ADDIE- Cornerstone Model or in need of an update?

One of the benefits and challenges of instructional design is that the field (can we call ourselves a field?) constantly changes and improves to keep up with demands of learning and development.  From creating training for face-to-face delivery to asynchronous online learning, there are many instructional design models to utilize. Instructional design models can provide a framework to create instructional materials.  Since each product and model is different, what does each model have in common?  According to Andrews and Goodson (1980), instructional design models serve four purposes:


  • “improving learning and instruction by means of the problem-solving and feedback characteristics of the systematic approach”
  • “improving management of instructional design and development by means of the monitoring and control functions of the systematic approach”
  • “improving evaluation processes by means of the designated components and sequence of events”
  • “testing or building learning or instructional theory by means of theory-based design within a model of systematic instructional design” (p 3-4).



While there are several instructional design models available to use, the cornerstone of all models remains ADDIE.  ADDIE is an instructional design theory that is difficult to attribute.  According to Morrison et al (2013), ADDIE likely evolved from procedures intended for developing military training.  Gustafson and Branch (2002) stated that the intention of ADDIE was to develop “effective, efficient, and relevant” training.  ADDIE is an acronym stands for analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. In the ADDIE model, analysis is the front-end input for the system.  Design, development, and evaluation phases are the process; and implementation is the output of the training material. These elements overlap somewhat, depending on the project. Although there are many different instructional design models, many of them use the ADDIE model as inspiration.  Some of these include the Seels and Glasgow, Rapid Prototyping model, and the Smith and Ragan models. Modern models such as Dr. Michael Allen’s SAM, or Successive Approximation Model, use a hybrid of traditional ADDIE and use software development model influences like Agile, which use iteration and short work cycles to produce quick results.



Analysis Phase noun_643000_51A7F9

One reason that ADDIE is a cornerstone model of instructional design is because it places so much emphasis on the analysis of a learning product.  The way analysis is used in this model is as a process to collect information to plan the scope of a project, in other words, the who, what, when, where, and why of the instructional design process.  Essentially analysis answers the question what do learners need to know and on what criteria will success be measured?  In this phase, if an instructional designer is using project management, this is where one creates a project charter including a target population, resources, scope, risks, and constraints.  In order to obtain this data, instructional designers have multiple methods to choose from including surveys, focus groups, subject matter expert (SME) panels, and reviewing current materials and program information.

While the value in diving deep into analysis is clear, it is difficult to provide guidance on how to do it.  Despite ADDIE having multiple phases that build on each other, analysis can look different in each instructional design example.  Is there a right or wrong way to conduct a needs assessment?  The answer depends on an organization.  Some organizations provides guidance on how to conduct an analysis if a job and task analysis methodology is used, however, it may not be appropriate for all instructional materials.

In order for an analysis of an instructional design product to be successful, data must be collected.  In the ADDIE model, this data would be collected in the analysis phase, yet it is important in each part of the phases.  Something as simple as observation, which according to Kawulich (2005) can establish rapport and allows one to immerse themselves in a situation yet be removed, is invaluable to improving the instructional design process.  This type of data can also yield process improvement opportunities, allow for an anecdotal record to be shared with stakeholders, and provide a history of progress on instructional design methods.  A modification to the ADDIE model should add data collection as a continuum underneath the five phases in order to encourage instructional designers to consider its importance.

Design Phase noun_981216_F38F19

In the ADDIE model, design is the phase of instructional systems during which instructional designers create the design of the project with all of the specifications based on the analysis. In this phase, the instructional designer provides the basic foundation and structure for the training project. This phase outlines learning objectives and evaluation tasks.  It seeks to answer the question of how will the learner be provided the material? Additionally, a program evaluation plan is crafted in this phase.

A key part of any instructional design project that does not have a specific phase represented in the ADDIE model is the budget.  Depending on the organization, the funding practices often dictate the amount of resources leveraged into an instructional project.  Due to the ADDIE model having full phases dedicated to analysis and design, it is both prescriptive and descriptive orientation models.  The reason for both orientations being represented is that it does have a one-size fits all mold.  Is it cost effective for a job aid on how to use the telephone to use the ADDIE model?  Most likely not, but it certainly could be used as the framework to gather data to build the job aid.

Additionally, the design phase really is the crux of the whole process.  Typically, this is where projects are modeled and sets the tone for the rest of the project.  Without good design that aligns to the goals identified in the analysis phase, the product will likely not fulfill the goals it is intended to.  An improvement to the ADDIE model would be having this phase looping back into analysis in order to align the training product.  Even if this is a short check-in meeting with stakeholders, it could save a lot of headaches further down the project pipeline if bad product is passed on to the development phase.

Development Phasenoun_818869_B36AE2

The development phase is where the rubber hits the road.  In this phase materials are shared with stakeholders via pilot testing.  This can include a gamut of offerings from lecture notes to elearning and it shows the progress.  Pilot testing in this phase is invaluable to identify portions that may have missed the mark.  The whole ADDIE process implemented is expensive, so if an error were detected before this, such as in the design phase, it would help make this phase go smoother. Even with pilot testing, this can be a taxing cost on organizations.  SMEs should review the content in this phase for accuracy to prepare for the next phase.

The development phase can be seen as a quality check on the progress which can lead to a higher quality instructional product.  One downside to this is the amount of time it takes to get formal feedback in one setting versus ongoing feedback throughout the   If ADDIE had a constant feedback portion on each phase; perhaps this phase could focus on finalizing the content for implementation, likely speeding up the development process. Due to the ADDIE model encouraging the use of phases that include a full analysis, this model supports tasks that support procedural knowledge.  If ADDIE were to support declarative models, it may have more emphasis on the design and development phases emphasizing higher-level cognate learning materials.

Implementation Phasenoun_1050109_EC5D57

The implementation phase is where the learners receive the content.  This phase includes launching the content, assessment of the learner’s ability against the instructional objectives, review of instructional materials, and modification of design and materials provided from basic evaluative feedback. Additionally, if using elearning, the materials are uploaded to the web or the learning management system.

A shortcoming of ADDIE that is evident in this phase is not accounting for political factors in the implementation.  It may not be up to the instructional designer on how best to implement the training materials. Going through the full phases may yield data that an instructional designer can share with stakeholders but ultimately an organization’s political climate may trump recommendations.  Additionally, if the instructional designer has not thought about evaluation yet, they may omit it from the training.  It can easily happen if they are following ADDIE phase by phase.

Evaluation Phasenoun_471092

Evaluation, the last phase of the ADDIE model, includes reviewing evaluations from participants, soliciting feedback in debriefs from facilitators, and tying up any loose ends identified in the project plan.  This phase can include both formative and summative evaluation.  Since evaluation is the last phase of the model, it can often be thrown by the wayside or have the least emphasis placed on it. Instructional designers should feel comfortable knowing that evaluation is an ongoing process and shouldn’t be an after thought.  ADDIE also doesn’t have a phase to address evaluation data as far as creating a schedule to incorporate feedback.  It is unclear if an instructional designer with this data should start the ADDIE process over again or if there is a particular phase to revisit.

Strengths of the ADDIE Model noun_1018187_EC5D57.png

The ADDIE model is used as the basis for many other instructional design models for one main reason: it covers the bases for how to create a quality instructional design product.  The model, while it could provide more guidance on how to do each phase, is written in a way that allows instructional designers to interpret the phases and work through them how they see appropriate.  This is true because no two instructional design projects are the same.  While ADDIE can be seen as a rigid model, because of the broadness it allows flexibility to be applied to multiple settings.  Because of the phases being sequential, it challenges users to perfect each phase before going to the next one.  This is wonderful if an instructional designer is following project management principles because each phase can be applied as a deliverable.

Areas of Improvements for ADDIE  noun_814748_F5D327

One of ADDIE’s strengths and weakness lies in the multiple components of the model.  ADDIE often has the moniker of the “waterfall” method because each phase has a set of requirements that must be met to go on to the next phase.  An overarching principle of ADDIE is that all five phases should be complete in order to yield a robust instructional project.  In other words, ADDIE’s phases provide instructional designers a linear and systematic approach to create instructional products.   In this vain, Allen et at (2014) suggests that ADDIE is more of a process model than a design model. “The steps of ADDIE can be used to build everything from a sandcastle to a fighter jet; there is nothing there that is inherently germane to instructional design” (p 368). This can be detrimental to learning and development teams who are short on time and money resources.  Kruse (2009) criticized ADDIE for being too time consuming to implement due to being too inflexible.  Often as a newer instructional designer, one is likely to be eager to please the sponsor in delivering everything they want.  In this model, if an instructional designer spends most of the time in the analysis phase and then the sponsor changes their mind, it could lead to a wasted effort.  This could lead to disappointment on both sides.  Based on this, ADDIE would be classified as an expert-system based model as defined by Edmonds et al (1994).  Due to the pitfalls newer designers could fall into going through each phase, an expert instructional designer would have a better grasp on subject matter expert management, project management, and avoiding scope creep.  Furthermore, the phase titles do not necessarily provide guidance on how to “analyze” or “implement”.  Any guidance is often provided by practitioners in the field or most of the time, by trial and error of the instructional designer.

ADDIE’s systematic method is inflexible and is not ideal for all instructional design projects.  Projects are complex and in a global economy investing in each phase of ADDIE may be too much for a particular organization.  Adamson (2012) said that a linear process of cause and effect, such as a model like ADDIE, is becoming increasingly irrelevant and learning and development professionals need to think outside of the mold in order to create products that rise to this occasion.  One way to deal with this is if ADDIE is applied as an iterative process instead of sequential.  That way there is more flexibility applied, as instructional design projects may need it.

Overall, ADDIE provides a framework for instructional designers to consider when creating a training program.  ADDIE will not be the correct model for every training program; however, no instructional design model is a one-size fits all.  In order to be successful while using ADDIE, clear guidelines on what to do in each phase should be created so all stakeholders and the instructional designer stays on the same page.  ADDIE inspired many other instructional design models and will likely continue to as instructional design evolves.

Works Cited

Adamson, C. (2012) ‘Learning in a VUCA World.’ Online Education Berlin News Portal. Accessed online, May 30, 2017.


Allen, M., Dirksen, J., Quinn, C., & Thalheimer, W. (2014). Serious e-learning manifesto. ASTD Handbook: The Definitive Reference for Training & Development. (pp. 359-378)  Chelsea, MI; American Society for Training and Development


Andrews, D. H., & Goodson, L. A. (1980). A comparative analysis of models of instructional design. Journal of instructional development, 3(4), 2-16.


Edmonds, G. S., Branch, R. C., & Mukherjee, P. (1994). A Conceptual Framework for Comparing Instructional Design Models. Educational Research and Technology, 42(2), pp. 55-72.


Gustafson, K.L. & Branch, R.M. (2002)  What is Instructional Design? In Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology, eds. R.A. Resier and J.V. Dempsey.  Columbus, OH; Merrill Prentice Hall.


Kawulich, B. B. (2005, May). Participant observation as a data collection method. In Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research (Vol. 6, No. 2).


Kruse, K. (2009). Introduction to Instructional Design and the ADDIE Model, Accessed online. May 30, 2017.


Morrison, G. R., Ross, S. M., Kemp, J. E., & Kalman, H. (2013). Designing Effective Instruction. John Wiley & Sons.7th Edition





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