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“T-shaped” instructional design process

June 29, 2012

(Not so) Recently I commented on Twitter about my approach to professional development this year and Steve Flowers (@xpconcept) commented that it made sense in a broader application  to instructional design. Then, I saw a tweet from David Kelly (@LnDDave) who was at an #ASTD2012 conference session with Michael Allen. They were presenting their Successive Approximation Method (SAM) as a substitution for ADDIE (poor girl, everyone’s favorite whipping horse), which sounded a lot like a “T” in my mind. A short twitter exchange between Steve and myself led to this…a blog post idea. And now, hopefully a few weeks later a blog post!

What is a “T-shaped” instructional design process?

As ADDIE is a waterfall method, which allows you to go deeper only when you’ve completed the various hurdles in the step you are on, a T-shaped method favours breadth before depth. You’d look at the aspects of it, going deeper once you have a good overview of all elements (will try to describe elements here), then you flesh it out more fully. With the rapid development tools available, committing to everything in paper up front is not realistic, however, you need to start with paper before you move to digital. I think it is best used as a project framework, but one that is iterative.

My “T” would look something like this (it’s version 1, will tinker with it to see how it fits):

Once the basics of analysis are done: Audience, Concept, Outcomes, & Tech

Then the core of the product (visual, interaction and content) is described and would go deeper with each iteration.

So, you start with a good understanding of what it is going to be, how it will all fit together and then you build it. Not so much a full working prototype, but enough of a proof-of-concept that it allows all stakeholders to understand the essence of the outcome.

I’d love some input/feedback. Am I reinventing the wheel here?  Is this just the SAM method in a clunkier model?

12 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2012 2:21 pm

    This is a very cool concept Holly. It’s another way to visualize/conceptualize/communicate “iteration”

    • hollymacdonald permalink*
      July 3, 2012 4:56 pm

      Hi Tom – thanks for your comment. Do you see any drawbacks to it?

      • July 4, 2012 7:04 pm

        I think it would work best as a communication tool, to help explain the process of iterations, maybe less as a actual methodology.

  2. June 30, 2012 9:49 pm

    It looks like traditional analysis with a number of developmental iterations afterward to me. So way more SAM-like than ADDIE-like. But what bothers me about it is that you’re locking down the concept and not providing a way to iterate over that. What if the course concept is wrong, and how would you know if you’re not iterating over it?

    • hollymacdonald permalink*
      July 1, 2012 12:11 pm

      Good point – would checkpoints help do you think, or is the fundamental thinking flawed?

      • July 2, 2012 12:41 am

        I don’t think the fundamental thinking is flawed; it just looks like another way to visually represent SAM to me. Do you see something different here? To answer your question, I think I would iterate over the concept at least once – rough up the design with the concept and you ought to be able to validate it at that point. But then you’ll have a lopsided “T” too. 🙂 “Usually,” audience, outcomes and tech can be nailed fairly precisely early so I’d leave them on the top row.

      • hollymacdonald permalink*
        July 3, 2012 4:59 pm

        Thanks for your input Kevin, good points. Maybe a post in the near future will be T2! Appreciate your comments very much. Holly


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