Teaching vs. Instructional Design

I came to a realization today that Instructional Designers do not seem to see themselves as teachers.  I say this because whenever I see ID it is more about the structure of content.   And much of the reading does not mention an instructor at all.  Now I do understand that the majority of those claiming the title of Instructional Designer are in corporate settings, but why is teaching demoted, relegated to the K-16 setting?  (The article that prompted these thoughts.)

I am reminded of my search for a job, after making the decision to leave teaching high school (long story, right decision, but I miss it terribly most days).  Because all my experience had been in schools I was not seen as “fit” to work in an office.  I honestly could not believe what I was hearing.  I had to defend my experience in organization (managing 200+ students – as people, in grading, in work assignments, planning lessons, working with the office staff); in interacting with a variety of people in a professional manner (parent teacher conferences with so many different types of parents, negotiating with publishers and vendors, fundraising, open houses, school psychologists, special ed teachers, district support people); and office machines.  (Ok, that last one – I don’t know a successful teacher out there that does not learn quickly how to fix just about any duplexer, copier or fax machine.  And when I finally did get an office job – I seemed to be the only one not afraid of the copier!)

So back to Instructional Design…I’m not understanding why the teacher is eliminated from the equation.  I understand that there are situations that demand a self-paced, individualized learning environment.  However, successful life-long learners seek out experts, colleagues and mentors.  This is the feedback loop in the Systems model.

I love the “Granny-cloud” in the research done by Sugata Mitra.  His research shows that children will naturally learn (Hole-in-the-Wall Education).   The “granny-cloud” is added in and the children get to practice their English accent, show off their work, be encouraged, pointed in better directions, made to answer questions about their work.  In other words they get feedback.

Feedback can be “programmed” in to any type of learning instrument.   My school currently uses Moodle and between creating questions and setting up the quiz there are 4-5 different types of feedback that can be made available to the students within Moodle.  But the real feedback comes from a person analyzing and adjusting the upcoming coursework based on the performance of the students.  A teacher’s compliment in a forum encouraging students in the right direction.  Feedback must be real if the system is going to effectively maintain itself and grow.

I suppose the root is I just don’t understand how an Instructional Designer does not see himself as a teacher.

Update: For more thoughts and explorations on Teaching vs. Instructional Design see the Teaching vs. Instructional Design Category.

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17 Responses to Teaching vs. Instructional Design

  1. Emmanuel says:

    From the surface, there seems to be little difference between the teacher and the instructional designer. This is usually the point of confusion or even conflict between teachers who are Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and Instructional designers. While there is a vital link and similarity between the two, there are differences which clearly set them apart even though one must complement the other at some point. As a teacher, I see some similarities between instructional design and curriculum design which is solely the business of a teacher.
    However, while the teacher can develop the curriculum, the instructional designer makes and creates opportunities for learners to actively practice what they are learning. Instructional designers know how people learn and have ideas on how to help them learn better. The role of the instructional designer in the teaching enterprise is to enhance the experiences of learning and practicing. Therefore, teachers who are instructional designers may tend to do better as instructors in most cases because:
    1. As Morrison, Ross & Kemp (2007) suggest, “the goal of instructional design is to make learning more efficient and effective and to make learning less difficult” Although teachers do not always have to be instructional designers to succeed, the knowledge basic instructional design can be very helpful as Morrison, Ross & Kemp explained:
    Knowing the basic principles of instructional design can he help to ensure that what is produced serves a necessary purpose, meets the needs of students, is attractive and well organized, is delivered in an appropriate mode, and is continually evaluated and improved. Unlike professional designers, however, the typical teacher is not likely to need formal expertise in the various instructional design processes. However, basic familiarity with major principles and procedures (e.g., how to present text, write and deliver a lecture or prepare a test) can be extremely helpful both for the teachers own work and for evaluating commercial educational products. (p.5)
    2. One of the major steps of instructional design is the implementation which is the solely responsibility of the teacher or instructor. Therefore, the teacher who has knowledge of instructional design ensures that content matches set objectives.
    3. At the initial stages of instructional design, the designer works with the Subject Matter Expert (SME) what learners need to learn. In situations where the SME is an instructional designer, the whole process becomes faster and better implemented.

    • lkidder says:

      Thank you for your comments. Part of my internal conflict was trying to figure out why there was such a disconnect between “teacher” and “instructional designer”. Based on your comments, I see that I personally do not understand how a teacher could not be an instructional designer. Although thinking on my experiences as a student I can recall some examples that would fit the “teacher” but not “instructional designer”.

      The other part of my conflict is the condemnation of “teachers”, especially those who are both teacher/implementer as well as instructional designer. I have seen and even experienced bad teaching. But I believe there are a large number of teachers who are as you point out both SMEs and Instructional Designers. And that I would propose is a key in identifying those good teachers.

  2. Jean Marrapodi says:

    I have noticed for a long time that the worlds of higher ed, K-12, and corporate training roll in their own separate spheres. Rather than being overlapping circles in a Venn Diagram, they tend to segregate themselves. Higher ed drags their feet to adopt new things. K-12 not so much. Lots of younger teachers are entering the field, willing to experiment.

    Emmanuel’s post helps to clarify differences between the worlds. In corporate training, the purists divide the departments into ID, Trainers and Managers. The trainers are the ones who deliver what the ID writes. The managers manage the process.

    The commonality is that we are all attempting to create learning for others. Curiously, many trainers don’t label themselves as educators, which we certainly are. We all should fall under the umbrella of education, but we generally think of K-12 and higher ed as the “them”, different from “us”.

    We could all learn from one another if we connected. Twitter helps enable that. I follow lots of people in #educhat (mainly teachers) and #lrnchat (mainly trainers) and love the cross pollination. Glad to add you to the conversation now.

    Do teachers design learning? Often. But do most write the curriculum from scratch? Not likely. Some roboticly deliver what’s in the teacher’s manual. (eek!) Some work to design the experience. Some designers also teach

    • lkidder says:

      @Jean I think your sum-up of the corporate training division was exceptionally clear. I would add that even within the higher ed setting (which I am in) there are the faculty and then the education faculty that are even further divided and don’t necessarily communicate.

      I realized that I don’t think I could separate my designing of curriculum from my teaching. I also don’t understand how one could imagine being a designer of good curriculum without ever having taught. I see it in the same light as a designer of chairs who has never sat in a chair. I understand why people divide the work, but it is not something I choose to do.

  3. It has been my experience that those IDs who either also teach, or have at least taught in the past, build higher quality courses primarily because they remember that the course is for actual people. I know that is over-generalizing things, but that’s been my experience. They also seem more willing and able to align training development projects with business goals and initiatives so that participants will perform better after training. I don’t understand how an ID could do his/her job well without considering him/herself an educator.

  4. Pingback: Teaching vs. Instructional Design | eLearner | Scoop.it

  5. karen mahon says:

    I agree with Emmanuel. I also think that it’s a matter of training. I don’t know of many Teacher-Prep programs that include true Instructional Design courses. I was explicitly trained as an Instructional Designer. It’s a systematic, iterative approach that should result in a program of instruction that generates certain learner outcomes. Putting together lesson plans and curricular materials isn’t Instructional Design; those lesson plans might produce learner outcomes, but the approach is very different.

  6. Bill K. says:

    I got into instructional design because I was a teacher within my industry, EMS, and got tired of using the “cookie cutter” crap developed by the textbook publishers. I completed a Masters in ID in 2009 and have used that knowledge to design better materials for the classes that I teach. I design from a teacher’s perspective because I am usually the one doing the teaching.

  7. lkidder says:

    As I have thinking about all your comments on this post, I’ve decided to write more about my journey of understanding the teaching vs. instructional design. My first post in this process looks at K-5 teaching through the lens of analyze from the instructional design model – ADDIE. I will continue the process looking through the lens of ADDIE at the various roles of teacher. See The (K-5) Teacher side of Analyze: in Teaching vs. Instructional Design (https://lkidder.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/the-teacher-side-of-analyze-in-teaching-vs-instructional-design/)

  8. You can understand how trainers set themselves apart from educators because trainers rarely have to give marks, or withhold information to allow the students to reach the conclusions themselves. Trainers can often just repeat information over and over until the client “gets” it. Some teachers rarely do instructional design, and some do it without realizing it. There is a difference. I’ve done technical training, and I’m now an instructor and do my own instructional design or creating of curriculum. I’ve just seen it as: Instructional Designers build learning objects, and teachers/trainers teach material. Some teachers can do their own ID or basic ID, but some Instructional Designers never teach, they just build things. In a sense they build things that teach people. I used that as tag line when I was looking for work and wanted to focus on instructional design instead of teaching.

    • lkidder says:

      Thank you Rick for your insight.

      As I read how others see the differences between teaching and instructional design, it is helping me better understand my own paradigm.

  9. priyan says:

    teaching could benefit ID as well as ID could benefit teaching

    good teachers
    a teacher who could understand the learners to deliver subject matter content. i.e. learner centric
    this is the basis for instructional design too.

    main difference, u do not need to be subject matter expert to become an instructional designer for a subject where you have no experience.
    if you are good learner, you could easily become instructional designer for a given subject ):-

    • Lisa says:

      priyan –

      Your distinction of being the subject matter expert is a key difference.

  10. Emine says:

    How did you transition from K-12 to ID? I’m finding it to be a difficult transition. I’ve landed interviews, but no jobs.

    • Lisa says:

      Emine – You asked a great question that I thought deserved an entire post. You can ready about my experience in my post Transitioning from K12 to Instructional Design?

  11. L.C. says:

    I stumbled upon your blog tonight, the night I redo my CV and begin my Masters in ID. Timely! I am coming to the end of teaching after 15 years and can’t wait to make the transition. The hardest part seems to be “rebranding” myself, so to speak. So many years of teaching primary has equipped me with quite a bit, but presenting that to the non-teaching world so that it gets attention and respect is tricky. I’ll be following your blog. Thanks!

    • lckidder says:

      I think you have the right phrase with “rebranding.” Be sure to build up your portfolio as you go through your MA degree, that is definitely a great tool, and necessary in applying for Instructional Design focused positions in many areas, but especially in the corporate setting. At the same time I have come to realize how different job possibilities are available within instructional design.
      Good Luck to you L.C.!
      PS. I do promise to get writing on this more, my dissertation has demanded much of my writing time.

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