My Professional Design Statement (a work in process)


My professional design statement includes an instructional design philosophy, a description of the process I would undergo to address a potential client’s instructional design requirements, and a reflection on the process I used within this semester. The design statement highlights my constructionist bent as an instructional designer as well as my adherence to SAM as an instructional design model.


Instructional Design Philosophy

Within our Instructional Design (ID) class readings, we have explored several ID models, including ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation), SAM (Successive Approximation Model), Pebble in the Pond, Ten Steps to Complex Learning, etc. Throughout the semester, I agreed with Allen (2012, pgs. 13-19) regularly, including their assessment of ADDIE as a model that: 1. in its origins was too rigid and required too much time to complete each step and 2. in its modern usage is too amorphous. I tend to prize any process that stands the test of Occam’s Razor, and while Pebble in a Pond is relatively simple, SAM, with its emphasis on iteration and quick prototyping, was the far better and clearer process of the two. I also saw many parallels between SAM and the scientific method, mainly that both models comprise (relatively) simple methods to address complex problems, and as I am intimately aware of the scientific method, SAM felt more like the immediate match to previous knowledge base.

I consider myself to be a “jazz” instructor and in this idea, I mean that I am spontaneous and unscripted but highly knowledgeable. The concept of a “jazz” instructor is in contrast to an “orchestral” instructor, who may also be highly knowledgeable but needs notes (i.e. “their music”) either in PowerPoint or on paper to deliver coherent content.  It makes sense, then, that SAM, a model that allows for more spontaneity than most and requires a constant flow of creative input, would be the instructional design method that best fits my instructional design philosophy.

I saw a fair amount of fluidity within the learning theories that we learned within the class – behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, and constructionism – but I definitely leaned towards constructionism, due to its pragmatic approach to learning as opposed to theoretical philosophy, as is seen in constructivism (Harel & Papert, 1991). While I had learned about behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism several times before in varied classes and environments, this class was really my first introduction to constructionism, and with its scaffolded approach to learning, I thought constructionism really echoed my natural inclination as an instructor.


Instructional Design Process

As major component of our Instructional Design class, we were required to design a product (i.e. instructional materials) for a real-world client. Our design process included the following deliverables: a problem definition, a task analysis, a context and learner analysis, a plan to assess needs as well as those assessment results, ideation and wrong theory results, a low fidelity prototype with feedback, and a final instructional design. We skipped the formal evaluation plan portion of the design process as it would have taken more time to do well than the time allotted.

The problem definition and the task analysis assignments were straightforward and relatively simple in their goals, and were therefore easier to accomplish than some of the later tasks. The problem definition assignment was appropriately named for the task that needed completion – we needed to define an instructional problem thoroughly, having analyzed it as thoroughly as possible before moving to the next step. In terms of defining instructional problems, I found this graphic (Kemp et. al., 2013, pg. 43) to be easily accessible and rather useful.


According to Kemp et. al. (2013, pg. 74), the task analysis solves three important problems within the design process:

”1. It defines the content required to solve the performance problem or alleviate a performance need.

  1. Because the process forces the subject-matter expert to work through each individual step, subtle steps are more easily identified.
  2. During this process, the designer has the opportunity to view the content from the learner’s perspective. Using this perspective, the designer can often gain insight into appropriate teaching strategies.”

The context and learner analysis was less straightforward, as it required developing the following: 1. an instructional context, which included an analysis of learner factors, immediate environment factors, and organizational factors for the instructional design; 2. relevant learner characteristics, which included several specific characteristics like motivation and developmental stages; 3. a list of our current knowledge gaps, detailing what further information we needed; and 4. the design implications that must be considered regarding the previous material. The process of planning and implementing the needs assessment was extremely informative, if not a bit stressful in terms of time to completion due to scheduling issues.

The ideation assignment, including using wrong theory protocol, were welcome highlights within the semester. This assignment finally allowed us to use the process of brainstorming solutions to our instructional problem(s), with the clear intent to develop our instructional design. We videotaped our ideation process at a local Starbucks and used a whiteboard to complete it, which embraced a creative flow rather than stifling it. Below you can see examples of our bad design (developed via wrong theory; on the left) and good design (on the right).

Our low fidelity prototype was videotaped as well (and is located here: The prototype is where we put our ideation plan into action, even detailing the process with stick figures at one point (see below).

Stick figures

We again used the white board at our local Starbucks to empower our creative flow, and this setting and process seemed to work very well for us.

Our last assignment, which is refining the prototype into a usable instructional design product, is due in early May, and we are in the beginning stages of fleshing out that assignment, with the added recognition that the entire semester has been building toward this design. Every step of the design process helped us not only refine the problem but also our instructional design solution.



Defining the problem took more time than I initially thought as a goal of our instructional design was to live in the space of the problem for some time. And while I have called this idea of living within the space between many things throughout my life, my favorite name for this concept is liminal space, from the Latin “limens” which roughly translates to “threshold” ( I have always found liminal space to be difficult to live within and tend toward solution space perhaps faster than I should.

The white board and markers as well as the Go Pro recording device were essential components of our creative space. The ideas behind Wrong Theory helped fuel our creative flow when we began to get stuck. While most of the analyses upfront seemed a bit tedious and mostly perfunctory, the needs assessment seemed absolutely essential to every project. In fact, the needs assessment seemed so critical that I plan to use one for every project I am a part of going forward.

While there is never enough time in any course, I found the needs assessment stage and the learning theory stage to be particularly crunched in terms of time. It turns out what felt like a massive workload during the semester was, as I suspected, a clever pedagogical device used to distribute what would have been an overwhelming workload for the final product and project.

The highlights of this process and course included the weekly check-ins, where we gave feedback to each other throughout the process, and the wrong theory protocol. I have no idea how thinking of the worst design possible actually lent itself to good design, but it did. And it was awesome.

Throughout the course, we learned quite a lot during the design process, which was inevitably due to Vanessa’s constructionist design of the class. Project based design is wonderful and time-intensive, and I wish that I had known in advance of taking the class (particularly when I registered for the class) what kind of time was required for it as not knowing led me to plan this semester particularly poorly in terms of my time allotment for work, school, and family.



  1. Allen, M. (2012). Leaving ADDIE for SAM: An agile model for developing the best learning experiences. American Society for Training and Development.
  2. Harel, I., & Papert, S. (1991). Constructionism: research reports and essays, 1985-1990. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
  3. Kemp, J. E., Morrison, G. R., & Ross, S. M. (2013). Designing Effective Instruction (7th). Wiley Higher Ed.



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