More ADDIE Crankiness

So there was a twitter post from @edwsonoma pointing to this blog entry about tools.  It contains this sentence:

Consider what we want to do, then determine which tools support you doing it better, farther, wider, faster.

This was significant to me, because it came in the middle of more posts about the relevance of ADDIE.

Both Ellen Wagner and Tom Gram make the point that ADDIE is a process (Ellen: “Let’s say it loudly and proudly – ADDIE isn’t a learning model. Nothing about it says “learning model”. It’s a process model.” Tom:  “Adherents and crankites alike view ADDIE as an “instructional design” methodology when in fact it should be viewed more as a project management process for learning projects.“)

Yup — ADDIE is a tool, and as such, is fairly neutral.  The issues and heat seem to come from the associations (which I already ranted about here), and the status in the field that it has of being the destination rather than the vehicle.

Which caused me to do a little visual playing (take these as visual brainstorming rather than well-developed models, please):

Should it be more like this?


Or maybe this?


Not sure, but I do know that there is frequently a imbalance in the emphasis that gets placed on the different areas, and an insufficient number of tools to help practioners with both the green and purple circles.  And the learner needs a place in there somewhere, too.

Let’s face it — ADDIE (or any process) is the easy part to define — it has the least number of variables, is the most under our control, and is the easiest to understand and is the most visible.

Other things — how to be creative, how to best get people to really learn, how to best match content and experience to learners and outcomes — those are much harder to figure out, and much harder to know if you got right.

So what do you think?  What’s missing/wrong in the diagrams?

ADDIE and Crankiness

eLearning Roadtrip posted a really interesting question here:

What is it about ADDIE that makes people so cranky?

<snip> following last night’s #Lrnchat,  I found myself getting a little cranky listening to others getting cranky and taking potshots at our venerable old instructional design process model, ADDIE, for…well, I’m not sure for what or why, exactly. </snip>

This is actually something I’ve thought about in the past, so here goes:

I think it’s a couple of things. One is just the association with a very traditional type of instructional design — the old-school reduction of learning experiences to assembly-line, smallest-unit-of-behavior chunks.  Conjures up images of very un-immersive, un-holistic, un-constructivist, deeply un-sexy sorts of instruction.  But Ellen Wagner is right when she says “ADDIE isn’t a learning model. Nothing about it says “learning model”. It’s a process model.” There is nothing intrinsic about ADDIE that requires any particular type of design approach or learning philosophy, but I think a lot of that stuff is kind of adjacent to each other in those Instructional Design 101 syllabi.

It’s a pretty unobjectionable idea, ADDIE is, if you think about it.  Hey – you might want to know something about your learners before you design stuff, and have an idea about how you are going to roll it out once you’ve designed and built it.  And how will you know if it worked, anyway?  All very reasonable stuff.

Maybe it’s the idea of discrete linear steps that people have such a hard time with? The idea being that the design process shouldn’t be that regimented, and will never be that tidy.  That linearity is certainly implied in a lot of representations of ADDIE, but doesn’t seem to be required.  If you google image ADDIE (, it’s pretty interesting.  You see, along with some lovely high school portraits (is Addie short for Adeline? Are people still named Adeline? Is the name poised for a resurgence in popularity?), that there are many people trying to figure out a representation of ADDIE to get around that pesky linearity (and rightly so).

I’m wondering if it’s the size of the boxes that gets people so riled.  Even in the most imaginative of the graphical representations, all of the categories are of mostly equal size (except when evaluation is the biggest – yikes).  Is the implication that Design is only 1/5th of the process?  That all the rest of that un-fun part of the process (I know there are people who genuinely enjoy evaluation, and god bless ’em) is 4 times as significant as the part that is the beating heart of the profession (we call ourselves Instructional Designers, not Instructional Analyzers or Instructional Implementers, after all).

I know that my graduate program did a darn good job at giving me techniques and strategies for all of the boxes except Design.  Really.  Loads of tools, techniques, processes, accepted best practices for analysis, development, evaluation, and some good ideas for implementation.  But when we got to the Design section, it was a bit of a black box (“Insert learning intervention here.”), and I’ve spent most of my professional life trying to figure that part out.

In the end, ADDIE’s just a neutral tool, and it’s the application and associations that inspire the enmity, imho (anybody remember Flash is 99% bad?).