Some Instructional Design Basics

I had the opportunity to attend a preconference sponsored by the Association of College and Research Libraries “Instructional Design for Librarians: The What, Why and How of ID”

I think anyone providing library instruction should try to educate themselves about instructional design, educational theory, etc.

I can’t cover everything the presenters did, but I did want to provide a brief overview of what I learned about a popular ID model: ADDIE, which is illustrated in the graphic below.

This is where you will collect information that will help know your audience and the goals of the instructional session:  Example: Freshman who have to find six library sources for their research paper.  At least two must be peer-reviewed journal articles.

Other helpful information to know is how much time do you have? For most of us, it is 50 or 75 minutes.

You can get most of this information from the syllabus and/or from the instructor, but if you’re lucky enough to be able to administer some kind of pre-test, that is idea.

This is the stage to use the information from the analysis and decide what content you will cover and activities. How will you transmit that information?


Here is where you create the content of your presentation, including activities, search examples, scripts.


This is where you teach and communicate with students.  Active learning is encouraged here, which simply means that students interact with the content.  Two good strategies for library instruction are that students find articles or information for an existing assignment or to work in pairs or groups.

Evaluate all stages of the plan for possible changes and improvements.  This can happen at every stage. This can be difficult for Library Instruction, since there is often nothing to grade or any instrument to measure student learning as it occurred during library instruction.  If you are lucky enough to do a pre test, do a post test at this stage.  You can see what students learned.

As you can see from the first graphic, this is cyclical.  You may revisit one stage more often than others.

There are lots of materials out there on Instructional Design, and there are other models besides the ADDIE model.  If you search a library catalog, databases, the internet, or Delicious, you are likely to find materials in addition the reading I list below.  It’s well worth your time to explore ID.


Association of College and Research Libraries Preconference “Instructional Design for Libraries: The What, Why and How of ID.”  Chicago, Illinois. July 2009

Further Reading

Dick, W., Carey, L., & Carey, J.  (2009). The systematic design of instruction.   (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Pearson.


About Pamela J. Morgan

Librarian at Vanderbilt University Libraries
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