4 Instructional design models you should know: how to create effective educational pathways

Having a blank page in front of you and starting to design an educational pathway from scratch is always a challenge, whether it is a whole curriculum, a project or just a few lessons.

The learners we address often have different needs, learning styles and objectives. To start planning our new training course can be useful to use codified instructional design models, well founded by years of research and practice.

Whether you are a trainer, lecturer or Instructional Designer, your primary goal is to create a course that is, at the same time, useful and engaging for your target group. It is always a pleasure to observe the increasing involvement of the participants, their curiosity about the topics taught and the good tests results at the end. Last but not least, we all love to receive good feedback from those who participate in our courses.

On the contrary, courses that do not fit the needs of our audience in terms of content and modalities generate frustration in both learners and trainers. We have all seen the blank stares of bored learners and no answer to the common statement “questions?” at the end of our lesson.

In order to have some guidelines for creating a successful educational path an Instructional Design Model (IDM) can be used. But what is an IDM?

It is a model that provides guidelines to organize appropriate pedagogical scenarios to achieve instructional goals. Instructional design can be defined as the practice of creating instructional experiences to help facilitate learning most effectively.

Below we present you 4 Instructional Design Models that you should know.

We have decided to suggest you two models suitable for students who want to learn (which is often the case of higher education contexts, corporate training and also in schools) and two for students who do not want to learn (as is sometimes the case in schools, vocational training, or any type of contexts in which pupils are forced to study something).

For students who want to learn


For many years now, educators and trainers have used the ADDIE Instructional Design (ID) method as a framework in designing and developing educational and training programs. Most of the modern models are based on this.

“ADDIE” stands for Analyse, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate.

It is the analysis of what the students already know and what they should know after completing the course. In the analysis phase the instructional goals, success metrics, and overall objectives are also established by analysing the background and needs of the students.

In this phase learning objectives, instructional methods and activities, assessments, contents, lesson planning and media assets are outlined.

During this phase, what has been described in the design phase, is now created (contents, graphics, audio, videos, etc…). This phase includes three tasks, namely drafting, production and evaluation.

The training path is delivered. From the feedback and contributions received during this phase continuous improvements will follow.

The evaluation consists of two phases: formative and summative. Formative evaluation is iterative and is done throughout the design and development processes. This occurs all throughout the ADDIE process. Summative evaluation consists of tests that are done after the training materials are delivered.

The main aim is to evaluate to what extent  the training accomplished its original goals outlined in the analysis phase.



The added value of this approach is its flexibility. It can easily be adapted to the different students’ learning styles and can be easily incorporated into Bloom’s Taxonomy concepts, and vice versa.

Gagne identified the mental conditions needed for learning.

The Nine Events of Instruction are:

– Gain attention of the students: with stimuli that catch and engage their brain (novel ideas or thought-provoking question, Asking unexpected questions, Bringing up an interesting point of trivia, Challenging students with a problem, Using a loud and unexpected tone or other audio stimuli, An eye-catching visual stimulus, Establishing a student-to-student exercise, etc…)

– Inform students of the objectives: Establish the expected outcomes and criteria for measuring achievement (tell them what we’re going to tell them, what they should expect, outline the concrete learning objectives and outcomes simply).

– Stimulate recall of prior learning: Leverage existing knowledge before introducing new knowledge and build on it (Doing a quick summary or review of past lessons, Prompting students to answer questions about things they learned before related to the subject, Asking the students to explain what they recall, Using engaging audio-visual presentations of material, Incorporating elements of prior-learned information into the new lessons, as a bridge from one to the other

– Present the content: Deliver the content in easily consumable chunks (include enough flexibility to allow for spontaneous discourse, use various delivery methods for your materials, include physical demonstrations and hands-on practice).

– Provide learner guidance: Guide them with examples, case studies, and other instructional support to supplement the content (provide an example of what a perfect outcome would look like for the purpose of the lesson and an example of what not to do, provide anything that helps the learner achieve their goal of understanding the lesson).

– Elicit performance: Give your students the chance to show you that they did their job and learned what you taught (Engage them with tests, quizzes, classroom presentations, essays, group projects, and hans-on activities, etc…)

Provide feedback: Reinforce knowledge with immediate feedback (it should be personalized, constructive, positive, and immediate. )

– Assess performance: Test their knowledge with established (and transparent) criteria.

– Enhance retention and transfer to the job: Use content retention strategies (link concepts together, give creative assignments, be transparent about goals and learning outcomes, etc…)

For students who do not want to learn


This approach is based on 5 main principles

Problem/task centred: This is a task-centred approach which starts with real-world problems or tasks. The baic assumption is that truly effective learning experiences are rooted in problem-solving.

Activation: Learning material should activate the previous knowledge the learner already has connecting it with the new one.

Demonstration: The trainer/ teacher should demonstrate the knowledge through different techniques (both visually and through story telling) with the aim to stimulate different regions of the brain, hence improving the retention rate.

Application: Learners should be allowed to apply the knowledge they have gathered on their own to solve problems. The educational paths should allow try and fail practices related to the topic considered.

Integration: Learners should be encouraged to integrate new knowledge into their life and use it to solve problems. The course must offer possibilities for integrating the knowledge into the learner’s world through discussion, reflection, and/or presentation of new knowledge.



The acronym ARCS of the model and stand for Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction (ARCS). The model was elaborated for encourageing and sustaining learners’ motivation through these four key elements in the learning process:

Attention: the first step in instructional design for motivation is to capture the learners’ attention through either perceptual arousal or inquiry arousal. The attention can be stimulated by using elements of novelty or surprise, by posing a question or presenting a challenge, or by offering up a problem for learners to solve.

Relevance: establishing relevance is accomplished by using an accessible language for creating analogies or stories to which the learner can relate. It can be done through Linking to previous experience, highlighting a present or future usefulness, presenting a model of success or giving learners choice upon their own instructional strategy.

Confidence: the motivation comes from the learners’ confidence that they can succeed and apply the new skills or knowledge. It can be done by encourageing learners to take small steps and immediately show them their progress, communcating clear learning outcomes, providing continous and constructive feedback, providing learners with some degree of control over the learning process.

Satisfaction: learners gain satisfaction from learning when they are able to apply their new skills, solve problems, and earn feedback and rewards that are meaningful to them. The learners’ satisfaction can be improved with some kind of rewards and the immediate application of the knowledge acquired in their life.