What is Instructional Design?

Instructional Design is all about planning out proper instructions in order to achieve effective learning.

Kids living in the countryside, jump into well and learn swimming by themselves. When the same is taught in an urban swimming pool by a coach, usually comprises of a well-defined process which starts with floating, beating legs, then the hand movement, and then the different styles like backstroke, butterfly stroke, freestyle, underwater swimming, diving, etc. That’s an instructional design to learn swimming effectively.

Cooking recipes is another example to make you understand instructional design better. Every measure of the ingredients, the way it has to be cooked, the time they need to be cooked for, whether to cook, bake, grill or fry etc. They all make up an instructional design or a well-defined procedure to the dish being cooked.

There is a saying in Sanskrit that teacher is not the source of knowledge but the one who is a channel of knowledge who passes them all what he acquired to the learners.

So, Instructional Design is not only drawn by one learning theory but actually is drawn by all contemporary learning theories.

According to Thiagi (2003), a training program for adult learners should observe the following ―laws or principles of adult learning:

1) Law of relevance: Effective learning should be relevant to the learner’s life and work.

2) Law of previous experience: New learning should be linked to (and should build upon) the experiences of the learner.

3) Law of self-direction: There should be opportunities for self-directed learning.

4) Law of active learning: Active responding produces more effective learning than passive listening or reading.

5) Law of alignment: Training objectives, content, activities and assessment techniques should be aligned to each other.

6) Law of multiple criteria: A variety of standards for learners to judge their learning experiences and accomplishments should be provided. Other principles of effective instruction that we can add to this list are:

7) Law of practice and feedback: Learners master skills through repeated practice and relevant feedback.

8) Law of individual differences: Different people learn in different ways.

9) Law of learning domains: Different types of learning require different types of strategies.

10)Law of response level: Learners master skills and knowledge at the level at which they are required to respond during the learning process.

The Practice of Instructional Design

Steps in the Instructional Design Process

There are six basic steps in instructional design:

1) Analyze your learners and the learning context.

2) Define your learning outcomes (knowledge-attitudes-skills).

3) Structure the learning content.

4) Select the learning materials or resources.

5) Design the learning activities.

6) Determine the modes of assessment.

In performing each step, an instructional designer seeks to answer the following basic questions:

1) Who are our learners? What do they already know and how do they learn best?

2) What do we want our learners to learn? Why?

3) How do we structure the learning to achieve our learning objectives?

4) What learning resources are appropriate, effective, and available?

5) What strategies will we use to ensure that effective learning takes place? What combination of activities will enable the learners to achieve the learning objectives?

6) How do we know whether the learners are learning/have learned what they are supposed to learn? How do we assess learning?

instructional design model

Instructional Design Process

Tips for making effective slide presentations

A slide presentation is best understood as a visual aid. It is not the core of the presentation. And it cannot substitute for poor mastery of the topic and poor delivery.

1. Include only essential information and use key phrases. Try not to have more than three bullets per slide.

2. Limit the number of slides. Use the one-minute-per-slide rule as a guide for determining how many slides to include. You can discuss a slide for longer than a minute, but you hence have to adjust the remaining number of slides to keep within the time allotted for the presentation. When considering the final number of slides, it helps to ask yourself the question: If you had to keep to only 10 (or 5, or even 1) slides, which slides would you keep?

3. Follow a logical order of presenting information. Begin with a roadmap of the presentation (what you will cover). Keep your introductory section short and proceed to the core of your presentation as soon as possible.

4. Lay out each slide in such a way that it is easy to follow how ideas relate to each other. Titles should be on top. More important information should also be placed at the top.

5. Avoid using fancy fonts as they are often difficult to read. Use no more than two font styles throughout the presentation, and use large font sizes (not less than 24 points).

6. Use a light colored background and dark colored text. Use a simple background (patterns affect readability) and one font color.

7. Choose slide designs that are appropriate for the audience.

8. Use photos, charts, and graphs, and/or a video where appropriate. This will make your presentation more interesting.

9. Limit the use of punctuation and avoid using capital letters (except for the first letter of each line).

10.Avoid excessive use of slide transitions and animations, as they can distract from the main message.

11.Make sure your presentation can run on any computer. Test it before the presentation session.

Design the learning activities.

According to Thiagi, effective instruction has three components:

1. Content related to the instructional objectives

2. Activities that require learners to process the content and to provide a response

3. Feedback to learners to provide reinforcement for desirable responses and remediation for undesirable responses

In equation form:


Learning activities are key to promoting active learning, which in turn is much more effective than passive learning. Thus, in the training programs we design, we need to pay attention to designing learning activities that participants will find engaging and from which they will learn in the most effective way possible the key concepts and principles that form the core of the training program.

In this connection, it is important to rethink the use of lecture-presentations in most training programs. While a lecture is a valid form of instruction, it does not necessarily lead to deep learning because it positions the participants as passive recipients of information. For a lecture to be effective, it must be the most appropriate means of achieving the learning outcomes (for example, the topic is something that needs to be explained by an expert). In addition, the lecturer has to be not only knowledgeable about the subject matter but also engaging, perceptive, and motivating. (Saskatoon Public Schools, 2004) And the lecture must be done in an interactive way, or in combination with short participatory activities.

Interactive lectures foster active learning by getting learners to engage with the content by answering a question, interpreting a case or situation, or solving a problem. The activities are designed to allow everyone to participate, and increase their chances of retaining what they are learning through immediate practice. For instructors or lecturers, the activities provide feedback on the level and extent of understanding of the topic.

How to make interactive lectures?

An interactive lecture will include lecture segments combined with activities where participants are interacting with each other and the instructor.

The lecture segments should ideally:

  •  focus on content that learners might have difficulty finding on their own (it is not, for example, already explained adequately in available written sources)
  •  lay a foundation for work that the learners will do on their own
  •  model an approach to problem-solving in the subject
  •  stimulate interest in the subject and motivate learners to find out more about it even after the lecture Each lecture segment should not be longer than 20 minutes. The lecture segments should be interspersed with learning activities. The interactive segments or learning activities should be short (about 10 minutes) but should involve everyone in the session.

A very useful format is think-pair-share which has the follow format:

1. Ask the participants to get together in pairs. If you have an odd number of participants, allow one group of three. If necessary, have participants to move around the room to find a partner.

2. Ask a question that requires participants to apply critical thinking skills (see below).

3. Give participants a few minutes to discuss the question and work out an answer.

4. Ask for responses from some or all of the pairs.

The question should be about the topic just lectured on and can involve any or a combination of the following:

  •  Interpreting a graph
  •  Making calculations or estimations
  •  Brainstorming
  •  Tying ideas together or synthesizing
  •  Applying what has been learned to solve a problem
  •  Analyzing examples
  •  Sharing experiences
(Source: MacDonald, H. and Teed, R. (2009). Interactive Lectures, Starting Point. Retrieved 18 June 2009 from http://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/interactive/index.html.)

Determine the modes of assessment.

In designing training programs, it is important to systematically and continually assess training effectiveness. By this, we mean the outcomes of the training, as well as the process of training. Outcomes refer to whether the participants learned what they were supposed to learn while process refers to the training design.

A widely used model for evaluating training effectiveness is Donald Kirkpatrick’s four-level evaluation model, which measures the following:

  • Reactions
  • Learning
  • Transfer
  • Results


It is more like audience coming out of the cinema hall being asked for their first reaction about the movie they just watched.

It refers to how participants felt about the training program as a whole, as well as specific aspects of it, such as the training facilitators, topics covered, time allotment, venue, and even food. It is important to get participants’ reactions or emotional responses as these have an impact on how and whether they achieve the target learning outcomes. Level 1 evaluation is usually done through an end-of-training questionnaire. The evaluation results are useful for interpreting learning outcomes, as well as for planning subsequent training.

For example, if participants say they were confused by the sequencing of topics, this could explain to some extent, the less than satisfactory understanding of the topics covered. For subsequent training sessions, topics could be re-sequenced.

Learning :

Measuring Learning, could also be either formative or summative. Formative assessment, which is undertaken throughout the training, is usually less formal than summative evaluation, which is done at the end of the training. Formative assessment takes place through the learning activities done in the course of the training, and its primary purpose is for
the trainer to be able to facilitate learning. That is, as participants perform various learning tasks, such as those described in Step 5, the trainer is able to gauge whether and how much they are learning from each session. This information, in turn, becomes the basis for the trainer to provide just-in-time support to help participants achieve the target learning outcomes. Such support could be in the form of additional exercises, further discussion, more examples, as well as better
integration of the remaining sessions.


At Level 3 of Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model, the focus of evaluation is transfer, or whether participants are able to apply in their everyday environment what they have learned from the training. This evaluation is done sometime after the training has been completed and in the participants’ own professional context. Participants may be interviewed (preferably by someone other than the trainers) and/or asked to fill in a short questionnaire. The questions should aim to ascertain
whether participants are applying what they learned at the training in their own work, how, and to what extent.


A Level 4 evaluation looks at results, which is defined as the impact of what the participants have learned on their productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness. This type of evaluation requires going beyond self-reports to reviewing evidence such as projects or programs proposed and/or implemented. Your current ability to use the skills that you acquired, project outcomes achieved, and stakeholder groups reached. It is not always feasible to do a Level 4 evaluation. For one, there are too many variables other than the training program itself that would impact on the productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness of training participants.

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