When do you stop designing?

For a given project, how do you determine if, when, and how much an instructional designer and instructional design are needed? This is the Big Question on the Learning Circuits Blog this month.

You might as well ask how much design is needed to manufacture an automobile. The answer is "the optimal amountt," and that’s determined by judgment based on relevant experience, and it comes up different for a Fiat than for a Ferrari. There’s no formula because oversimplifying an unruly world inevitably leads you to the wrong place.

Some instructional designers believe that learning is learning. I disagree. Why should we assume that the same instructional design approach is valid for cognitive learning, emotional learning, physical learning, disciplined listening, and wine tasting? Minds on Fire by John Seely Brown and Richard Adler in the current Educause Review advocates replacing learning to know with learning to be. Learning is contextual, as is the answer to this month’s big question.

Does anyone believe there’s a single approach for these wildly different forms of learning?

learning to talk
learning to crawl
learning your ABCs
learning to fear the number 13
learning to meditate
learning to speak French
learning the way to the store
learning who to trust
learning with my pal Sally
learning how to sell
learning Ruby on Rails
learning where the answers are
learning to negotiate
learning to play piano
learning to rollerblade
learning to taste wine critically
learning to cook bread
learning to lead effectively

We’ve considered this issue before.

I’m confident some people are going to forcefit ADDIE or HPT to any situation that pops up. That works only if you water ADDIE and HPT down beyond recoginiton. Instructional design does not own the patent on this basic approach humans use to solve problems:

  1. figure out what you want to do
  2. explore the environment
  3. prototype a potential solution
  4. try it
  5. back to step 1 if it doesn’t work

The answer this month’s Big Question is: common sense and intuition.