What is Instructional Design?

Have you often wondered, what instructional design is? Well wonder no more. In this month’s post, I provide the answer to that question with additional insights into the field.

person typing on a laptop

Simply stated, the instructional design provides learning solutions to instructional problems. One of my favorite books, Teaching Naked Techniques, suggested that “education is ultimately a design problem: the goal is to create structures and processes that will encourage [learners] to engage in the behaviors that lead to learning” (Bowen and Watson, 2017, xxiii). Hence, instructional designers are not merely content creators; rather designers of instruction for powerful learning.

By following a series of steps based on scientific learning research, instructional designers create high-quality instruction for diverse learners. The steps include:

      1. identifying the instructional goal
      2. conducting a goal analysis
      3. conducting a subordinate skills analysis
      4. conducting task analysis
      5. identifying entry skills and characteristics
      6. writing learning outcomes
      7. develop criterion-referenced test questions
      8. develop an instructional strategy
      9. develop and select instructional materials
      10. conduct formative evaluations
      11. produce the course

Although highly simplified, these steps are a part of a design system that frames learning goals and identifies instructional solutions. These steps also help to guide learners through the learning process while helping instructional designers anticipate instructional problems.

Instructional designers can also anticipate learning problems using these steps because they allow (1) problems to be framed, (2) learning sequences to be assessed, (3) the learner’s needs to be integrated, and (4) extreme content to be anticipated in order to prevent dropouts. The more you learn about instructional design, the more you will ensure that your courses are successful and that your learners are satisfied.


Bowen, J. A. A., & Watson, C. E. (2017). Teaching Naked Techniques: A Practical Guide to Designing Better Classes.


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