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ADDIE: Oversimplified, misrepresented, misleading

Posted on: August 10, 2017

I will say one thing about the classic instruction deslgn (ID) model, ADDIE, as represented in the graphic below: It is pretty.

It is also pretty misleading. It is oversimplified and thus misrepresents the complex processes in ID.

I have a Masters in this field. ID was also the foundation of my Ph.D. When I was introduced to the ADDIE model, I learnt about its theoretical underpinnings and its practical limitations.

Simplifying ID processes to an acronym and representing them in a graphic is a convenient distillation of complex processes. This is fine if you are doing this as a reflective and visible learning task as you develop expertise.

However, if used purely as an illustrative or teaching tool, the graphic is a shortcut that bypasses praxis (theory married with practice) and application (theory in action).

For one thing, ADDIE is not five main phases in non-overlapping and linear progression. The practical realities of any well-managed ID project should prevent its straight and unquestioned use.

For example, rapid prototyping might see tight cycles of design, development, and testing even before implementation. This not only breaks the linear chain, it also makes evaluation an overarching process that is reflexive and reflective.

Both a beginner and an expert might use ADDIE, but do so differently. ADDIE might be dogma for a beginner; it is a loose and pliable framework for an expert.

Put another way, ADDIE might seem like a good start. The problem is that it can also be a convenient stop if its users do not critically examine each component separately and as part of a whole.

It is one thing for instructional designers to try to summarise what they do with the help of ADDIE. It is another to use the graphic to teach someone how to do instructional design.

I would not presume that abdominal surgery is anaethetise, cut open, dig around, sew up, revive. The surgeon is a professional in whose hands a patient’s immediate future depends and oversimplifying surgery is an insult. An instructional designer is also a professional who has to juggle complex tasks but the returns on these are not obvious in the short term.

ID is not something that you can understand or master over a tweet, no matter how rich and juicy the tweet is. To accept that you can get away with that is lazy thinking. This leads to lazy action and ID, and that in turn to poor instruction and learning experiences.

Please do not oversimplify, misrepresent, or mislead. Not with ADDIE or with anything else.

Oh, and the image is not an infographic. But that is another long story…

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