instructional Design Models

Here is a look at the five of the most effective instructional design models. 

ADDIE Model 

What It Is
Originally developed in the 1970s, ADDIE is a five-step process that is considered the most commonly used design model. The term ADDIE stands for analysis, design, develop, implement, and evaluate. When implemented, each step falls into the next and creates an easy to follow process. 

How to Use It
To create learning materials based on your specific educational setting (a classroom or corporate boardroom), the ADDIE model uses the following five steps:

  1. Conduct an analysis to establish the overall goals and identify the learner’s needs, including existing knowledge and skill.
  2. Design everything from learning objectives and instructional strategies to assessments and content.
  3. Develop learning materials. 
  4. Implement instructional practices.
  5. After all is said and done, step back and evaluate how well your students learned/met goals.

Why ADDIE Works
ADDIE provides a universal framework for instructional design of analyzing, designing solutions, and evaluating effectiveness. It serves as the archetype for all other instructional design methods, which is why it is still in use after more than 50 years. 


Merrill’s Principles of Instruction (MPI)

What It Is
Developed by David Merrill in 2002, this method reflects the belief that true learning is rooted in problem solving.

How to Use It
As far as instructional design models go, MPI is not a strict process to follow; instead it’s made up of five foundational principles: 

  • Demonstration (must demonstrate the knowledge visually)
  • Application (provide opportunity for students to apply new information on their own) 
  • Integration (encourage learners to integrate new knowledge into their life to solve problems)
  1. Everything an educator creates must be rooted in problem solving for true learning to take place.
  2. Before introducing new concepts, teachers must activate their students’ prior knowledge. If students do not have the necessary background knowledge on a topic, educators must provide it.  
  3. Then, educators must demonstrate new information through videos, role-playing, infographics, etc. 
  4. Next, it is important for students to have plentiful opportunities to apply their new knowledge. 
  5. Finally, educators will encourage learners to integrate the new knowledge into their life.

Why MPI Works

The model is clear and concise, and it provides teachers and instructional designers freedom to adapt the principles to their specific needs.


Gagne’s Nine Events of Instructions

What It Is
Taking a behaviorist approach to learning, Robert Gagne proposed this method that follows a systematic design process to address the different conditions of learning, including intellectual skills, cognitive strategies, motor skills and attitudes.

How to Use It
With this method, instructional designers follow these nine steps:

  1. Gain attention of students with a thought-provoking question, game, etc.
  2. Inform students of the objectives and criteria for measuring success 
  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning/existing knowledge 
  4. Present the new knowledge/content in a way that’s easy to comprehend 
  5. Provide students with guidance such as modeling, infographics, etc.
  6. Elicit performance with activities that encourage students to use new knowledge
  7. Provide immediate feedback
  8. Test their knowledge with the previously established criteria 
  9. Enhance retention with strategies such as summary, concept mapping, etc. 

Why Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction Works

This is an effective design method because it provides a clear yet customizable path for creating materials.  


Bloom’s Taxonomy

What It Is
Originally developed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom, this instructional design model addresses the different levels of cognitive learning. 

How to Use It
Bloom’s Taxonomy classifies the different skills and objectives that educators set for their students. It is often represented in a pyramid to show the most basic cognitive process (Remember) is at the base of all learning. All the following processes–understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create–build off of that and one another. 

Why Bloom’s Taxonomy Works

Despite being developed in the ‘50s, Bloom’s Taxonomy is still applicable today because it’s been updated for modern learners. In 2001, a group of cognitive psychologists, curriculum theorists, and instructional researchers revised Bloom’s original design by putting together a series of more dynamic concepts.


Backward Design/Understanding by Design (UbD) 

What It Is
Based on the research of cognitive psychology, this instructional design model focuses on providing students with learning experiences that maintain alignment to established learning standards. 

How to Use It
This is a three-stage process that starts backwards with the end result:

  1. Before creating any instructional materials, consider established content standards and curriculum expectations. 
  2. Determine how you will assess whether or not students met the learning objectives. Whatever assessment you create (test, quiz, project, etc.) must align with the desired 
  3. end result. 
  4. Plan the learning experiences, and create materials to lead students to successfully take the assessments you designed in the second stage. 

Why It Works

UbD maintains a focus on ensuring learning objectives are met, which is why many educators find it effective. It remains prevalent also because the method encourages constant reflection and improvement.

Choosing an instructional design method that complements your content, teaching style, and the needs of your students is key in creating effective and engaging learning experiences for all. 


To take your teaching practice to the next level, check out our online Master of Curriculum and Instruction program.