Instructional Design and ADDIE: An Overview

The ADDIE model is one of the first things that comes up when you search the words “instructional design models.” But what is it and where did it come from? 

What is ADDIE?

First of all, ADDIE stands for Analyze, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. Each word refers to a phase of instructional design (the process of creating instructional materials to change behaviors, improve performance, and increase knowledge).

Second, it was invented in 1975 by the Center for Educational Technology at Florida State University as a better way to train soldiers in the Army. It proved so effective that the US Military implemented the model across all other branches soon after. Today, it is still the most popular method for instructional design, and most of the other models in the field today are based on ADDIE.

What does ADDIE look like?

There are two main ways to visually represent the ADDIE model: the waterfall and the circle. The waterfall, which is the older of the two, shows how each stage flows into the next, moving the project along and adding more aspects and information until the process results in a finished product. Then, after the project is over, the team evaluates how it went, what could go better, how effective the training was, and what should change, so that each project goes more smoothly than the one that came before it.

Sometimes a project has to move back to another phase because of something discovered during Evaluation. This is why some people have stepped away from the waterfall model and instead display the process in a circular format. This model accounts for both the formative and summative aspects of the evaluation stage. Each stage is defined in the next section.


The first phase of ADDIE consists of an Analysis of the project. The instructional designer needs to know the project scope, the audience, and what subject matter experts will contribute information, if any. The designer also needs to know more about who the audience is, what the audience already knows versus what they need to know, and the desired outcome of the course.

Different projects need different kinds of materials, so this stage determines the best method for sharing the information. Is it going to be instructor led? Is it going to be an e-learning course? Maybe you need an instructional video or just a job aid. Questions like this help you determine what kind of technology and resources the project needs for completion. This phase also consists of setting a project timeline and creating a storyboard.

The clearer you are in this phase, the easier and faster it will be for the instructional designer to create your training. Try to include as much information as possible in your startup documents. If you think of something you like to add later in the process, that’s okay; but, remember, it will slow things down, especially if you add it while your project is in the development phase. As the circular visual demonstrates, your project may bounce back to another phase.


The Design stage relies heavily on the learning objectives established in the Analysis phase. During the Design phase, your instructional designer picks things like font and color scheme and selects the media that will be used in your course. This could be images, characters, or clip art. The designer puts together a template that will hold the content. After that, it’s time to figure out the assessments and to design interactions and engagements to help your learners understand the material. Then your instructional designer completes any remaining graphic design work.


The Development phase puts together all the pieces from the Analysis phase and the Design phase. The designer makes everything work: animations, variable triggers, and even computer coding. If you requested audio and video, they get added as well. The instructional designer makes sure everything connects and moves the way that it should. Then, when the designer is sure it works, they send it to you for comments. If you are satisfied, then it can move on to Implementation. If not, you put it back into Development, or send it to the Design phase. Every once in a while, you need to take a step back and Analyze the project some more, and that’s okay too.


After you’ve decided that you are satisfied with the course, you send it to the implementation phase. Here, the course is uploaded to a learning management system, or the instructor presents the course. In other words, this is when the course is shared with your learners. This can happen in a variety of ways depending on the technology you use, including PowerPoint, e-learning software, email, video, etc.


Two kinds of Evaluation are a part of the ADDIE process: formative and summative. Formative evaluation is conducted in each phase. You think about how the instructional materials that the designer is putting together match up with what you need. 

Formative evaluation

You can get some great results by considering a few of the following questions during a formative evaluation:

  1. Does anything need to be changed?
  2. Are the colors off?
  3. Is the information correct?
  4. Do you want different kinds of questions?
  5. Should the interactions be changed?
Summative evaluation

A summative evaluation is the phase that you see at the bottom of the waterfall graphic. After the course has been implemented, you examine its successes and failures. During a summative evaluation, try asking yourself:

  1. Did performance improve?
  2. How close are we to our desired performance improvement?
  3. What helped get the point across the most?
  4. What was harmful to understanding?
  5. What should we do differently next time?

These two types of evaluation can help you develop better courses. Don’t forget that it can take an instructional designer some time to get used to a new client’s preferences. The evaluation phase is especially helpful in generating a common mindset.


When it comes to guiding the creation of instructional material, the ADDIE model is beneficial. Both the waterfall and circular representations are accurate, although today, the circular version is used to show how phases are fluid and can move between one another as needs change. ADDIE helps generate communication between client and designer, and best of all it is a flexible approach that can be used on various projects.

Our instructional designers are well-versed in the ADDIE approach to creating trainings. Ask us how they can collaborate with you on your next training endeavor!


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