Competency K

Design instructional programs based on learning principles and theories

Statement of Competency

Librarians with this competency can plan, create, and execute an instructional design project using current learning theories, instructional theories, and instructional design models.

Instructional design is a process that is focused and zeroes in on what the learner needs to know, excluding superficial information. Instructional design streamlines instruction and learning, making the whole process efficient, effective, and easier (Morrison, et al, 2007, p. 2). Today’s educational environment makes it necessary for librarians and information professionals to have the skills to teach information literacy, train co-workers, make presentations, and have collaborations with educators to deliver the best learning environment for students.

However, instructional design is not an activity that can be done on the fly. It is a systematic procedure. The process includes defining the problem and content, learner and task analyses, specifying objectives, designing instructional strategies, and preparing instructional materials by putting together all elements of the instructional design plan into a unit of instruction. By carefully structuring and presenting the materials, effective instruction is achieved and there is learner engagement and learners are cued to recognize the important points (Morrison, et al, 2007, p. 170).

Learning Theories

Learning theories are sets of laws and principles that broadly explain learning and behavior and they provide the basis for achieving consistency between instructional theory and the design model (Morrison, 2007, p. 342-343). Learning theories are often confused with instructional design (ID) theories. The distinction is learning theories are descriptive, or they describe how learning occurs. On the other hand, ID theories are more directly applied to methods of instruction (Reigeluth, 1999, p. 5, 12-13).  There are three basic types of learning theory: behaviorism, cognitive constructivism, and social constructivism (GSI, 2015, Overview). Though it bears saying that there is no one “right theory” but most instructional designers employ multiple theories for planning. ID theories apply the principles of learning theory to the instructional design to create a learning unit and use teaching strategies that are most likely to be successful in achieving the learning objectives.


This theory is associated with theorists Skinner, Pavlov, Watson, and Thorndike. The focus is on observable, quantifiable events and behavior. Learning happens through passive absorption or rote memorization. The learners are motivated by positive reinforcement, such as verbal praise, good praise, and prizes. On the other hand, learners earn negative consequences for answering incorrectly. Teaching methods usually involved drilling exercises. Other methods include Q & A, with an increasing level of difficulty, guided practice, and regular review of material (GSI, 2015, Overview). This theory is best applied to learning units where answers are either correct or incorrect or material that are easily memorized. Knowledge is measured at how well the learners respond to the questions. The problem with this theory is that motivation is extrinsic, meaning there is no desire from the learner to learn unless there is a reward at the end or there is a punishment for not learning. This theory does not reinforce mental processes such as thought, reasoning, or processing.

When using this theory in instructional design. One must take care in arranging material and types of reinforcement to keep learners motivated. Instructional designers need to perform a task analysis before developing instructional material (Morrison, et al, 2007, 348). Task analysis is a process of determining what should be taught and what the learners are expected to learn. This theory supports the use of instructional objectives.

Robert F. Mager, an American psychologist, is credited with creating the classic set of instructions on writing of objectives. The Mager Model for writing effective instructional objectives are: the action; the relevant conditions; and the performance standard. (Briggs, 1977, p. 63-64). Mager (1962) suggested the use of three components when writing objectives: 1) identify the action the learner will be taking when he has achieved the objective, 2) describe the relevant conditions under which the learner will be acting, and 3) specify how well the learner must perform the action (Mager, 1962, p. 3).

However, some educators, including Johnson, think that these tend to constrict learning and that even though a student displays a specific behavior, it doesn’t necessarily mean that learning has occurred. Johnson (2000) states “…it is a bit perplexing to me why some still insist they belong in a lesson plan. While sounding scientific and rigorous, they make planning lessons more complicated than they need to be and they can get in the way of teaching and learning” (p. 2).

In terms of library instruction, this theory can be applied to write objectives for creating an informational tutorial for a library website. Software like Adobe Captivate is appropriate for this type of learning theory because it has pretest and branch-aware quizzing, which assesses the skill level of the learner and learners are directed to appropriate section and quiz them at the end to gauge what they have learned. In quizzes like these, if the results are not satisfactory, the learner is redirected to another section to begin again.

Cognitive Constructivism

This learning theory was developed by educational psychologists Jean Piaget and William Perry. They demanded that a better approach to learning was one that paid more attention to what went on in the mind of the learner so they focused on mental processes rather observable behavior. Learning is through the assimilation of new information in relation to existing knowledge. Knowledge is comprised of past learning experiences and “each learner interprets experiences and information based on this knowledge, the stage of their cognitive development, their cultural background, their personal history and so forth” (GSI, 2015, Cognitive Constructivism). They use whatever they know to make sense of new experiences and transform this new information. Learning is therefore highly individual because it is constructed by the learner and processed based on that person’s viewpoint, instead of learning by memorizing. This also makes learning an active process of discovery.

In cognitive learning, as opposed to behaviorism, motivation is intrinsic. “Because it [cognitive learning] involves significant restructuring of existing cognitive structures, successful learning requires a major personal investment on the part of the learner” (GSI, 2015, Cognitive Constructivism). A testament to this type of learning is the success of distance or online learning students. Despite different geolocations and different time zones, the drive to learn and succeed is very much in the hands of the learner.

Since learning is self-motivated, cognitivists such as A.L. Brown and J.D. Ferrera have suggested methods in which students monitor their own learning, e.g. ungraded tests and study questions to gauge their own learning. Other methods include the use of learning journals which students can use to see their progress and highlight recurring difficulties (GSI, 2015, Cognitive Constructivism).

Within this theory’s framework, the instructor’s role is to facilitate discovery by providing necessary resources and by guiding learners as they process new information, not to replace old information, but to add to or modify old information as new information is assimilated. Teachers must take in to account the knowledge that the learner already knows when planning instructional objectives. The KWL chart, designed by Donna Ogle in 1986, can be used to propel instruction. In the constructivism, the KWL chart, which is a graphical organizer, divides what the student knows, what the student will learn and what the student has learned, into columns (Adam, 2009, Paragraph 1). The KWL chart is also a useful strategy for instructional design. First, an instructor can plan a lesson based on students’ interests, their needs, or what they learned in a previous grade. It activates their prior knowledge of the topic. Second, it gives the students the purpose of the learning unit. They can add their input to the topic so they are motivated to participated in discussion and stimulate discovery beyond the classroom setting. Using this strategy has been most successful in elementary grades in creating lessons that students enjoy, regardless of subject.

Its application in library instruction is probably most useful in giving short library lessons that enhance current curriculum topics although the KWL chart has been used by researchers to organize information for research projects.

Social Constructivism

Social constructivism is also known as social theory. Learning happens through student collaboration that is facilitated and guided by the instructor. Social constructivism is not a standalone theory but a combination of several cognitive constructivism that puts emphasis on the collaborative nature of learning. It was developed by post-revolutionary Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky believed that:

All cognitive functions originate in, and must therefore be explained as products of social interactions and that learning was not simply the assimilation and accumulation of new knowledge by learners; it was the process by which learners were integrated into a knowledge community (GSI, 2015, Social Constructivism).

The motivation within this learning theory is both extrinsic and intrinsic. Learning is considered a social phenomenon, so learners are motivated by the approval of the learning community but knowledge is also consciously constructed by the learner so learning also depends on the learner’s own internal drive to advance his own knowledge. In order to learn in this collaborative setting, learners must develop teamwork skills and understand that individual learning is related to group learning success.

Studies have shown that groups of four or five people are ideal. This size is effective for peer interaction which is mediated and structured by the instructor (GSI, 2015, Social Constructivism). For example, during discussion sessions, instructors can present specific topics then use directed questions. The instructor can also drive learning by introducing or explaining concepts or reference previously learned material to bridge ideas.

Embedded librarians who work collaboratively with class instructors can use this learning theory to create activities to reinforce course topics using library resources while working in groups.

Instruction Design Models

Instructional design is a versatile skill that can be applied in any industry. It is not exclusive to educational environments but is also of use in companies or hospitals or factories in the form of training and training documentation. Training is expensive but an essential part of any organization. Training uses up employees’ time and good trainers demand equivalent compensation. Therefore, instruction that can be delivered in the most effective and efficient manner, and ensure that it meets the needs of the learners, is highly desirable.  For this section, I will discuss two of the most prominent ID models.

ARCS Model

John Keller is the founder of the ARCS Model of Motivation (eLearning Industry, 2015, Instructional Design). This model’s focus is on stimulating and maintaining learner motivation.  Keller (2000) writes that this model has four categories: attention (A), relevance (R), confidence (C), and satisfaction (S). According to Keller, these represent conditions that are necessary for a person to be fully motivated. He also noted that in this model, it is important to establish a sense of equity or fairness. Students should feel the amount of work required is appropriate, objectives and content are consistent, and the instructor does not display favoritism in grading (p. 2-3).

ADDIE “Model”

The ADDIE “model” is a process used to develop courses and training. In instructional technology, education, and training, there is really no such thing as the ADDIE model because it is merely an acronym for the different phases involved in systematic approach to instructional development. It is synonymous with instructional systems development (ISD). The phases include: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation (Molenda, 2003, p. 35). In the Analysis phase (A), the instructional designer must clarify what the learning need is, who the audience is, what the goals and objectives are, in what environment will the learning occur, and what the learner’s existing knowledge  and  skills are. The Design phase (D) includes documentation of the different strategies for instructional, visual and technical design as well as apply these according to the intended behavioral outcomes. This is also the time to design the user interface and ensure the best user experience in the creation of the prototype. (Instructional Design, 2015, Design Phase). In the Development phase (D), the creation of the course happens using the decisions made during the analysis and design phases. This phase is iterative which means during this phase content is written, organized, prototyped, and tested. Based on assessment results, these are rewritten and reorganized (UCF, 2015, Applying the ADDIE Model).  During the Implementation phase (I), the course is presented and taught to the learners and the instructional designer gets the opportunity to ask for feedback (Curtis, 2014, Paragraph 5).  And finally the Evaluation phase (E) in which decisions are made as to what is the most appropriate assessment of the learning outcomes or what appropriate procedures for constructing selected measures and analyzing results are. (Morrison, et al, 2007, p. 266). Some examples of evaluation tools are tests, essays, portfolio assessments and exhibits.

Justification of Evidence

  1. Designing with ADDIE (MOOC Teaching Online – Kirkwood College)

From a MOOC I attended on teaching online, I learned how to design a course using the ADDIE system. This particular artifact I discussed the advantages I perceive from using ADDIE. For example, the analysis phase helps me set goals for each module. The design and development phases are really useful in sequencing and enhancing content. Today’s content management systems are ideal for working in these phases because they make moving and adding content so much easier. The implementation phase is the launch of the module. Implementation can be done per module or some prefer to launch an entire course. The advantage of implementing per module is the instructor can determine if there are any interventions or modifications needed based on evaluation. Formative evaluation allows these adjustments. Whereas if evaluation is done at the end of the course (summative evaluation), feedback will help shape the future design and implementation of the course.

  1. Course Plan (MOOC Teaching Online – Kirkwood College)

From the same MOOC, we were assigned a final project which was designing a mock course syllabus. I based it on the SJSU format but I wrote the content which included a description of the course, course format, student responsibilities, and assignments. I also provided an assignment and a discussion sample. For myself (the instructor) I created a communication plan which entails the details of how communication will be established and maintained between myself and the students. Communication is key to a successful learning program so there is also a page of communication tools and protocol. This is very important to prevent misunderstandings and set expectations. Even if instructional designers create the best learning modules, if communication is not ideal then the learning environment suffers.

  1. Instructional Design Document (ALA e-Course Introduction to Instructional Design for Librarians)

This artifact is also another final project but for my class on instructional design for librarians offered by ALA. The instructional problem was teaching student workers how to check in books from the overnight book drop. Using what I learned from the class, I analyzed the learner characteristics, their learning requirements and what their current skills are. The process of checking in the books are actually composed of three other subtasks which I used to write the learning goals or outcomes.

Even a task as simple as this required detailed instructions. The task analysis helped me break the goals down into smaller steps. Because student workers are not always familiar with library tools and equipment, I designed the instructional document to include graphics to help them locate materials needed to complete the steps.

Before implementing the training, I wrote a list of objectives, an evaluation plan, as well as instructional strategies that will aid my presentation of the training program.


Designing with ADDIE

Course Plan

Instructional Design Document


Adam, A. (2009). KWL table/chart. Retrieved from

Briggs, L.J. (1977). Instructional Design: Principles and Applications. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications, Inc.

Curtis, J. (2014). Instructional design: applying the ADDIE model. Blog post. Retrieved from

eLearning Industry. (2015). Instructional design models and theories: Keller’s ARCS model of motivation. Retrieved from

GSI Teaching & Resource Center. (2015). Behaviorism. Retrieved from

GSI Teaching & Resource Center. (2015). Cognitive constructivism. Retrieved from

GSI Teaching & Resource Center. (2015). Overview of learning theories. Retrieved from

GSI Teaching & Resource Center. (2015). Social constructivism. Retrieved from

Johnson, A.P. (2000) Teacher-centered instruction. Minnesota State University.

Keller, J. (2000). How to integrate learner motivation into lesson planning: The ARCS model of approach. Paper presented at VII Semanario, Santiago, Cuba, February, 2000.

Mager, R.F. (1962). Preparing Instructional Objectives. Palo Alto, CA: Varian Associates.

Molenda, M. (2003). In search of the elusive ADDIE model. Performance improvement, 42(5), 34-37.

Morrison, G.R., Ross, S.M.  & Kemp, J.E. (2007). Designing effective instruction. 5th ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

National Education Association. (2015). K-W-L (Know, Want to Know, Learned). Retrieved from

Reigeluth, C.M., Ed. (1999). Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory. Vol. 2. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associate, Inc.

University of Central Florida. (2014). Applying the ADDIE model. Teaching Online MOOC,