Category Archives: Instructional Systems Design

Does effective training still start and end with ADDIE? Part 1 of 6

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ADDIE - Instructional Systems Design

What have I been doing the last few months? Instructional Systems Design while living and breathing ADDIE! In a way I went back to the drawing board and I have been designing and developing training, but this time it is different – some of the courses I am working on, I do not have an experienced background in. Because of this, I must have a strong reliance on Subject Matter Experts teaching me what I need to know to make sure best practices not found in books get included and then taught appropriately in the classroom.  Can this be scary? Absolutely! A large part of me loves to develop and design new courses, but coming at it with fresh new eyes and my enormously annoying questioning attitude. Honing a craft is of particular delight, and figuring out effective ways to transmit information across a large population of students with varieties of backgrounds and experience has been quite the challenge, and I love it.

Getting My Hours In

So, along with consulting and putting together new ideas and plans for Human Performance Training and the student experience in the classroom, I have been creating, editing, and reinvigorating old curriculum for technical trades, but I won’t get into details. I’m getting more of my Gladwell’s “10,000 hours” in, so I can be at the top of my game when developing new Human Performance Improvement courses.

Being a Human Performance Practitioner isn’t all podium, consulting, and analysis. It’s also largely a creative and developmental role, and it’s in that space I’m talking about in this post.

A Systematic Approach

ADDIE. A LOT of places preach it, but I have rarely actually seen it in place with my own eyes – and that’s coming from a nuclear power background where every course is supposed to be designed using that system, and now it’s pretty scary being introduced to a whole array of training that doesn’t even have delineated objectives, it makes me question the overall past effectiveness. I do realize that just because training has objectives, doesn’t make it a “systematic approach.” And if I don’t see it in that perspective, then I need to look at it through the lens that ADDIE isn’t always the best option, which would go against my personal experience and how I was taught in college. The systematic approach to training means that all training we spend time creating will be intentional and care about the student experience starting with analyzing the needs of the course and the students. Some training is built simply to answer a corrective action and to check a box saying it’s done, and the designers, instructors and students suffer for it. Ideally, no training is ever designed to check a box.

So, what actually is training?

I LOVE this question. You can show or tell someone how to do something with videos that imply mimicry “do what I do” and you may get the hang of a certain skill. You can follow a written procedure that tells you “tab ‘a’ goes in slot ‘b’,” and you can build a piece of furniture with most likely a positive outcome if you can follow directions. But these evolutions may feel like training, but they are not.

Training done correctly explain WHY you do the steps that you do. We aren’t creating training for someone to grab a procedure and not think about what they are doing while they are doing it. Training gives the overall mission and breaks it up into chunks we can learn about. Training IS the “why.” If you go to a training class and don’t learn the “why” on top of the “what, where, how, and when,” then you weren’t trained properly.


Training must have objectives! Robert Mager wrote a book back in the early 60’s called, “Preparing Objectives for Programmed Instruction”, but has been updated and revised a few times to “Preparing Instructional Objectives”. In this amazing literature on the subject he states that “a course description tells you something about the content and procedures of a course. A course objective describes a desired outcome of the course.”

Objectives are descriptions of a performance you want to observe in learners before you consider them competent for the task. A good objective describes the intended instruction result, NOT the process of instruction.

More from Mager, “Objectives, then, are useful in providing a sound basis:

  1. For the selection or designing of instructional content and procedures,
  2. For evaluating or assessing the success of instruction, and
  3. For organizing the students’ own efforts and activities for the accomplishment of the important instructional intents.”

You have to have a plan if you want to get to  your destination, and objectives get you there, and make sure you only include what is worth teaching and not distracting from the actual training goal.


Try not to lull your organization into thinking that training is ADDIE-based when it takes a very short time duration to develop a course from the ground up. Analysis takes time and research, and paying attention to all phases with due diligence creates a product that will actually influence and train workers and staff on course objectives in the most effective and thought out ways. Or, if you’re not fully engaged in the entire process, you may not get the overall impact you were aiming to achieve.

Over the next 5 posts, I will do my best to breathe some new life into the 5 phases of ADDIE – it is still the best systematic way to approach a learning evolution.