Instructional Design


Design Models

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The following is a list of prescriptive instructional design models. Prescriptive models provide guidelines or frameworks to organize and structure the process of creating instructional activities. These models can be used to guide your approach to the art or science (your choice) of instructional design. The following are commonly accepted prescriptive design models:

  • The BSCS 5e instructional model (Bybee, 1987),
  • The Dimensions of Learning Framework (Robert Marzano, 1992b),
  • Understanding by Design® and W.H.E.R.E.T.O. (Grant Wiggins & Jay McTighe, 1998),
  • The Inquiry Path (Joanna Villavicencio, 2000),
  • The Story-Model Framework (Susan Drake, 1993, and Kieran Egan, 1986)
  • The UIUC cyclic model of inquiry (Bertram “Chip” Bruce, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2003),
  • The Three-Part Mathematics Lesson (John A. Van de Walle, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2003),
  • 4C-ID Model (Jeroen van Merriënboer)
  • Algo-Heuristic Theory (Lev Landa)
  • ADDIE Model | Weaknesses of the ADDIE model
  • ARCS (John Keller)
  • ASSURE (Heinich, Molenda, Russel, and Smaldino)
  • Backward Design (Wiggins & McTighe)
  • Conditions of Learning (Robert Gagne)
  • Component Display Theory (David Merrill)
  • Criterion Referenced Instruction (Robert Mager)
  • Dick and Carey
  • Elaboration Theory
  • Gerlach-Ely Model
  • Hannafin-Peck Model
  • Kirk and Gustafson Model
  • Instructional Systems Design ISD
  • Integrative Learning Design Framework for Online Learning (Debbaugh)
  • Iterative Design
  • Kemp Design Model (Morrison, Ross, and Kemp)
  • Organizational Elements Model (OEM) (Roger Kaufman)
  • Transactional Distance (Michael Moore)
  • Cognitive Apprenticeship
  • Discovery Learning
  • Empathic instructional design
  • Goal-based scenarios
  • The Plan: Building on Children's Interests (Hiliary Jo Seitz, The Plan: Building on Children's Interests, Young Children on the Web, National Association for the Education of Young Children, March 2006 ), and,
  • The four-part “Inquiry Process in the Early Learning–Kindergarten Classrooms” (Ontario Ministry of Education, The Full-Day Early Learning – Kindergarten Program, draft, p15, 2010-11).

Inquiry Learning Performance  

Steps in Designing a Unit Plan


  • Textbook

  • Pacing guide

  • Other teachers

  • Personal interests

  • Other

What do you do next?

1. Decide concepts/skills/content that you want students to learn (CP)

  • Textbook

  • Standard course of study

  • Material covered in the end of grade test

  • Other
2. Think about what question(s) you want the students to be able to answer

(This is often called the Essential Question) (P)

  • Does a story have to have a beginning, middle and end?

  • Is water always a liquid?

  • Are all the planets alike?

  • Are all wars fought for the same reasons?

  • Other

3. Decide what the student outcomes should be (P, A)

See Bloom's Taxonomy

  • Recall

  • List

  • Analyze

  • Differentiate

  • Compare

  • Write a paragraph

  • Make a map, etc

  • Evaluate something

  • Other

4. Consider what kinds of things you will do to find out what your students already know about the material in your unit (CP, MIS)

  • KWL charts

  • Class discussion

  • Surveys

  • Pre-test

  • Anticipation guides

  • Concept Maps

  • Brainstorming

5. Decide what strategies/activities you will use to help students be successful (DL, MIS, MM, CT, SD)

(What do you know about the students in your class and how they learn best?)

Review the NETS for Students

  •  Small group Large Group Discussions
  • Presentations 
  • Projects
  • Posters (Glogster
  • Essays
  • Manipulatives
  • Art
  • WebQuests
  • Educational Games (traditional or digital)
  • Field Trips (on-site or virtual)
  • Software Applications
  • Learning Centers

Role Play Simulations

6. Consider how you might connect to/bring in other disciplines (P, MIS)

7. Decide what resources and materials you will need to find or develop (CP)

8. Decide how you will assess your students to see if they have learned (SD, A, RP)

     Make sure your assessments align with your instructional strategies; think through criteria for grades 

     Include formative as well as summative assessments  (Review NET-S)



Content Pedagogy = CP

Student Development = SD

Diverse Learners = DL

Multiple Instructional Strategies = MIS

Motivation and Management = MM

Communication and Technology = CT

Planning = P

Assessment = A

Reflective Practice: Professional Development = RP

School and Community Involvement = SCI

Angelo, T. A. & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers  (2nd ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Plan Units With Questions Instead of a Template

Click to enlarge image.

You can plan an integrated curriculum inquiry unit using the questions below instead of a planning template.

 Stage One: Desired Results

  • What content standards and program- or mission-related goal(s) will this unit address?
  • What kinds of long-term, independent accomplishments are desired (transfer goals)?
  • What thought-provoking questions will foster inquiry, meaning-making, and transfer?
  • What specifically do you want students to understand? What important ideas do you want them to grasp? What inferences should they make? What misconceptions are predictable and will need overcoming?
  • What facts and basic concepts should students know and be able to recall?
  • What discrete skills and processes should be able to use?

Stage Two: Determine Acceptable Evidence of Learning

  • What criteria will be used in each assessment to evaluate attainment of the desired results?
  • What assessments will provide valid evidence of transfer and understanding (and other Stage 1 goals)?
  • What other evidence will you collect to determine whether Stage 1 goals were achieved?

Stage Three: Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction

  • Are all three types of goals (acquisition, meaning, and transfer) addressed in the learning plan?
  • How will you pre-assess and formatively assess? How will you adjust, if needed (as suggested by feedback)?
  • Does the learning plan reflect principles of learning and best practices?
  • Have you considered how to fully engage everyone and hold their interest throughout?
  • Is there tight alignment across all three stages?