ID Models: A Recipe for Effective Instruction

Peanut butter and jelly…Apples and cinnamon…Wine and cheese…Chocolate and peanut butter…Coffee and cream…Cookies and milk…in the words of Homer Simpson, “Mmmmm….”

Food pairing, i.e. the idea that two straightforward foods/ingredients can be combined to create a flavor that is entirely new and wonderful, has long been a fundamental idea of cooking.   Recently, however, scientists have set out to determine the reason behind this principle, and in turn propose and explore the food pairing hypothesis; the idea that foods that go best together contain similar molecular components.  What researchers found was that while the food pairing hypothesis did hold true for Western (North American and Western European) cooking, the hypothesis broke down when applied to East Asian and Southern European cuisine (Arbesman, 2012).  A recipe in any style of cooking may therefore have a basis in the food pairing hypothesis, but does not depend on it to create a flavorful and effective dish.

Learning theory is a lot like the food pairing hypothesis; it is an idea about how people learn, just as the food pairing hypothesis is an idea about why certain foods taste good together.  Instructional Design (ID) models, similarly, are like recipes, which give directions for cooking that may or may not adhere to food pairing rules; ID models may have a basis in learning theory, but their goal is to provide a roadmap for effective instructional intervention irrespective of theoretical rigidity.  While instructional designers look to learning theories for guidance, a primary goal of the field is to bridge the gap between theoretical research and actual classroom practice (Ertmer & Newby, 1993).  Ultimately, what matters for instructional designers (and presumably their clients) are the results of the instructional intervention; because of training, were stated learning objectives achieved by the trainees/students?

Several ID models exist to provide recipes/roadmaps to help designers create and deliver instructional interventions that guide learners toward objective mastery.  One such model with which I was not previously familiar is the Gerlach and Ely Design Model.  The Gerlach and Ely instructional model is a prescriptive model for ID that supports rich media instruction (Dawn, 2012).  It consists of synchronous determination of content and objectives, learner analysis through measurement of entering abilities/behaviors, determination of interdependent instructional elements (strategy, grouping, time/space allocation, and resources), evaluation, and feedback (Dawn, 2012).  The Gerlach and Ely model can be displayed graphically as such:


Photo credit: A.W. Strickland, Ph.D., Idaho State University

The Gerlach and Ely Design Model shares many similar components with the ADDIE ID model which has been discussed previously on this blog.  Where it differs primarily is the order in which prescribed design phases are completed. For example, while ADDIE begins with learner analysis, Gerlach and Ely save learner analysis until after objective (design) and content (development) specification.  Additionally, implementation in the Gerlach and Ely model includes tasks that are would be included in earlier stages of the ADDIE model.  For example, allocation of time and space would likely occur in the analysis and/or design phase of ADDIE, while selection of resources relates directly to the development phase of the ADDIE model.   The overlapping and re-ordering of ADDIE phases, however, may be considered a strength of the Gerlach and Ely model; the strict linear approach of ADDIE is criticized as one of it’s many weaknesses .  This, combined with the previously stated analysis of the Gerlach and Ely model as being highly supportive of rich media instruction, make it an ID model that I would do well to explore further as an aspiring instructional designer.


Arbesman, S. (2012, January 19).  Are there fundamental laws of cooking? Wired. Retrieved from

Dawn, H. (2012). Gerlach and ely instructional design model. Retrieved from

Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71.

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