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Professional development of instructional designers: a proposed framework based on a Singapore study.

This article presents a professional development action plan or framework for instructional designers (IDs) working as external consultants for corporate companies. It also describes justifications why such an action plan is necessary for these professionals. The framework aims to help practising instructional designers to continuously and proactively learn about new trends, approaches, technologies and theories in the field of instructional design. Instructional designers must be well-equipped with current knowledge, skills and attitudes to ensure that their instructional materials help employees to improve their performance and stay employable as long as possible within a given shorter period of time and limited resources.


Instructional designers of online courses, at times, find it difficult to avoid the paradigm of traditional classroom teaching and learning (Laurillard, 2002). As a result, "we have allowed the technology to lead, unfettered by academic requirements or priorities" (Laurillard, 1994).

Different learners learn at different rates and have different learning needs (Reigeluth, 1999). Yet the current paradigm in education and training is based on standardisation, which entails teaching a large group of learners the same content in the same amount of time (Reigeluth, 1999). Cambell and Monson (1994) support Reigeluth's view: "We challenge this key assumption of traditional instruction that asserts walking all learners through the same way can be effective. This may be a model for efficiency but not effectiveness." (p. 9). Regieluth (1999) described the traditional paradigm of training and education as a mean to separate "labourers from managers" (p. 18).

One driving force for change within the instructional design field that Rothwell and Kazanas (1998) have described is the increased awareness of how people learn and what instructional designers should do to encourage learning for their target audience. According to them, cognitivitism and constructivism have important implications for the instructional design field because they focus more attention on what learners know or do to make meaning of what they learn. (Rothwell & Kazanas, 1998)

Why the Emphasis on "How People Learn"?

Employees today need to possess relevant skills set to solve problems that are not previously encountered and provide perspectives that would put their organisations ahead of competitions against an ever-changing global scene (adapted from Reigeluth, 1999). To do so, one needs to adopt life-long learning attitudes.

In Singapore, people are strongly urged to be life-long learners to enhance their employability (SWDA, 2003a) by having up-to-date skills that are applicable directly to their work context. The promotion of life-long learning is in fact, a survival strategy to its people. It is being portrayed as an economic necessity rather than social democratic good (Coffield, 1999b). This is because employment is no longer a secured entity. Unless people have abilities to create an impact on their organisations' strategic objectives (Hequet, 1995), they will lose their jobs.

The profile of a life-longer learner is defined as followed (SWDA, 2003b):

* Possess inspiring learning attitude and commendable accomplishments.

* Started learning journeys that opened up new possibilities and successes in their lives.

* Possess perseverance and determination in the pursuit of continuous learning.

Only with improved employee performance can organisations achieve increased efficiency and effectiveness (Rothwell & Kazanas, 1998) and people can remain employable even during difficult and changing times. Reigeluth (1999) says: "To meet this need in industry and the need to be life-long learners, we must focus on learning instead of sorting [labourers from managers]" (p. 18). The traditional paradigms of learning and teaching will not be able to meet the demands of our workforce today.

The Problem Statement

The aim of this study is to attempt to develop a professional development framework for instructional designers working as external consultants for corporate clients in Singapore. This study will investigate how instructional designers should develop themselves professionally so that their designs are able to maximise human performance for their clients, avoid the traditional paradigms of teaching and learning and adopt life-long learning habits for themselves.

Applications of Instructional Design and Learning Theories

According to the International Board of Standards for Training and Performance Instruction (IBSTPI, 2000), one of the 23 instructional design competencies states that (Instructional Design Competencies: The Standards, 2000): Apply current research and theory to the practice of instructional design.

This clearly shows the importance of instructional designers being informed and well versed in current instructional design and learning theories to guide them in their designs. Learning theories are often confused with instructional design theories. (Reigeluth, 1999) At this point, one may ask how different instructional design and learning theories are and what kind of the relationship between them exists.

Reigeluth (1999) defines an instructional design theory to be, "a theory that offers explicit guidance on how to better help people learn and develop." (p. 5) The theory is design-oriented (focus on the ways to attain given learning goals). On the other hand, learning theories as well as human development theories are description-oriented (focus on results of a given event) which merely describe how learning occurs. (Reigeluth, 1999) Another characteristic of instructional design theory is it (Reigeluth, 1999) "identifies methods of instruction and the situations in which those methods should and should not be used." (p. 6). Such a characteristic makes instructional design theories prescriptive and instructional designers can apply them directly to educational or training problems.

Despite such a sharp contrast, instructional design theories and theories of learning are actually built upon each other (see Figure 1). Reigeluth (1999) said it well: "Instructional design theories and theories of learning and human development are like a house and its foundation, they are closely related" (p. 13).

It seems that any good instructional designers should be well versed in at least the immediate theories of learning and human development that underlie the instructional design theories that they are adopting for their design work. This is important as it will enable instructional designers to know what theories might or might not work in certain situations and improve on their learning designs.


A Look at Recent Instructional Design Theories

As a formal discipline, instructional [systems] design has a long history that dates back to the times of philosophers such as Aristotle, Socrates and Plato who discussed the cognitive basis of learning and memory. For the past two decades, there has been much movement in the educational psychology domain and the call for flexibility in learning was even greater than before. Many new instructional design theories have emerged since Volume I of Instructional-Design Theories and Models was published in the early 1980s. In late 1990s, Volume II (Reigeluth, 1999) was published to capture "advances in knowledge about human brain and learning theory, a change in educational beliefs and advances in ICTs" (p. ix). Several interesting works include Multiple Approaches to Understanding (Gardner, 1999), Designing Constructivist Learning Environment (Jonassen, 1999), Learning by Doing (Schank, 1999) and Collaborative Problem Solving (Nelson, 1999). These works from volume II have focused on a significantly higher variety of instructional design theories and models than its predecessor. In fact, Volume II has also included theories on psychomotor and affective developments. This is the result of recognising the fact that human needs more complex and varied skills to deal with work and life problems.

So much development has been made within a span of two decades and yet more changes and much work remain for the development of instructional design theories. This is because the needs of our education systems are changing. Instructional designers cannot afford to remain stagnant in their thinking but seeks ways to learn and relearn on regular basis, like a life-long learner.

Technology Cannot Do It Alone

The adoption of Internet technologies in education and training has become an excellent catalyst in reshaping the traditional teaching and learning paradigms towards learner-centred ones. This notion of having the learner "front and centre" is now more widely accepted due to the arrival of Internet technologies in the recent years and the fast-changing business needs of employers today.

While Internet technologies have enabled "learner-centred" learning, allowing learners "to explore at will" (Laurillard, 1994) with information and instruction, what learners need is not access to more information that they do not understand or the kind of information that is likely to be forgotten in the next couple of minutes. Lee and Zemke (1995) feel that "people need to learn more, yet they have less time available in which to learn it" (p. 30). For working adult learners who have limited learning time, additional superficial information only adds on to their cognitive load, leading to unnecessary stress.

Working adult learners' learning needs is tightly connected to their work requirements. As such, rapid access to updated and relevant information and instruction is very critical to their work no matter when and where they need it. Therefore, to retain knowledge and information on a long-term basis, learners need to draw meaning from guidance such as job aids, have practices such as role-playing and supervision from experts within the context and environment from which they are familiar with. In cases where learning gets difficult, good instructional design strategies should include elements that provide meaningful and relevant aids, guidance, examples, and case studies for learners when they need them. In essence, technology is simply an enabler of learning.

Instructional Designers Have Social Responsibilities

Since the arrival of the Information Age, business organisations are getting "flatter," instead of getting instructions from "above," the growing corporate trend is to grant considerable autonomy to staff members to manage themselves as teams within the purview of the corporate vision (Drucker, 1989; Hammer & Champy, 1993). These changes have significant effects on the education systems across the world and the way people learn for life in order to stay employable.

With that perspective, instructional designers have social responsibilities to ensure that their learning designs are able to "improve employee performance and thus enhance organisational productivity, increase competitiveness and eliminate problems faced by workers ..." (Rothwell & Kazanas, 1998, p. 14). This point is particularly relevant in the Singapore context as life-long learning is strongly encouraged. The Singapore workforce needs to constantly learn new skills and adapt to new work conditions in shorter times so that it can keep up or stay ahead of global trends.

Professional Development of Instructional Designers--Past, Present and Future

Rothwell and Kazanas (1998) define professional development as "an individual's gradual and continuing mastery of a field's body of knowledge, methods, and procedures" (p. 371).

According to the International Board of Standards for Training and Performance Instruction (BSTPI), instructional designers should, "... update and improve one's attitudes, skills and knowledge, pertaining to instructional design and related fields" (The Standards, 2000). In reality, there are some instructional designers who think otherwise about professional development while others face barriers when tried to develop themselves professionally.

Lack Motivation and Drive

Rothwell and Kazanas (1998) have seen seasoned instructional designers "who feel so smug about their experiences or educational credentials that they see no reason to pursue further development" (p. 373) unless there is an immediate gain to be attained. One wonders how instructional designers who do not possess motivation to learn, can incorporate motivation in their e-learning course designs. Chances are, motivation is left in the hands of the learners as their own responsibility.

Rothwell and Kazanas (1998) think that instructional designers should continuously "strive to build professional knowledge, maintain awareness of new developments and approaches and preserves adherence to ethical standards." (p. 371). On the contrary, according to Rothwell and Kazanas, many instructional designers that they have met or worked with often cite lack of time as the reason for not taking a proactive stance in their professional development.

Research Framework

In order to understand the current professional situation of instructional designers in the corporate e-learning industry, a survey and one-on-one interviews were conducted to:

* Find out the educational background and work experiences of instructional designers who are involved in corporate e-learning projects in Singapore.

* Understand what has been informing them in their professional work.

* Seek respondents' opinions on professional development for instructional designers.

The Sample

Members of the survey sample and the interviewees are corporate instructional designers who were either working in a local e-learning consultancy firm or working in similar professional environment.

The Survey

A survey was chosen as the first instrument to gather data because it was relatively easy to carry out and it is the least time-consuming to obtain data. Data from this round of data collection would also help to shape questions for the second round of data collection which was qualitative. The survey sought to find out about the following from the sample:

* Professional background and experiences.

* Work experiences as a practising instructional designer in the Singapore e-learning industry.

The One-on-One Interview

A structured one-on-one interview was used for this second round of data gathering, as it provided flexibility and the opportunity to work around these instructional designers' heavy work commitments and project deadlines. It was not easy to get more than one instructional designer to meet at the same time for a non-project work task.

A pre-interview document that contained the objectives of the qualitative data-gathering exercise and a corresponding list of questions was used to guide the interview process. It was sent to each potential interviewee before the interviews took place. In this way, constructive and comparative data could be obtained. Interview script was not used to preserve spontaneity from the participants.


1. What were their educational background and experiences?

The survey results revealed that four out of the eight respondents had formal education in instructional design. Two respondents who did not have formal education in instructional design had teaching qualifications and experiences in schools and universities instead. One respondent was an ex-trainer in the corporate sector while last respondent was a relief lecturer in an Australian university. All of the respondents were either former schoolteachers or corporate trainers prior to becoming a professional instructional designer. Three out of the eight respondents had been working as instructional designers for more than five years.

Five of the survey respondents worked in the same e-learning company, which developed e-learning content for corporate clients while the rest of the respondents worked for various companies that developed e-learning content for schools, institutions and corporate sector.

2. What has been informing these instructional designers?

When asked to list advice, theories or principles of any one or any group that they usually consider when designing e-learning content, respondents had the following list in the order of most frequently considered by respondents (see Table 1). The survey results revealed that two of the respondents were unable to quote any particular advice, theories or principles. This poses an alarming concern. If they were not informed of any instructional design or learning theories, what did they use as the basis of their design work?

The chances are these uninformed instructional designers would design courses the way they would learn as students in school, which is based on a transmission model and learning straight out of textbooks. If so, this is not a good sign either for the profession of instructional design or the quality of product for the company.

From the survey findings (Table 2), it is interesting to note that four of the theories quoted by the survey respondents are theories developed prior the 1990s. One instructional designer even considered these instructional design theories as "evergreen" and always work for the learners. The findings in Table 1 reaffirm the view of Rothwell and Kazanas, (1998) that, "Authorities on instructional design usually do not agree on just one philosophy of learning and instruction" (p. 243).

The findings are also indicative that there are gaps in these instructional designers' professional knowledge since the times they last trained as instructional designers or teachers.

When respondents were asked if they had taken courses recently to assist their work, seven of the eight respondents indicated no, two of the seven respondents replied despite not taken any professional courses, they had been actively reading on books, articles from the Internet; and magazines to keep their professional knowledge current.

Only one of the respondents had recently completed a certificate level course on instructional design for e-learning. It seems that many of the instructional designers might have stopped learning and not informed of the latest development in the instructional design field. These not-so-recently informed instructional designers might present themselves as a major concern if their professional works were not of quality and educationally driven designs. This has strong implications on today learners' perspectives and learning needs, which in turn influence their employability in the job market.

3. What are interviewees' thoughts on their professional development?

Of the four interviewees, only one had recently completed a postgraduate degree in instructional design and technology in Singapore. All were former teachers of various levels and had stepped into the field of instructional design with personal interest and as a natural progression from their former jobs.

Companies Should Play a Supportive and Facilitative Role

All interviewees had unanimously agreed that professional development was important for their careers. Three interviewees, 1, 3 and 4 thought that the company should also at least play a supportive and facilitative role in their professional development endeavours. They suggested that support could come in the form of:

* Flexible work schedule for any professional development activities.

* Time-off project work to participate in forums with other instructional designer to discuss professional issues and concerns, and

* Continuous efforts to build up knowledge base to enrich instructional designers' professional careers (e.g., collection of latest literature).

Interviewee 2 thought that both the individual instructional designer and the company had equal share of responsibility for professional development.

The interviewees' views are similar to Rothwell and Kazanas (1998). "It is not entirely the company's or the boss' responsibility to address professional development needs. The lion's share of that responsibility always belongs to the individual [instructional designer]" (p. 373).

Professional Development Effort by the Company

When asked the current state of professional development in the company for which they were working for, three interviewees had indicated that the professional development framework was basically non-existent for instructional designers. Interviewee 1 thought that the company was not interested in professionally developing instructional design expertise. Interviewee 2 stated that there was a lack of focus and consistency in professional development effort at company level and Interviewee 1 shared her views.

Interviewee 3, on the other hand, said that one of the reasons she had left her previous company, was its lack of professional development support. She thought that ideally a professional development framework should be properly planned for and collaborative in nature. Interviewee 3 thought that her employer had some sort of professional development framework in place but it was "rudimentary" in nature. It lacked visions and there was no plan to grow current instructional designers to a higher professional level. Given the existing economic situation that her company was facing, Interviewee 3 was however satisfied that her employer had allowed a fortnightly instructional designers' forum for professional discussions. Interviewee 2 had also mentioned that when she first joined this company three years ago, she did not expect her employer to take an active role in develop her professional skills, given its business-focused objectives. However, Interviewee 2 expected that professional development efforts to be increased when the company's business pick up.

Perceived Barriers to Professional Development

Interviewee 1 had just recently completed her Masters in Instructional Design and Technology, however she did not think that a postgraduate degree alone was sufficient to be a full-fledged instructional designer. She believed instructional designers must continuously apply skills and knowledge in their professional lives. "Learn and relearn from mistakes and experiences wherever possible," she said. Interviewee 1 added that most of her modules that she had chosen for her postgraduate coursework had practical aspects on her professional career.

When asked what her next professional development plan was, Interviewee 1, a newlywed, had foreseen that she would be dedicating less time to professional development as she was in the process of building a family with her new husband. In the months to come, Interviewee 1 would focus on implementing more innovative instructional design strategies on her projects and getting her learners' feedback on the e-learning courses that she had designed. Interviewee 1 would also continue to contribute in forum discussions.

Interviewee 2 had lamented that taking up a postgraduate degree in instructional design would burden her financially. A mother-to-be, Interviewee 2 was reluctant to invest in a second postgraduate degree since she already had a Masters degree in Education. She thought that her prior training as a teacher had equipped her with the necessary skills and experiences as an instructional designer. Presently, Interviewee 2 has interest in acquiring human resource skills such as assessing work performance.

Interviewee 3 thought that almost 100% of company time and resources had been dedicated to generating revenues for the company and very little time was left for professional development. While she understood that the company was struggling to keep above water and processes were evolving to keep costs low, there should be some forms of efforts both by the company and the instructional designers to be kept informed through literature imported from U.S. reading sessions and group discussions.

Interviewee 4 admitted that there were constraints in his company when it came to professional development of instructional designers, especially in terms of time and resources. He understood that instructional designers need to be aware of the latest development in the instructional design field or else they would risk being outdated in knowledge and experience. But instructional designers should do what they can within the constraints they currently faced.

Personal Efforts on Professional Development

All interviewees had taken some form of professional development activities that interested them and cost them minimal time and resources to do so. Interestingly, all the interviewees had unanimously agreed that experience is the best teacher and had considered it as part of professional development.

Interviewee 1 had revealed that the preparation for her masters' thesis had enabled her to be updated on the latest development in instructional design. However, she was not too concerned about how much she was "in the know." Interviewee 1 hoped she could catch up with her professional reading when she "has the time."

Interviewee 2 had revealed that she is interested in e-learning technological standards and had taken steps to align her projects to these standards. Interviewee 2 had also been proactively studying other e-learning courses and hoped to learn new techniques from them. She had also made an effort to read instructional design-related books to keep herself informed of the latest development in the instructional design field and had owned a collection of instructional design-related articles that had interested her.

Interviewee 3 was driven to learn and innovate design. Like Interviewee 2, she was learning from other instructional designers by studying the techniques and strategies used in their e-learning courses. Interviewee 3 used to participate in discussion forums actively and had kept herself informed through good instructional design-related articles and books. On the other hand, Interviewee 4 had been an online participant to many international online forums and held many online memberships to e-learning associations such as the ASTD and the E-learning Guild. He had also kept himself informed through education-related journals, which he had subscribed.

Views on Professional Certification

During each interview, interviewees were asked for their opinions if a professional certification programme would work and benefit them. The interviewees' comments were rather mixed.

Interviewee 1 felt that in Singapore, instructional design remained as a relatively unknown field. A proper professional certification would certainly bring a level of respect, recognition and understanding to the field from outside entities. She thought a certification programme would take the profession a higher level by establishing a basic competency level, protecting employers and fellow instructional designers from the damaging effects of untrained practitioners.

Interviewee 2 thought that unlike doctors and lawyers, instructional designers' work did not involve putting people's lives at stake and hence she did not think certification of instructional designers was critical and saw no urgency for it to be implemented. Also, Interviewee 2 did not see any incentive for her to take up a certification programme if there was an existing one and she "did not think it would work for her".

Interviewee 3 had never thought about professional certification in Singapore or even in her native country, India. However, she believed a certification programme would give respect and status to the profession and confer a certain degree of responsibility on instructional designers as professionals. She thought that instructional designers in e-learning industry such as herself were still evolving in the use of strategies, techniques and technology for corporate e-learning. It might be early to even speak of a certification programme.

Interviewee 4 had expressed support for a certification programme for instructional designers. Having been in a role that recruited instructional designers for the company, he himself faced difficulties in knowing who to hire and what to expect of an instructional designer. Like Interviewee 3, Interviewee 4 thought that it was still too early to speak of a certification programme for instructional designers, especially those who design e-learning courses, as the web-based delivery of courses was still relatively new.

Based on the data collected, there seems be to a lack of structure and consistency in professional development endeavours committed by the participants who have taken part in the survey and the interviews. Yet their professional work depends on what they are informed and understood about global trends, instructional design and learning theories.

Professional Development Plan

To begin the process of professional development, a proposed plan to help and encourage instructional designers to take an active approach in updating and developing their skill sets further in a more structured and systematic way, is therefore necessary. The professional development framework can be used to impress upon the participants the need for making lifelong learning a reality for themselves as well for their learners.

Adapted from a step-by-step guide to professional development (Hassel, 1999), published by The North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL) for U.S. schoolteachers, the professional development action plan (see Table 3) is targeted at practising instructional designers (known as "learners") working in Singapore, who design e-learning courses for corporate clients. The plan aims to develop a comprehensive framework that clearly leads to improved learning and performance among these instructional designers. With such capabilities, these designers can help establishing a good reputation for their companies and generate further business opportunities and revenue.

Professional development participants will be regarded as adult learners. Activities will be learner-centred and participants are expected to have "... clear ideas about what the crucial problems, concerns and issues in their professional lives" (Brookfield, 1986, p. 250). This is because successful staff development for adult professionals means individuals must feel an involvement in, commitment to and responsibility for the design, content, process and activities of their development (cf. Brookfield, 1986). Participants are also expected to be focused on their own real professional life concerns and make use of the professional development time to address them. In this way, the action plan can be seen immediately as meaningful and relevant.

There are four main steps in the proposed professional development plan for instructional designers working in an e-learning consultancy firm as illustrated in the cyclic figure below. Professional development organisers can use this as a basis to design their professional development action plan for their own context. Details are found in Figure 2.



Angelo's Seven Transformative Guidelines

In his article, Angelo (1999) spoke about "seven transformative guidelines for developing productive and scholarly learning communities." These guidelines are based on theories, findings, and strategies from a variety of literature. The guidelines are:


1. Build shared trust: begin by lowering social and interpersonal barriers to change.

2. Build shared motivation: collectively determine goals worth working toward and problems worth solving--and consider the likely costs and benefits.

3. Build a shared language: develop a collective understanding of new concepts (mental models) needed for transformation.

4. Design backward and work forward: work backward from the shared vision and long-term goals to determine outcomes, strategies, and activities.

5. Think and act systematically: understand the advantages and limitations of the larger system(s) within which people operate and seek connections and applications to those larger worlds.

6. Practice what is preached: use what is learned about individual and organisational learning to inform and explain efforts and strategies.

7. Don't assume, ask: make the implicit explicit. Use assessment to focus on what matters most.

Angelo's seven transformative guidelines and strategies aim for significant and qualitative change in academic development. His article seeks to address failures to improve academic development in the U.S. According to Angelo, these improvement efforts did not result in "demonstrably more and better learning" in higher education (Angelo, 1999). He thinks that these "disappointing results are consequences--not of will, diligence, or skill--but rather of inadequate conceptual models of and approaches to change" (Angelo, 1999).

Professional development action plan provides direction as do what needs to be done to spearhead the process and give vision to instructional designers' professional lives. However, without having to address instructional designers' fear, insecurity and possibly resistance to change, the professional development action plan is likely to fail to deliver results the way improvements to academic developments had failed in the U.S. higher education industry. These seven transformative guidelines may be able to hold the professional development plan in place the way steel rods are drilled in the foundation layer of a building. "It may save time and grief later in the process since time is taken at the front end to develop shared trust, shared language, and a small number of shared goals" (Angelo, 1999, p. 10). Such a beginning should secure a higher success rate than "the urge to rush the change process" (Angelo, 1999, p. 10).

How Can Professional Development Barriers Be Overcome?

One of the most cited reasons why professional development effort is less than ideal is the lack of priority given to professional development, at an organisation level. Professional development has long-term benefits to any company. An e-learning company will certainly welcome complimentary and reputation of being able to provide high standard of professional skills and ethics to their customers. Developing their instructional designers professionally will strengthen any company foothold in the e-learning industry and it certain pays to do so.

More than 90% of the company operation time is dedicated to projects and there are company wide cost-cutting objectives to keep the company in the black. It is therefore natural that very little is spent on journal subscriptions, association membership fees and book purchases. However, if such costs can be worked into each project budget and justified them by a work-related reason, then it can be deemed as project cost rather than overhead cost.

Secondly, instructional designers who work in small or medium-sized companies might just have to accept that "they simply have to absorb more of the funding for their own professional development" (Rothwell & Kazanas, 1998). While this means that instructional designers have to take money out of their own pocket, as committed professionals, "no barrier is so insurmountable that they are unable to find means to fuel their learning" (Rothwell & Kazanas, 1998).

Suggestions for Future Research

1. Action plan can become active again when business picks up.

Findings from the data-gathering phase revealed that the interviewees' employers are not ready to embark on professional development for instructional designers at an organisation level. Professional development is now solely the employees' responsibilities. The interviewees are interested to be more informed of instructional design theories and concepts, knowing that doing so are critical to their professional career.

Having a structured, hands-on and systematic approach to professional development will provide instructional designers a more consistent and enriching way to increase their knowledge, skills and attitudes. However, such efforts require time, money and resources. Perhaps the professional development action plan can still be submitted to the company management team and keep in view until the business picks up again in future.

2. From professional development plan to curriculum plan.

In a broader sense, if this professional development action plan is proven to be useful in upgrading instructional designers' skills and knowledge, the professional development action plan may be revised to become a curriculum plan for a profession certification course that the company can sell to industry players or professional development organisers. This could mean generating revenue and gaining the reputation of a lead player in the industry of e-learning for the company.

3. Counseling for instructional designers who resist professional development.

Rothwell and Kazanas (1998) suggest that counseling instructional designers one-on-one is a helpful way to address excuses or reasons to unwillingness to make time for professional development activities. If necessary, counselors should ask instructional designers how they would address similar objections raised by trainees who attend courses they designed.


This article has highlighted the need to develop instructional designers professionally in a consistent and continuous manner. Through the survey and the interviews conducted, it is found that gaps exist in their professional knowledge and skills. The demand for a professional development framework does not come about just because there is a need to promote the profession in Singapore.

In the Information Age today, no knowledge and skills stay relevant forever. Everyone needs to adopt life-long learning as a survival strategy to stay employed and maintain livelihood. Instructional designers are not spared from such effects. Instructional designers have social responsibilities to be better informed of designs that meet today workforce's as well as their own learning needs and thereby improve their employability in the job market.

Rothwell and Kazanas (1998) have stressed that instructional design is not a static field. It is influenced by changes in the "economy, government, technology and demographics." To upkeep professional competence and constantly adapting to changing conditions, instructional designers must be willing to assess their own competencies periodically and be prepared learn and relearn their skill sets. Professional instructional designers must be able to do all of the above.


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Table 1 Theories and Orientations Considered

 Number of
 respondents who
 use ID theories
 or principles in
Theories/Principles Orientation their designs

Gagne's nine events of Design-oriented 4
Bloom's taxonomy Design-oriented 2
Schank's Learning by doing i.e., Description-oriented 2
Case-based reasoning (CBS)
Usability principles Design-oriented 2
Authentic learning Description-oriented 1
Elaboration theory Design-oriented 1
Keller's ARCS model of Design-oriented 1
No theories/principles quoted 2

Table 2 Chronology of Some Instructional Design Theories

Authors Work Year

Robert Gagne The Conditions of Learning First edition--1965
 Fourth edition--1985
Benjamin Bloom Bloom's taxonomy of 1956
 Cognitive Outcomes
Charles M. Reigeluth Elaboration Theory 1983
John Keller ARCS model of motivation 1983

Table 3 A Professional Development Framework for Instructional
Designers (based on Hassel, 1999)

Steps Focus Aim

1. Design and develop Who are the Seek strong decision-making
 the professional stakeholders? and organisational
 Select critical process to support and
 stakeholders. legitimise professional
 Form a professional development within the
 development team organisation.
 to ensure a broad Stakeholders are likely to
 based leadership be decision-makers from
 and co-operation. the company's management
 level, learners
 (corporate clients),
 would-be professional
 development participants,
 instructional experts
 from a local university.
 What are our needs? Establish company's
 Conduct a needs business needs, learners'
 analysis educational/training
 goals and individual
 professional development
 Establish the gap between
 the learners' educational
 goals and their actual
 performance and the gap
 between ID skills needed
 to close learning gap and
 actual ID skills. (Figure
 Establish IDs' professional
 development goals,
 principles and objectives
 for the action plan.
 What is the content? Define specific
 How shall it be professional development
 organised and content (including
 managed? resources), process, and
 Selection or activities that will meet
 creation of IDs' professional
 professional development goals.
 development Use flexible learning,
 content, deep/surface learning
 resources, approaches and adult
 backing, processes learning principles and
 and activities understandings as the
 fundamental learning
 theories behind all
 professional development
 content, resources,
 backing, processes and
 Embed professional
 development activities
 into daily work routine
 of IDs not "in addition"
 to their professional
 Explore the experiences of
 other successful ID
 companies or
 How will we know if Evaluate specific
 the professional activities with short
 likely success. evaluation forms that
 Construct an assessed the quality of
 evaluation plan both the process and the
 for professional utility of thecontent of
 development seminar and workshops.
 efforts Use Action Research to test
 professional development
 efforts, forming and
 testing hypotheses about
 what would improve IDs
 and learners'
 How can we get the Keep stakeholders informed
 message out? of professional
 Disseminate development right from
 professional the beginning to seek
 development plan active support.
 Share findings and results.
2. Implement the How will we get Encourage IDs to set aside
 professional going and sustain daily or weekly to focus
 development plan things? exclusively on
 Integrate professional development.
 professional Encourage cultural change
 development in at organisational level
 IDs' daily work to accept professional
 routine. development as "part of
 daily work" as opposed to
 Can we improve In situations when actual
 things? implementation of the
 Refine and adjust plan yields less than
 the professional ideal results,
 development plan. continuously make
 refinements (based on
 best practices of
 designing and learning
 from literature) to the
 Formation monitoring can be
 used to collect data
 about implementation and
 subsequently make
 refinements to the
 professional development
 Are there problems? Identify barriers and
 Overcome barriers challenges to the
 during implementation of
 professional professional development
 development plan and devise solutions
 to overcome them.
3. Impact evaluate What's the impact of Align evaluation goals with
 and improve the program? professional development
 professional Use professional goals.
 development development design
 goals to determine
 measures and
 standards for
 Can we measure Determine if professional
 anything? development process and
 Measure learning and results achieved thus far
 performance are intended according to
 improvement and plan. Evaluation methods
 closing of gap that can be used to do
 against evaluation these are summative and
 criteria. impact evaluations
 Based on the Make allowance for
 evaluation what do subsequent cycles of
 we have to do? planning, action and
 Use evaluation reviewing, thereby
 findings to make improving the plan
 professional actively.
 development Make small changes
 improvement. frequently and big
 changes annually.
4. Share professional What can we learn Document all decisions
 development from this? made clearly and at all
 Learning Consolidate steps of the professional
 professional development framework.
 development This makes tracking of
 planning and decision-making process
 evaluation. easy and aids future
 Organise all Organise tools and
 materials that materials in a form that
 occur during the will make distribution
 entire fast and simple.
 process and make
 them available to
 What is the ease of Decide on the best and the
 information flow easiest channel to
 if anyone wants to disseminate decisions
 know about the made, changes to plan
 professional etc, to stakeholders and
 development plan? professional development
 Set up dissemination plan executives.

Steps Focus Rationale

1. Design and develop Who are the With strong stakeholders'
 the professional stakeholders? support, the chances of
 Select critical the professional
 stakeholders. development project being
 Form a professional short-lived would reduce.
 development team Involving would-be
 to ensure a broad participants as
 based leadership stakeholders ensures that
 and co-operation. the professional
 development plan is
 focused on their learning
 and working needs.
 What are our needs? The needs assessment lays
 Conduct a needs down the foundation of
 analysis the action plan. It
 provides the goals and
 actions based on apparent
 needs and gaps
 What is the content? The content and the process
 How shall it be components of
 organised and professional development
 managed? are at the heart of the
 Selection or professional development
 creation of plan.
 professional Find out about particular
 development approaches either through
 content, literature review or
 resources, other people's
 backing, processes experiences and to assess
 and activities its likely success.
 How will we know if Measure how well activities
 the professional help meet professional
 likely success. development goals.
 Construct an Several methods may be used
 evaluation plan simultaneously. It should
 for professional be done frequently enough
 development to address changing needs
 efforts with time.
 How can we get the Professional development is
 message out? easier to continue for a
 Disseminate longer period if a broad
 professional base support is gained
 development plan for professional
 development efforts.
2. Implement the How will we get A critical aspect of
 professional going and sustain professional development
 development plan things? that ensure seamless
 Integrate learning by having
 professional participants practising
 development in during their training and
 IDs' daily work working days.
 Can we improve Ensure that the plan is
 things? buoyant and adaptable to
 Refine and adjust different contexts and
 the professional conditions while going
 development plan. forward to achieve
 professional development
 Are there problems?
 Overcome barriers
3. Impact evaluate What's the impact of Evaluation of specific
 and improve the program? professional development
 professional Use professional events and the overall
 development development design professional development
 goals to determine effort to ensure that
 evaluation measurement of what the
 measures and plan has intended to do
 standards for and outcomes are hitting
 success. goals.
 Can we measure
 Measure learning and
 improvement and
 closing of gap
 against evaluation
 Based on the Learning for the plan
 evaluation what do organiser continues
 we have to do? during each intend-act-
 Use evaluation review cycle. See Figure
 findings to make 4.
4. Share professional What can we learn Keeping up with the
 development from this? materials needed to
 Learning Consolidate organise and implement
 professional professional development
 development is important in sharing
 planning and professional development
 evaluation. learning and efforts, as
 well as keeping
 stakeholders informed.
 Organise all
 materials that
 occur during the
 process and make
 them available to
 What is the ease of The channels that are used
 information flow for dissemination should
 if anyone wants to be easily accessible by
 know about the people outside of the
 professional professional development
 development plan? project.
 Set up dissemination
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Author:Murphy, James
Publication:International Journal on E-Learning
Geographic Code:9SING
Date:Apr 1, 2006
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