Theories, assumptions, and philosophical traditions as benefits to the instructional designer

19 Dec

If instructional designers have a lens with which to view or to reflect on a design process it can help support their practice altogether.   This lens can be the knowledge of foundational theories, assumptions, and philosophical traditions of instructional design.  Christensen (2008) writes it “helps later [to have this knowledge] when it comes to designing the instruction, but also serves as a guide for deciding how to analyze the learning tasks or content and how to assess learning.”

Smith and Ragan (2005) explain these three reasons to reflect upon philosophy and theory as an instructional designer:

  1. Theories are the sources of principles from which many of the prescriptions for design arise, and understanding of the base helps both the learning from the text and ability to engage in application in the field.
  2. Writers in this field need to acknowledge their bases of conclusions and recommendations.
  3. Theories allow designers to explain why they make the decisions they do.

These justifications are all well and good, but instructional designers would be wise to take heed to the advice of Rod Sims (2006) who states you should “assess the relevance of theories and frameworks informing the design and implementation of those environments.”

Examination of the examination is a pertinent component for instructional designers who focus on the lessons and courses, but who want to think about the big picture in doing so.


Christensen, T. K. (2008). The role of theory in instructional design: Some views of an ID practitioner. Performance Improvement , 47 (4), 25-32.

Sims, R. (2006). Beyond instructional design: Making learning design a reality. Journal of Learning Design , 1 (2), 1-7.

Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (2005). Instructional Design, Third Edition. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: