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Designing Instruction


Instructional design models provide a systematic framework for developing and organizing instructional scenarios and materials. These models provide a means to align your learning outcomes with assessment and teaching strategies to optimize student learning.


There are many instructional design frameworks including the ADDIE (analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate) model, integrated course design, and Gagné’s nine events of instruction. Although it is not necessary to strictly follow any particular model, the principles behind these frameworks can help you structure and align your instruction as well as identify potential gaps.


Below is an integrated model for organizing individual lessons (which may consist of lectures, tutorials, labs, or a mix of these components) that includes prompts to consider before, during, and after learning takes place.

  • Prior to learning (based on the A in ADDIE: Analyze)

    Consider these questions:

    • Who are your learners? 
    • What do you need to accomplish in this lesson? 
    • How are you connecting to learning outcomes and assessment? 
    • What opportunities can you provide for feedback?  
    • How are you scaffolding elements in support of broader course objectives? 
    • What challenges or constraints might you face?  
  • During learning (adapted from Gagné’s nine events of instruction)

    Gather learner attention

    Ensure learners are ready to learn and participate in activities by presenting a stimulus to capture their attention.

    Sample activities:  

    • Pose a thought-provoking question
    • Have students pose questions to be answered by other students
    • Lead an ice breaker activity
    • Share a short video 

    Outline the learning outcomes for the lesson

    Share the purpose of the lesson so students understand what they are expected to learn and do. 

    Sample activities:

    • Share an overview of the lesson
    • Include a slide with specific outcomes (e.g., “at the end of this lesson, you will …”)

    Recall prior knowledge 

    Assist students in making connections to new material by connecting to something they already know or have already experienced. 

    Sample activities:

    • Use a poll to check for understanding of previous content
    • Use a Think-Pair-Share activity to have students discuss previous content
    • Include a slide that recaps content from the previous lesson

    Present Content 

    This is the step we usually focus on when preparing lessons.

    Deliver the content using appropriate strategies. Organize and group content in meaningful ways, potentially using different strategies in one lesson including lecture, video, and demonstration. Consider the elements of universal design for learning.

    Sample activities:

    • Present content in various ways (e.g., video, text description, graphic, image) 
    • Use a variety of media to engage students in learning (e.g., podcast, video, images)
    • Incorporate active learning strategies
    • Provide access to content on Canvas so students can access it outside of class

    Provide opportunities for learners to practice or apply their learning for feedback

    Have students apply what they have learned to reinforce new skills and knowledge and to confirm understanding of course concepts.

    Sample activities: 

    • Active learning strategies (link to)
    • Provide formative assessment opportunities including discussion posts, quizzes, or peer review  


    This step helps learners to bring together what they have learned. It also provides an opportunity for the instructor to check for understanding.

    Sample activities: 

    • Lesson summary 
    • Exit ticket (e.g., 3 things you learned today, 2 things you want to learn more about, 1 remaining question; what was the purpose of today’s lesson?) 
  • After learning (based on the E in ADDIE: Evaluate)

    Reflection on lesson 

    After you’ve shared your lesson, reflect on the following:

    • Did you achieve your outcomes?
    • What went well? 
    • How did students respond to your activities? 
    • What will you do differently next time? 

    In addition to your own reflections, consider surveying students about the instructional experiences you design. For example, a few weeks into your course, consider sending an anonymous survey or poll to students including questions such as: 

    • How do you find the workload of this course? 
    • What activities have you enjoyed most? 
    • If you could request one change to this course, what would it be?

    Adapted from Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2020). Gagné’s nine events of instruction. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

    Other considerations: Provide learning guidance 

    Advise students of strategies to aid them in learning content and of resources available. In other words, help students learn how to learn.

    Sample activities: 

    • Model varied learning strategies – e.g. mnemonics, concept mapping, role playing, visualizing
    • Use examples and non-examples – examples help students see what to do, while non-examples help students see what not to do
    • Provide case studies, visual images, analogies, and metaphors.



Instructional System Design (ISD): Using the ADDIE Model - by Penn State University 

A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning - by L. Dee Fink 


 Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2020). Gagné’s nine events of instruction. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from