The simplest way to understand instructional design (ID) is to differentiate it from instruction. Instruction is the teaching of subject matter content; instructional design addresses how that material is taught. Anyone who is helping students learn uses ID, whether they employ a blackboard and a piece of chalk or a digital device. Thus, educators who create lesson plans—whether for a single class or for many—are designing instruction. New technology and learning systems may make it easier to create and activate the plans, but they still include familiar features:
- Becoming familiar with learners to understand how they approach instruction
- Aligning learning to educational standards and objectives
- Facilitating learners’ knowledge acquisition
- Assessing (at various points) learners’ understanding and retention
- Providing opportunities for project- based and cooperative learning
- Linking classroom study to real-world applications
ID provides teachers with multiple advantages:
- It gives them the ability to understand learners—where and how they are approaching the instruction—and to tailor instruction to best effect.
- It aligns instruction to standards and objectives, ensuring that learners are exposed to and assimilate required knowledge and skills.
- It promotes more effective planning and co-teaching, allowing teachers to use time and resources more efficiently.
- It ensures that all students meet their targets, via either a linear path through the curriculum or a looping path that includes remediation.
Because of the close teacher-learner relationship, these advantages are translated to learners:
- Learners can access resources needed to reach their goals in a timely manner.
- Increased engagement means that learners are more likely to take ownership of their education, resulting in better outcomes.
- Assessment is consistently aligned to objectives and the knowledge and skills learners have acquired.