Instructional Design Should Be About Thinking Not Process

In past work John Shank and I have drawn parallels between some core elements of instructional design and design thinking. For example, both begin with efforts to understand users. Both involve prototyping to develop an appropriate product. And both incorporate efforts to evaluate outcomes to determine if the product, as designed, achieved the desired solution. In fact, for those with some background, prior experience with or training in instructional design, it should be a logical leap to grasp the key concepts of design thinking.

A new article about instructional design in the latest issue of Educational Technology (Sept-Oct 2007) titled “A Principle-Based Model of Instructional Design: A New Way of Thinking About and Teaching ID” is primarily about instructional design, but the author makes a case that what it is really about is not the process we’ve all come to know and love – as exemplified by ADDIE – but is really a set of principles and a way of thinking. The author, Kenneth Silber, never mentions the phrase “design thinking” but he writes:

If ID (instructional design) is problem solving (not a systematic procedure), then the real questions are how designers think, and the principles they use.

In drawing his own parallels between the two, Silber develops five principles, one of which is “The thinking process is similar to one designers in other fields use.” In other words, the commonality between the many different fields of design is the application of design thinking. “There is a great deal of similarity between the way IDers think about problems and the way designers in general do” writes Silber.

Silber’s goal is not simply to draw these parallels, but to make a case that instructional design is more about problem solving and thinking of ways to design solutions. If that is the case, and he presents a great deal of literature to support his argument, then he states that instructors of ID should rethink their methods and help learners to understand how to use design thinking to identify problems and determine their solutions. I’ll have to read this one a few more times for it all to sink in, but it was great to find an instructional design instructor whose principles can help us to further refine our thinking about the intersections between instructional design and design thinking.


One thought on “Instructional Design Should Be About Thinking Not Process”

Leave a Reply