An immediately accessible instructional design education

Cammy at Learning Visions asked me to whittle my list down more. As a former English teacher, I relish the thought of making my writing "tighter." So while the purpose of my initial post on how to get an instructional design education without paying tuition was meant as a "here's what you need to know," I still missed the mark.

Let me explain.

All of these posts back and forth with Cammy have dealt with instructional design in a non-academic context. We have been talking about how to do the job WITHOUT a graduate degree. So what did I do? I gave her a graduate reading list. How's that for good design?

So I decided I was going to trim the list to only FOUR things, and they couldn't be theory-laden. Rather, they had to be something a brand new designer-by-assignment could pick up and learn something that would be immediately applicable.

See the list after the jump.

My list of four things to read would include:

So what about you ID fans? If you could only pick FOUR things to give to someone to help them get an instructional design education, what would they be?


  1. Bless you! Just what this non-doctor ordered.

  2. John, this is near and dear to my heart (Don Norman was *my* PhD advisor). So I'm a fan of DOET, and van Merriënboer as well. I hadn't looked at Dave's first principles before, and it's similar to my own integration, though I separate out concept presentation from examples (concept vs concept applied in context) which I'm not sure he accommodates.

    This is a very good list, if you've gotta have four, though I really like Carroll's Minimalist stuff, and I might feel an obligation to include Cognitive Apprenticeship (I find it a better model for design, though it's my own 'improved' version ;). I suspect I consequently might replace Gagne' (heresy, I know...).
    And I really like Driscoll on learning theory. So, my own top four might be Driscoll (not ID, but you need to know this stuff), Cog App, Carroll, & Norman (hey, it's not ID either).

  3. This is great. I've been looking for this kind of advice for years. All my expertise comes from applying ideas I've acquired from experts, who must know this and more, but whose unconscious competence is high and so concealed.

    I'll start reading, but I challenge your expert audience: create an application exercise that use principles from any of the recommended books, or one that you consider an essential source, so that those of us with learn-by-doing bent can practice stretching ourselves.

  4. [...] design is not like other kinds of design. But I have at least one academic on record that “good design is good design.”  And like any craft-driven discipline, we still have to custom-build training and create a market [...]

  5. I'm enjoying your lists, John. For those looking for illustrations, there's Reigeluth's Instructional Theories in Action: Lessons Illustrating Selected Theories and Models from all the way back in 1987. It's available from Amazon, used, for practically nothing. Smith & Ragan's Instructional Design also has examples in each chapter.

    One of my recommendations for anyone wanting to learn instructional design is to find someone to work with who knows what they're doing. This doesn't replace theory or reading about how to practice ID, but it's invaluable for new designers.

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