My Learning Design Philosophy

Instructional Design Philosophy


I was recently asked what my training philosophy is.  Quite honestly, I never really reflected too deeply on the question until someone asked.  I think to answer that question honestly; I have to look at who the major influences are in my training development education and career.  To start with my core foundation, I have, to begin with the end in mind.  The only way to do that is to have a solid ROI and only Jack Phillips has the correct answer and he identifies why training fails (Phillips and Phillips, 2002).  Once you have answered his eleven points on why training fails, you can begin address each point.


A summary of the Eleven Training points are here:

  1. Lack of alignment of Business Needs.
  2. Failure to recognize non-training needs.
  3. Lack of specific focus and direction.
  4. The solution is too expensive.
  5. Training is viewed as an event or series of events.
  6. Participants are not held accountable for results.
  7. Failure to prepare the learning environment.
  8. Lack of Management Support
  9. Failure to isolate the effects of training.
  10. Lack of involvement and commitment from Executives and management.
  11. Failure to provide training results and feedback.

How my philosophy addresses these points

Lack of alignment of Business Needs:  In-depth analysis of the training is aligned with measurable results to fit the business needs.  If it cannot be measurable, we don’t design or include into the training plan.  However, some training is mandated by OSHA or other government regulations.  When this is the case, the ROI changes from a profit based model to a cost-reduction based model.  With that said, when dealing with cost-reduction models, the focus is to reduce the training to a cost effective model by limiting unnecessary cost factors.  This could simply mean incorporating more web-based and virtual technologies to reduce travel and instructor-led training costs.

Failure to recognize non-training needs:  This one is easy.  Sometimes managers want to train on events that are not really training related.  The hard part is telling managers no and then explaining why.

Lack of specific focus and direction:  Developing strategic objectives aligned with the measurable objectives.

The solution is too expensive: A well planned and detailed ROI will illustrate why a training program is actually not expensive but can actually generate money.  In the case where training is for a cost-reduction based model, the ROI will show how money is saved.

Training is viewed as an event or series of events:  Most leadership views training as a one-time event or series of events.  Training must develop with long term results in mind and tracking of those results.  Training should be geared for at least one-year measurable analysis.  Again, the full training event takes into consideration the cultural and behavior changes through training.

Participants are not held accountable for results:  Training Plan should include post-training expectations and accountability agreements.

Failure to prepare the learning environment: Training environment, location and timing are all key to effective training.  This is explained in further detail.

Lack of Management Support:  Management expectations and role in training has to be outlined and agreed by all management.

Failure to Isolate the effects of training: Training Goals and expectations identified and outlined with goals and proven in the ROI results.

Lack of involvement and commitment from Executives and management:  Again, management must fully support the program and hold other managers accountable as well.

Failure to provide training results and feedback:  Without the ROI, what’s the point?  All five levels will and need to be accounted for.

The Five Stages Training

 Knowing the eleven points, how do we address them into a cohesive philosophy?  How does training design answer the eleven points?


Social Constructivism: Training begins by educating the learner on the basics of the culture, language and overview understanding of the learning disciplines.  Learners become fluent in the subject matter from a knowledge perspective only.  The learner is able to speak fluently with other subject matter experts and understand the lingo and context of the subject matter.

Dialogue:  Once learners have a good understanding of the subject matter, they are able to ask questions, discuss, brainstorm and participate in the problem-solving dialogue.

Kinesthetic:  When learners are able to converse and comprehend more complex subject matter, they are then able to begin applying this knowledge into skills through application and hands-on participation.

Application: When learners have advanced beyond the knowledge and kinesthetic stages, the application phase continues the learning through ongoing participation and practicing of the skills over a prolonged duration.  This includes the commitment to practicing their skills, reaching their goals and participating in ongoing discussions and knowledge development.

Instruct:  When the learner has reached the stage of instruction, they have become an SME and now being the phase of sharing the knowledge and assuring others learn their acquired skills and the knowledge will be passed on.  When a learner completes this phase, the training is successful.

Bringing it all together

  1. The 6 Ds of Breakthrough Learning
  2. Training ROI
  3. Jane Vella’s 8 Steps of Learning Design
  4. ADDIE Model
  5. Dick and Carey Instructional Model

The 6Ds of Breakthrough Learning attempts to address all eleven points of training failure in one cohesive package.  However, where it falls short is in the ROI phase.  This is where we fall back on Jack Phillips Return on Investment in Training and Performance Improvement Programs.  In addition to developing a solid ROI, we then develop a solid training design and development phase using Jane Vella’s 8 Steps of Learning Design in combination with the ADDIE model and the Dick and Carey Instructional model.  Together, all five elements seek to fully address the eleven points of concern in training.  Additionally, when complete, all phases of training are fully developed to take a learner from the entry level understanding of the social aspects of the subject matter all the way through to becoming a subject matter expert with the ability  to train future employees.  If none of these steps can be addressed, then the training plan must be revised to fit the ROI and Training Objectives.