Using the ADDIE Model to Design Learning That Sticks

by Sharlyn Lauby | Posted | Learning

Using the ADDIE Model to Design Learning That Sticks

(Editor's Note: This is the third in a five-part series about using the ADDIE model to enhance the learner experience. In the first two installments, we talked about the importance of conducting an assessment and the need for specificity in designing learning objectives. We hope you'll check out these earlier posts when you have a moment. Enjoy today's installment!)

When true learning happens, employee performance improves. The key word here being true learning. So, what in the world is "true learning"?

Think of it like this: simply telling an employee or a group of employees something isn't learning. That's why learning development is so important. Development is the third phase in the ADDIE model. As a reminder, ADDIE is a commonly used instructional design model. The acronym stands for assessment, design, development, implementation and evaluation. During the development phase, all of the planning that's been done during the first two phases (assessment and design) gets brought to life. This is where the learning content is created. 

Three main adult learning styles

A key consideration in developing learning content is how adults learn. Obviously, no one wants to design learning using a style that people don't respond to. There are three primary adult learning styles:

  1. Auditory learning styles focus on sound. Some popular auditory learning formats include podcasts and lectures. The value of auditory learning comes in hearing the emotion of a story.
  2. Visual learning is based on images or pictures. Books and videos are common visual learning formats. People say the value of visual learning is seeing the model or theory. Value is also found in seeing a place or a person in a story.
  3. Kinesthetic learning happens by doing something. A hands-on session is a common kinesthetic learning format. The value of kinesthetic learning is that the participant gets to practice in a safe environment.

It's been said that each of us has a preferred learning style and that we should use our preferred style to our advantage. This totally makes sense to me! What also makes sense is for organizations to encourage learners to practice learning in new and different ways (meaning: learn how to learn in different styles).

Why learning in different ways is helpful

Learners might find certain topics easier to learn in specific formats. For example, it might be easier to learn Bloom's Taxonomy from a book than by doing it. Conversely, it could be easier to learn how to bake bread by measuring flour and kneading dough versus listening to a baking podcast. We're not saying it's impossible, but that certain topics lend themselves to a particular learning format.

The length of the content might also drive the format. The longer the content, the greater the need to have a variety of learning styles to break things up. Even learners with a preferred learning style want some occasional variety. An example would be leading a session with managers about how to conduct a 1:1 meeting with an employee then giving the managers two weeks to conduct the meeting. After their employee meetings, the managers follow up with their coach.

Finally, although it's not often talked about, pure economics might drive the format. Shorter sessions could be developed in a specific format (i.e. microlearning) because the development can be scalable. Examples might be a series of short video vignettes or one-sheet job aids that employees can view or download from an internal resource center.

At the end of the day, it's all about learning

Regardless of the format, the development of learning must achieve the learning objective. We discussed this in the second part of this series on design. And, this is where learning can fall short because telling isn't learning. In fact, telling is far removed from the transfer of knowledge. Learning must involve some sort of practice component to confirm that the learning objective was achieved.

This is why the decisions made about development impact employee performance. There's an expectation after a learning session (such as classroom training) that the participant knows how to do something they didn't know how to do before training started. If a practice component doesn't take place, the organization doesn't know if the participant actually learned anything.

For example: In a manager training program on how to conduct an interview, the trainer/facilitator can explain the steps in the interview process. That doesn't mean the manager knows how to interview. In fact, it doesn't mean the manager will remember the steps in the process. But if the training session is developed with an opportunity for the managers to do a role play where they interview another participant, then they get the chance to use the steps. And if at the end of training, they play a Jeopardy game where they answer questions about employment law, then the facilitator has some sense of their acquired knowledge.

So, the development of learning isn't simply about telling a person or a group some information. It's about conveying that information in a format that allows the person to intake the information and use it right away. The shorter the time between the learner receiving the information and then using it, the better the chances of learning (true learning) taking place.

And like we said...when true learning happens, then employee performance improves. 


What steps will you take to create true learning in your organization?

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