Role-Based Design: A Contemporary Perspective for Innovation in Instructional Design

Role-Based Design: A Contemporary Perspective for Innovation in Instructional Design

June 4, 2019 0 By JR

Last week opened a whole can of worms regarding what those who currently work in instructional design might call themselves. I think I have a few blogpost drafts started with half-baked ideas from when many in the ID blog-sphere were arguing for the shift from instructional designer to learning designer. In brief, I’m not really sold on the latter, but really like what Jen Maddrell came up with as Designers for Learning. Maybe that doesn’t work for a job title, but it’s real good.

Anyway, George Veletsianos pointed out that this conversation about titles and roles has been ongoing for quite some time:

Note that the article is from 2008. Before getting into the weeds on this article, it’s worth noting that the author’s argue the IDs tend to only do one specific part of course production, and that there are programmers and others that develop whatever the design laid out. What’s changed since then is the collapse of roles into one position. If you check out instructional design job postings these days there tends to be both knowledge of learning theory, and development skills (either as a list of programming languages, or by way of naming specific software packages). I’ve seen a number of postings that also include project management expertise, subject matter expertise (e.g. in change management, or sales, etc), and graphic design skills. The all-in-one instructional designer seems to be the way the field requirements went.

As a side note, Clint Lalonde wrote a post about the role of educational technologist. It’s great that some of these roles still exist, but I know a number of positions in that specific role that were erased in different restricted budgets and now either the IDs need to learn tech or IT folks need to learn pedagogy. The educational technologist is no longer around in many contexts to offer their expertise and act as a bridge.

So, the article by Hokanson, Miller, & Hooper lays out the argument that basically, even through IDs frame their work within the ADDIE process that even those who claim they use ADDIE have nuance within how tasks are executed. They don’t reject ADDIE outright, but try to frame instructional design as a sequential set of roles that instructional designers play: instructional artist, instructional architect, instructional engineer, and instructional craftsperson. They also throw in instructional manufacturer.

Learning engineer appears to have been on the table for well over a decade already, and yet, still hasn’t taken hold.

The term [instructional design] is not favoured by all. Some object to the word ‘instruction’, with its implications of a teacher-centered approach. Others object to the word ‘design’, suggesting as it does a rather arty orientation, and insist that what we really need is ‘instructional engineering’. Nevertheless, we have to settle on a name, and instructional design is not only generally accepted in the USA, it’s almost universally applied to the design of technology-assisted learning. So you may like to consider yourself a ‘learning engineer’, but the job you will be applying for will be instructional designer.Clive Shepard (2003)

While the authors describe each of these roles and pose potential guiding questions for any project that each role might ask, the construction of what design is or what a designer does that leaves the reader wanting. They point to a pathway but don’t really walk the reader down there or provide a map,

Being a designer and acting as a designer, therefore, becomes more important than understanding what tasks a designer does, just as being creative is much more important (and difficult) than knowing what creativity is. Hokanson, B., Miller, C., Hooper, S.

In each of the roles the authors describe, they seem frame the roles by what that role would focus on rather than by process or product (the latter being typically the other way folks describe their roles). These descriptions I feel suffer from the same afflictions as other more recent role and title articles. In each of the role descriptions the authors describe the role, but it does not appear to draw on (at least not directly) a base for identity. What I mean is that each of the roles appear to be constructed as what the authors believe those roles are, not emergent from the roles themselves. I saw this in another recent article about the job titles debate. The author states “what architects do” or how they work, but it’s a projection, a labeling of another through your own lens. Not through literature review, ethnography, grounded theory, etc., but by simple stating what the other does or focuses their attention. I see this approach as problematic, and a significant barrier to converging the discussion towards shared meaning and understanding of the roles identified.