How do you approach complex instructional design (ID) projects? What factors do you take into consideration when making your ID decisions? Do you still keep a few ID reference books in your backpack? I know...I know... I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that.

Or let’s put it this way: will you be able to survive an ID process with no access to a copy of an ID Model (ADDIE, Dick and Carey, or SAM) at your disposal?  

Please keep your answers secret. My intention is not to question your ability. Rather, I hope to encourage you to reflect on your ID competencies. How? Please bare with me...

A few years ago, Ertmer, York, and Gedi (2009) published an interesting study that they conducted on how experienced instructional designers approach complex ID projects. The publication lists some rules of thumb used by 16 seasoned designers. 

Let me share with you what I’ve learned about these 16 pros. Look at the list below. See for yourself if you have the zen of instructional design. Ready? Let's start with point one.

1- Most of them use ID Models. But they don’t go by the book. That is, they don’t follow a linear or structured process. Those zen masters intuitively know what to do, which steps to skip, and how and when to skip them.      

2- They are good at adapting, when necessary, textbook Models and learning to their work situation. That is to say, they know how to translate theorical knowledge into practical situations.

3- They focus on underlying principles, on the big picture, and deep structure. They don’t chase perfection. In other words, they apply heuristic techniques to design their interventions. Their actions are calculated and dictated by past experiences.

4- They start their ID projects with the end goals in mind. As a result, they strive to connect learning outcomes with design decisions and assessment process and tools.

5- They do their best to understand their work context and constraints. Thus, they are aware of the factors that might impact their design decisions, and modify their approaches accordingly. That is to say, they know dealing with constraints is part of the game.

6- They make communication work for them. For example, they educate their employers and use visuals and confirmation notes or messages. They are wise enough to always put things in writing.

7- They are culturally and politically sensitive to their employers and to their work environment. 

8- They listen more than they speak and they ask lots of questions. That means they do not base their intervention on assumptions. Rather, they make sure they understand the root causes of the isses they face.  

If you naturally use the above best practices, you are definitely a pro instructional designer. Bravo! But if you are not there yet, no worries. Get back to work, stay motivated, and continue to better your craft.

What other rules of thumb would you like to add to the list? Please share your contribution in the comment section below.

Reference:

Ertmer, P. A., York, C. S., & Gedik, N. (2009). Learning from the Pros: How Experienced Designers Translate Instructional Design Models into Practice. Educational Technology49(1), 19-27.

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