The (K-5) Teacher side of ‘Analyze’: in Teaching vs. Instructional Design

As I am working on my PhD in Instructional Design I am constantly comparing my previous experiences with what I am learning.  One of my struggles has been this whole idea of Teacher vs. Instructional Designer.  There appears to be others in a similar journey or exploration so I have created a “Teaching vs. Instructional Design” category to collect my thoughts in my own journey.  Perhaps this journey will enlighten others in their own explorations.


As noted in the title of my blog, I love teaching.  I have taken a round about path to acknowledging my own love,  prompted (or hindered) in part by many well intentioned influences pointing out that I should be “doing” rather than “teaching”.  I even had a professor in my teacher preparation program begin his class with “There is a saying,  ‘Those that can DO.  Those that can’t TEACH.’  I need to add, ‘Those that can’t teach, teach teachers.'” I still do not understand why he would say this to us aspiring teachers, but I can say I don’t remember much of anything else he tried to teach us.  (And I later bought a t-shirt which declared, “Those that can Do.  Those that can Do MORE, Teach!”)

There are a number of different concepts of a ‘Teacher’ and a number of different pathways into teaching.  In higher education they are called professors.  In the K-12 setting they are teachers.  And in the corporate arena they can be trainers or instructors.  To begin this ‘dialogue’, I am going to focus on teachers in the K-5 setting.

I have run across statements lately like “Instructional designers understand how people learn.” “Instructional designers follow a systematic, iterative process.” “Trainers deliver what the ID writes.”

So, let’s look through the general lens of ID (ADDIE) at a K-5 teacher, beginning with analyze…


This is where the ID 1) determines the need for instruction, 2)conducts an instructional analysis to determine the cognitive, affective and motor skill goals for the course, 3) determines what skills the students are expected to have and how they will impact the learning and 4) analyzes the available time and how much can be accomplished in that time and possibly doing a context or resourcs analysis as well (Gagné, 2004).

1) Determining the Need for Instruction

In a K-5 setting, this is often mandated by the government.  Students are to be taught, period. State standards have been created and decided and handed down.  Some states have included teachers in the process of creating standards.  But this is actually looking a problem and deciding if instruction is the needed solution.  If you have not talked with a 4th grade teacher lately, perhaps you should ask about what they ‘teach’.  Yes, they teach the curriculum as mandated by government, state boards of education and school boards.  But they also teach, problem resolution and communication.

On any given school day, a class of 4th graders will pile into the classroom after recess.  As the teacher looks at faces and listens to the chatter, it is clear – something happened.  Now the teacher must decide if ‘teaching’ needs to be done.  The events that transpired on the playground are often an obstacle that must be surmounted before any work can be done on math problems.  Some teachers will address the issue, make judgments and decisions for resolving the ‘problem’ and move into math.  But the good teachers know that taking 5-10 minutes to teach about communicating and resolving problems will, after a fashion allow the class to transition more quickly from recess to math.  The students will gain the skills to communicate better and resolve their own issues.

Communication and problem resolution are not in any state standards for the 4th grade.  And yet, a good 4th grade teacher will teach these things in a very conscious way.  Analyzing the problem and then determining if instruction is the best solution to the problem.

2) Conducting an Instructional Analysis to Determine the Cognitive, Affective and Motor Skill Goals for the Course

Within the K-5 setting, teachers are certified to teach all the grade levels.  It is possible for a teacher to be switched from teaching 5th grade one year to 1st grade the next.  Teaching 1st grade is very different that 5th grade.  Each grade level will have specific standards mandated by the state.  While a K-5 teacher does not make the decisions at the standards level, the teacher does make the decisions at the unit level and below.  The granularity of the analysis is up to the teacher.

3) Determining What Skills the Students are Expected to Have and How They Will Impact the Learning

When I worked as a site technology coordinator at a K-8 school, I was impressed with the coordination demanded of a K-5 teacher.  Not only did the grade-level teachers meet often to make sure that they were equally preparing students for the next grade-level, but they also met with the grade-level teachers above and below.  Not only are these teachers “determining the expected skills of their students” but they are working with others to help prepare student who have the necessary skills to progress.

4) Analyzing the Available Time and How Much Can be Accomplished in That Time and Context and Resource Analyses

Any teacher will tell you that there is not enough time in the academic year to cover all the expected standards, and especially not before the administration of the standardized tests.  So, a K-5 teacher does analyze the time constraints and plan instruction based on the standards, the expected skills for the next grade level and available resources.


Looking at the four components of the Analyze step of the ADDIE instructional design process as described by Gagné (2004).  A K-5 teacher does participate in a large portion of the analyze steps.  Due to the state standards and other mandates, a K-5 teacher does not participate in some of the goal setting and determining the need for the instruction.  However, the process should include at least a representative from each grade level as those standards are being reviewed, discussed and modified.

Remember, I was only looking at the first step in ADDIE and only looking at K-5 teachers. I will continue this thinking going through the various levels of teaching and looking at each of the ADDIE steps.

Gagne, R., Briggs, L., Wager, W., & Keller, J. (2004) Principles of Instructional Design (Fifth Edition). Belmont CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.


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