Related Resources

Learning Environment Design Framework
Instructional Design Toolkit

ISD Concept Map
ISD Concept Map



The Fit of ISD - 1984

How does ISD fit into Instructional Design?

The main purpose of any instructional design process is to construct a learning environment in order to provide learners with the conditions that support desired learning processes. - Jeroen Merrienboer (1997)

A good instructional design process draws upon three main models:


Front-End Analysis: The front-end phase of the SAT (System Approach to Training) process in which the job is analyzed, tasks are selected for training, task performance measures are constructed, existing courses are reviewed, and the instructional setting tentatively determined. - U.S. Army (1984)

Performance Analysis: A process that identifies 'sweet spots' and then seeks information that will help to tailor a system targeting those opportunities. - Rossett & Sheldon (2001)

While ISD has an analysis phase, its main purpose is the study done in order to design and develop appropriate instructional programs. That it, its job is NOT to decide if training is the answer to a performance problem, but to determine what type of training should be done once the decision has been made to train.

On the other hand, a needs or front-end analysis is used to determine what type of performance intervention is required to fix a performance problem. And this intervention might or might not include training. A front-end analysis is used to determine if a task should be trained, while a performance analysis takes a broader view — it looks at what is actually happening and compares it to what should be happening (optimal). The difference between the optimal and the actual is the gap. The gap is then analyzed to determine its drivers. Once the drivers of the gap have been determine, then a solution system can be built, which might include training, performance aids, OD, etc.

Instructional System Design Model (ISD)

ISD models have a broad scope and cover a wide gamut of the training process, such as analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation phases (Merrienboer, 1972). In addition ISD models provide guidelines and directions for performing that activities that make up each part of a phase.

Instructional Design Model (ID)

ID models are less broad in scope and generally focus on analysis and design, design, or design and development. While ISD models can be compared to frameworks, ID models have much more in common to blue prints. That is, ID models go into much more detail, albeit that detail has a narrower focus (Reigeluth, 1983).

Putting the parts together

Looking at the above model, one has to determine if the ISD model should be deployed or if a different performance model would work better. If it is employed, there are constant evaluations throughout its life cycle. It addition, ISD has to employ an ID model to actually build a lot of content and context into the instruction.

Next Steps

Return to the History of Instructional System Design

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Instructional Design Toolkit

ISD Concept Map


Merrienboer, Jeroen (1997). Training Complex Cognitive Skills: A Four-Component Instructional Design Model for Technical Training. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications.

Rossett, Allison & Sheldon, Kendra (2001). Beyond the Podium: Delivering Training and Performance to a Digital World. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Reigeluth, C. M. (1983). Instructional Design Theories and Models: An overview of their current status. Hillsdale, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.

U.S. Army Field Artillery School (1984). A System Approach To Training (Course Student textbook). ST - 5K061FD92