I remember having this conversation with a graduate school friend of mine, Platte Clark, a few years ago. Platte and I worked on our master's degrees in English at the same time, and we shared an office for about a year. Actually, Platte and another guy, Rulon Wood, are responsible for steering me to Instructional Technology, as they were both working on double master's degrees in both English and IT. At any rate, Platte left school with work still to do on both degrees. He had been offered a big job with Novell Education (I believe), and it was too good to turn down. He later went to work for Franklin Covey, but suffice it to say that Platte is HIGHLY intelligent, and a gifted designer. Again, he just *gets it.* Eventually he finished his MS in English, but not his MS in Instructional Technology. I remember talking with him about his frustrations about the academic field. At the time I was close to finishing my Ph.D., and I was feeling pretty good about myself. I had done a little freelance work here and there, but nothing really substantial. Most of the ID work I had done was in faculty support. I hadn't talked to Platte in a couple of years, and as we did, he expressed frustration with the instructional technology degree. "It's just not how it's done," he told me. "All those things they taught us don't translate to the 'real world.'" I tried to tell him that we needed the theory so we could improve the practice, but to be honest, the longer I do this, the more I disagree with myself.
Cammy commented back on my post about the shifting roles of an instructional designer and said:
"But some would argue that one needs, or at least certainly benefits from, the solid foundation of academic training in ID. I’ve done alright without it, but I wonder where I would be if I had a Master’s?"
My guess? Probably not. I've read enough of what Cammy writes to know how smart she is and what kind of work she does. She's brighter than the majority of graduate students I either went to school with or have taught. She has great attention for detail, and that translates well to instructional design. Also, she writes well. She is clear, concise, and articulate. So does it matter if Cammy knows (and I have no idea if she does) what the Dick/Carey, Smith/Ragan, or Morrison/Ross/Kemp models are? What about Component Display Theory, Elaboration Theory, the Conditions of Learning, Learning Hierarchies, the ARCS model, 4C/ID, ADDIE, ASSURE, Schema theory, Cognitive apprenticeship, Social Learning theory, or Cognitive flexibility? Does she need to know those?
When I teach intro and advanced instructional design, I act as though you're no instructional designer if you don't know those theories and models. Well, I used to. Why? Well, my professors did. Now that could be because my professor wrote some of them and was/is a huge theorist. But even he has softened his stance. One of his latest, most influential pieces of work was the First Principles of Instruction. In his paper, Dr. Merrill explains:
"The premise of this paper is that first principles for instruction do exist and that one or more of these irst principles can be found in most instructional design theories and models. This premise also assumes hat these design principles apply regardless of the instructional program or practices prescribed by a given theory or model. If this premise is true, research will demonstrate that when a given instructional program r practice violates or fails to implement one or more of these first principles, there will be a decrement in earning and performance. Our survey of instructional products also demonstrates that many instructional programs fail to effectively incorporate all of these principles.The hypotheses of this paper are that:
1. Learning from a given instructional program will be facilitated in direct proportion to the implementation of first principles of instruction.
2. Learning from a given instructional program will be facilitated in direct proportion to the degree that first principles of instruction are explicitly implemented rather than haphazardly implemented."
Basically, Dr. Merrill looked at the existing plethora of models and theories and found out what was the SAME rather than coming up with a different model or theory--a big departure for one of the leading theorists in the field.
I would argue that if Cammy read this paper, it would be all the "education" she would need as a designer. After all, what is the aim of instructional design? In my book, it is to produce effective, engaging, and efficient instruction. If Cammy can do that without the master's degree, then more power to her.
So back to her question: where would she be with academic training in instructional design? Probably at the same spot. She may or may not be making the same amount of money, but she would more than likely be in the same spot.
So what does all this mean? I spend a lot of time recruiting graduate students to our program and, as I refer to it, "preaching the gospel of instructional design." If it's not necessary, then why do I spend so much of my time saying this is so important?
Because it's my job, and I love doing it. I love the art of instructional design. Any six year old can splatter paint, but that doesn't make them Jackson Pollock. It takes a real talent to create great instruction fluidly, with purpose, and I can't teach that. You either have it or you don't.
So I find myself the longer I do this I come back more and more to my conversation with Platte and having conversations like this with Cammy. Theoretical instructional design needs to mirror practical instructional design more. And when it does, and as our field shifts to more designers-by-assignment, then we'll be on to something important.
My gosh, what kind of posting maniac has Cammy unleashed?