The ultimate instructional design models cheat sheet

instructional design modelsInstructional design produces the best results when we follow a methodical process. Unfortunately, whether you are a fan of Merrill’s Principles or Bloom’s Taxonomy, or whether you are an ADDIE devotee – there’s so much involved that it’s hard to keep track of what’s what.

Having a set of handy cheat sheets, to gently remind you what needs to be done, can be an excellent way to ensure you dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s. Not only will cheat sheets help make your ID process as thorough and complete as possible, but it will also help you save time. Here are 6 cheat sheets that instructional designers will find useful.


Cheat Sheet for Merrill’s Principles of Instruction

Merrill’s design theory, First Principles of Instruction, is a concise ID model that many novice and expert instructional designers might find extremely helpful.


Here’s the Coles Notes version of what it entails:

  • Use real-life problems in your instructional events
  • Activate learners’ existing knowledge
  • Demonstrate what you are teaching
  • Guide learners through application by problem solving
  • Integrate new knowledge taught with existing knowledge and skills

In Merrill’s own words:

Learning is facilitated when the learner is engaged in a real-world problem, when new knowledge (and skills) build on the learner’s exciting knowledge (and skills), when new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner, when new knowledge is applied by the learner and when new knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world.

Here’s a graphical cheat sheet that you can use when applying Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction:

Bloom’s Taxonomy Cheat Sheet

Bloom’s Taxonomy gives instructional designers a great framework when designing courses. The framework revolves around 6 levels of thinking:

  • VI-Creating
  • V-Evaluating
  • IV-Analyzing
  • III-Applying
  • II-Understanding
  • I-Remembering

Using this hierarchy of learning levels defined in Bloom’s Taxonomy, course designers can create tasks, formulate questions, encourage critical thinking, and offer constructive feedback to learners.

Use this cheat sheet of Bloom’s Taxonomy Action Verbs to help you create measurable objectives for your courses.

ADDIE Cheat Sheet

The ADDIE model is probably one of the most popular approaches to developing instructional design content. The 5-step process comprises of:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

But within each of those five steps, instructional designers use various tools, processes and techniques to produce specific deliverables. Sometimes, it’s hard to decide which approach fits best within which ADDIE phase.

Check-n-Click has an excellent Periodic Table to help you understand what’s involved in each of the five phases.  Click on any of the blocks within the table, and you’ll instantly have cheat-notes about what to do next, and how to go about it.

If you and your team are ADDIE lovers, you should bookmark this page to serve as a ready reckoner for the entire instructional design process.

Cheat Sheet for Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction

Instructional designers often use Gagne’s Taxonomy when creating instructional content. Gagne stipulates that there are several levels (or types) of learning, and each level requires different types of content, including:

  • Informational
  • Intellectual
  • Cognitive
  • Motor, and
  • Attitude-based

Gagne proposes a systematic instructional design process, comprising of nine events, that can be used to produce effective instructional content for each type of learning situation.

This model highlights that the skills to be taught, and the specific sequence of instructions to support such teaching, depends on the unique learning hierarchies that you are faced with. However, training designers have so much on the go that sometimes it’s hard to keep the 9-step process in perspective.

This 2-page infographic from Valparaiso Institute for Teaching and Learning (VITAL) can serve as a handy cheat sheet for instructional designers when creating course material using Gagne’s Taxonomy.

Training Needs Analysis (TNA) Cheat Sheet

Regardless of which taxonomy you use, or what ID model you follow to create your instructional design content, any major project must be kicked-off with a training needs analysis. Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs offers instructional designers a great framework for conducting TNA studies.

Maslow’s theory holds that it is only once our lower-order needs, such as physical and emotional well-being, are satisfied, that we begin to focus on higher-order needs, such as Cognitive, Aesthetic, and Self-actualization needs.

Training Needs Analysis (TNA) is a systematic process of examining the “as is” and matching that with the “as desired” state of things post training. The gaps between those two states is what your instructional design efforts must address.

Since each organization’s training needs differ, it’s hard to come up with a single checklist of questions that you must ask to assess training requirements.

This 8-point questionnaire, developed by Alan Chapman Consultancy, can serve as a great cheat sheet for assessing learners’ needs based on Maslow’s (modified) hierarchy of needs. The one-pager also comes with a concise interpretation guide that will help you understand what the answers mean, and how they can be translated into training content for your learners.

You can also use this 6-step checklist from Buplas to conduct an effective training needs analysis.

Storyboarding Cheat Sheet

Any instructional designer knows the complexity of translating needs analysis into actual instructional content. Because your hard-core designers will likely not be in the same room as you are when discussing needs, it’s often challenging to translate needs into content requirements. And that’s where storyboarding can be most effective.

Once you’ve storyboarded your vision of the course, it’s easy for designers and developers to pick up your thoughts and produce content accordingly. Download this free PowerPoint visual story board template from Jackie Vannice, and use it to communicate instructional needs to your development team.

You can also use any number of free templates from the Articulate site to get your storyboarding efforts to a flying start!

Final Thoughts

All of the cheat sheets discussed here can be used “as is” to help you with generic instructional design situations. However, there may be more unique projects where a “cookie cutter” approach will not work. To make the cheat sheet approach more productive for you, make sure you adapt each of these tools to fit the needs of your unique situation.

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