Review: The Essentials of Instructional Design
I was recently asked to make textbook recommendations for an Instructional Design course. One member of the team recommended I review The Essentials of Instructional Design: Connecting Fundamental Principles with Process and Practice by Abbie Brown and Timothy Green. I had never heard of this one among the standard instructional design texts of Dick & Carey, Smith & Ragan, Morrison, Ross & Kemp*… but wanted to take a look.
This book is a concise guide to the process of instructional design. The authors mention in the preface that “this is a book for beginners”. It’s not highly detailed, but is a solid overview. The most impressive aspect of this book is the direct link to practice. The authors add several components to each chapter to drive home the need to be able to apply the concepts in a workplace environment.
Connecting Process to Practice – This section presents five or six mini scenarios related to the chapter topic, often placing the student in the position of the Instructional Designer who is faced with a decision or challenge of some kind. These are not clear cut, right/wrong situations, but ones in which a variety of approaches might be selected. What approach would you take and what is your rationale? K-12, higher ed, and business examples are provided throughout. A couple of examples:
You are the instructional designer for a nonprofit organization with a number of volunteer workers. The volunteers are often familiar with the telephone system of the organization, which makes transferring calls difficult for them. What might you do to address the problem?
Describe an instructional design scenario in which you believe a formal needs analysis would not need to be conducted.
Professionals in Practice – These brief entries provide perspective on the chapter topic from working instructional designers. These professionals represent a range of work settings and international locations and present some sort of lesson learned or example from their own experiences. Job titles and organizations are also listed providing a link to career exploration for students.
Each chapter also includes a Recommended Reading section that provides a short list of items to explore for more information. These include books, articles, and websites.
- Students studying for comprehensive/qualifying exams in instructional design programs.
- Undergraduate courses in instructional design.
- Instructional design/curriculum design related courses in non-ID programs.
- ID professionals currently working in the field who haven’t gone through the formal coursework, but want to learn more about the theories, etc.
*For more information about the selection of instructional design textbooks, check out this study published in 2009, Essential Books in the Field of Instructional Design and Technology. The authors surveyed instructional design and technology professionals asking them to rate the importance of various books to the field. The result is a list of 10 books that “should be included in every instructional designer’s or technologist’s personal library.”