Project Management Instructional Design: ADDIE Framework Is Inadequate


This paper aims at discussing the ADDIE model as a framework in the context of project management instructional design and proving this model as inadequate. The evaluation of project management and instructional design helps to comprehend what can be expected from ADDIE. The comparison of different instructional design models helps to identify the weak and strong aspects of the model under consideration. The current concept paper is developed to prove the necessity of discussions concerning the ADDIE framework, identify the problems, research questions, audience, and methods that can be used in the study. Systems theory is offered as the theory base of the study, and content analysis is chosen as the qualitative method that proves the feasibility of the study. The growing criticism of the effectiveness of the ADDIE model as the main framework of instruction system design serves as the basis to believe in its inadequateness as the main project management instructional design model.


Project management is the way of how knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques can be applied in a project to meet the goals and requirements set by and for managers (Lester, 2007). There are many processes that can be used to plan, develop, and control the work of people in order to achieve success. Instructional design is one of the processes during which instructors and other educational stakeholders can improve their activities and instructions by means of systematic development of teaching materials and the possibilities to respond to the already identified learning requirements. Instructional designers aim at developing practices and approaches with the help of which they can determine the current state of affairs and learning needs and introduce the steps that can be taken to demonstrate effective results of work.

ADDIE is one of the popular instructional design models named after the stages that should be taken: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation (Branch, 2009). Though instructional theories and models play an important role in providing managers with the required instructional materials (Culatta, 2013), some researchers admit that the ADDIE framework is not always enough for project management (Van Rooij, 2010). This issue will be considered in this project as soon as research problems, questions, audience, purposes, and feasibility of the study are successfully identified.


ADDIE is a central instructional design model that has been already linked to project management. Despite the intentions of such researchers as Branch (2009), Davis (2013), and Reinbold (2013) to prove the effectiveness of the ADDIE model in different spheres of life where project management matters, the model is defined as inadequate in its current form as a framework for the project management instructional design process. The problem is based on the necessity to understand how one group of researchers may discuss the effectiveness of the process that is defined as inadequate by another group of researchers.

The problem also lies in the necessity to investigate past studies and consider the achievements with the current possibilities and expectations. The absence of clear and similar arguments to support or criticize the model provokes discussions and uncertainties concerning its adequateness. ADDIE could be an appropriate process several years ago, and research of 2000-2005 could be used as evidence. However, today, when technological progress has been influenced the sphere of project management considerably, new requirements and expectations should be identified. ADDIE seems to not be enough to fit learning objectives with the wider environment (Van Rooij, 2010) or to develop communication or leadership skills and complete a project successfully.

Research Problem

The main research problem is to analyze and evaluate the peculiarities of ADDIE, prove that ADDIE is an inadequate instructional design for project management, and try to explain if there are ways to improve the already developed ADDIE framework. ADDIE is the central design practice within the frames of which managers are able to analyze problems and goals set, design ideas, instruments, and goals, develop action plans, implement ideas and predictions, and evaluate thoughts, activities, and the outcomes that have to be achieved and are actually achieved. Much general information is given, and the task is to prove that project management stakeholders know how to take the steps at each stage of the process and achieve the best results.

The identification of the weak aspects and challenges of the ADDIE process should be made to prove the inadequateness of the chosen design and show the urgency of the research problem offered. Project management is the process that depends on a number of internal and external factors such as the current political agreements, economic relations, and social expectations, personal skills, and even behavioral changes. It is necessary to prove that ADDIE does not focus on these factors, and that is why it can be called inadequate in the context of project management and cannot be used as the best alternative instructional design model. The comparison of the model with other instructional design models can help to discover the main disadvantages the ADDIE model may have in the context of project management.

From a theoretical point of view, ADDIE, as a frequently used ID model, has a number of strengths and weaknesses. The fact that many other ID models are based on some aspects of the ADDIE model introduces it as a strong and credible framework to rely on. Its linear structure and step-by-step guide provide learners with the required portion of information and hints on how to succeed in individual lessons. At the same time, several weaknesses or, at least, unclear points, have been identified as well. As the model that many learners want to use, ADDIE has based on a comprehensive analysis a number of learners are not able to cope with. The problem is that people do not try to do as much as they can to succeed in using the ADDIE model. They consider the main points only and put themselves under the threat to omit some small but influential points. Regarding such challenges, the spiral model seems to be a better option to rely on. In this model, the attention to top-down and bottom-up concepts is paid so that learners should consider all life-cycle generators of their working process (Boehm, Lane, Koolmanojwong, & Turner, 2014). In other words, it is hard to omit one part of work and start doing something else. A new stage depends on the way of how the previous stage is taken.

Another significant challenge of the ADDIE model is a poor identification of behavioral changes and the necessity to meet criteria that have been already measured. In other words, learners are not able to understand how their decisions and actions influence their working process. The ADDIE model does not provide managers with a number of opportunities that are possible with the ASSURE model. This instructional systems design process is divided into several logical sections. The users of the ASSURE model can analyze their opportunities, state goals independently, select strategies and materials in regards to their needs, utilize the most appropriate technologies, participate in all activities, and evaluate the outcomes of their actions (Gunter & Gunter, 2014). Though the ADDIE has its own positive aspects and effects on the way of how learners use the material and develop their knowledge, the presence of such shortages creates several problems and the conditions under which the ADDIE model cannot be defined as the best model of project management instructional design. It seems to be inadequate because of the impossibilities to add new instructions and implement the required material. There are frames that cannot be broken. Still, the context of the framework has to be improved. There is also no accommodation that can be offered during the process when managers have to deal with good and interesting ideas and eliminate their faults and wrong conclusions. It happens that the ADDIE model is based on the idea of development (Larson & Lockee, 2013). However, the development is not always enough. Sometimes, more attention should be paid to such processes as production and performance.

Regarding these facts and suggestions and the problems with ADDIE as an ID model, it is possible to admit that this model is not adequate for project management instructional design. More improvements and corrections are necessary to achieve the required success and meet the goals that have been set at the beginning of a working process.

Justification of the Study

The importance of the study can be explained with the help of the review of literature about the existing instructional designs and the application of the ADDIE framework in the context of project management. There are many gaps in the existing knowledge that have to be fulfilled with the help of research. The development of the instructional project means the development of project management and interface design skills (Information Resources Management Association, 2011). Due to the possibility to use instructional design models in different settings and to various degrees, instructors have to create their independent materials and environments to benefit from using the chosen model. In many cases, instructors fail to comprehend what kind of work they should be done to make the right choice.

The existing variety of models for instructional design confuses researchers and instructors, and the current fast-developing technological needs and expectations create the necessity to make quick decisions and choose the methods that are poorly known. Being introduced as of the best options for project managers, the ADDIE model is poorly understood. As soon as instructors start using it, they come to the conclusion that more processes should be developed. Gordon and Zemke (2000) describe ADDIE as a rigid and time-consuming model that produces instructional products inadequately. Each step and stage of project management should have a stipulated timeframe (Summerville & Reid-Griffin, 2008). As a result, instructors could not achieve the desired outcomes and succeed in their explanations. However, in his First Principles of Instruction, Merrill (2012) admits that such problems and discontents are caused by the inabilities to make the right solutions and take the steps properly as they are explained in the model. Such double-nature criticism of the model requires more attention to be paid to the study of the ADDIE framework and the reasons for why it is called an inadequate instructional design model in terms of project management.

Deficiencies in the Evidence

There are many instructional design models that can be used to guide the process of educating and instructing people. Van Rooij (2010) defines the ADDIE model as one of the best examples that attract the attention of people due to its variety of training activities and help to facilitate the fast and efficient design of training programs. However, the deficiencies in the evidence that have been introduced to justify the study are not the only ones that can be used as the basis for the work. There are many unclear points and definitions that require more explanation or evaluation. For example, Merrill (2012) mentions the frequency of the instructions that are offered to people in different spheres of life (learning guidelines, medical prescriptions, technical pieces of advice, etc.) deludes people and makes them believe that they know everything about the instructions, their worth, and importance. Therefore, before analyzing the ADDIE framework as an adequate instructional design, it is necessary to comprehend what can be expected from the instructions. Branch (2009) explains ADDIE as a design model that can facilitate the complexities of a learning process. However, the instructions cannot facilitate the process but show the way of how to complete it. Such differences in seeing the same things may confuse the audience.

At the same time, ADDIE is identified as a broad and general model that offers directions regardless of the peculiarities of the environment (Rooij, 2010). The result is a poor differentiation of performance that can be developed or improved with training instructions. The supporters of ADDIE underline the fact that any Instruction System Design (ISD) usually fails to consider the individual circumstances because any model has to be adopted in regards to the instructors’ needs and demands. According to the investigations developed by Project Management Institute (2013), the identification of objectives and needs should be the first stage in project management and the instructional design process as the possibility to ensure motivation and clear guidelines for the rest of the work.

Forest (2014) tries to explain the connection between the stages of the ADDIE model as a linear progression because each stage is a kind of instruction for the next stage. It means that ADDIE is circular by its nature. Regarding the approaches offered by different researchers, it is hard to understand the essence of ADDIE and clarify its worth for project managers. Still, it is possible to admit that the general nature of the model serves as the main explanation of the fact that ADDIE is inadequate instructional design in the context of project management.


The study may be beneficial for several groups of people. On the one hand, students and teachers, who deal with instructional design in project management and study its basic features, can find the study useful as it is a new look at the old issues. In many educative guides, the ADDIE model is described as one of the most powerful and effective frameworks to rely on (Cox, 2009). Students and teachers should comprehend that it is possible to re-evaluate the worth of the model and focus on the challenges the instructors may face while using the model. Another group of people, who can be interested in the study, is the instructors, who rely on the chosen instructional model. Many of them find the model as the best option for them to succeed in project management. However, they do not regard the challenges that may be connected with the fact that ADDIE is an inadequate instructional design model.

The study may serve as a solid basis for the investigations that can be developed by professional researchers and academics in the sphere of project management. The supporters and critics of the ADDIE model should try to re-organize their thoughts to prove the correctness of the chosen positions and introduce more facts and explanations. Finally, the audience of the study is the professors and instructors, who are going to check the validity of the information and use the material offered. Some of them may not know all terms or definitions. Besides, ordinary readers, who want to enlarge their knowledge base, can find the study. Therefore, it is necessary to introduce clear facts, give credible facts, and explain all terms so that the reader of the paper can hardly be confused with a list of new terms and word combinations.

Conceptual Framework

Many theories have been established to guide the process of learning and instruction. Constructivism, behaviorism, and cognitivism are frequently used by researchers to define the outcomes of the study and comprehend the reasons why some decisions are made and some activities are avoided. Taking into consideration the necessity to evaluate the principles of the ADDIE framework and the peculiarities of its stages, it is possible to make use of systems theory as a chance to discover the patterns and principles of one system and apply the findings to another system or several systems at once.

Instructional theories play an important role in the way of how instructional materials are designed. Systems theory helps to shape and define the outcomes of the instructional material. The instructional design aims at developing a single instructional theory that can be based on systems theory (Tennyson, 2010). Such an approach should help to specify the characteristics of the instructors, classify the procedures, and promote the evaluations that test the existing designs and approaches. Though the general systems theory was introduced by Bertalanffy in 1968 to comprehend the connection between different biological systems, this approach was used in many other spheres due to its possibility to facilitate the relations between complex systems and pay attention to the small details that make the whole mechanism work (Hays, 2005). The chosen theoretical approach helps to create a basis according to which the ADDIE model in the context of project management may be evaluated and identify the challenges and disadvantages of the design model because of the inability to guide instructors in a particular environment.

Definitions of Terms

Instructional Design/Instructional System Design (ISD) is the process/practice of creating instructional experiences to guarantee the development, effectiveness, and efficiency of knowledge and skill acquisition.

The ADDIE model is a type of ISD framework that provides key phases of instruction, which include analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation.

Project Management is the application of personal and collective knowledge, skills, and sources to promote the development of the processes such as projecting, planning, and controlling resources with the help of which it is possible to achieve specific goals that meet specific success criteria.

Project Management Instructional Design is the process of creating instructional experiences and approaches to guide the process of project management learning and development of the required skills.

Systems Theory is a part of a theoretical framework, the study of the systems that aim at discovering its main principles of work and the relations with other systems.

Purpose of the Study

The main goal of the study is to prove that the ADDIE model cannot be regarded as an adequate framework in terms of the project management instructional design. To meet this purpose, it is necessary to identify various emerging issues in the project management instructional design, analyze several models, and underline the concepts that can be addressed by one model and have not been addressed or have been inadequately addressed by the ADDIE model. It is expected to evaluate the conditions and reasons for why the ADDIE model is inadequate and develop the list of recommendations on how to improve the model or what other models can be applied together with ADDIE in order to promote a successful future of project management instructional design.

Research Questions

To meet the main research goal and the purpose of the study and explain the reasons for the inadequateness of the ADDIE model as a project management instructional design framework, it is expected to give the answer to the main research question is “Why is the ADDIE model not enough for successful project management?” To provide a thoughtful and clear answer to this question, the following supplementary still not less important research questions should be answered in the academic project:

  1. What is the connection between such terms as project management, instructional design, and ADDIE?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the ADDIE model as a part of the instructional design process?
  3. What are other instructional design models and their benefits in the context of project management?
  4. How can systems theory be used to analyze the ADDIE model as a framework for project management instructional design?
  5. Are there any adequate substitutes for the ADDIE model in project management instructional design?

Feasibility of the Study

To succeed in discussing the benefits and disadvantages of the ADDIE model, a plan of the study should be developed. As soon as the background information about project management, instructional design models, and the ADDIE framework, in particular, are given and the research problems and questions are introduced, the evaluation of research methods should take place. It is expected to develop a comparative analysis of the characteristics of one particular model and analyze several instructional design models in order to clarify the aspects the ADDIE model address inadequately. The identification of the issues from the perspective of a particular study is required (Hennik, Hutter, & Bailey, 2010), and it is a part of qualitative research. To answer the research questions, the content analysis may be used as the main qualitative research method. Jha (2014) defines content analysis as both a method and technique that aim at identifying the main issues and variables in the text, interpreting the messages of various documents, and analyzing the information including the errors, repetitions, and arguments. Content analysis may be of three types: conventional, directed, and summative (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005). The directed approach begins with a relevant theory choice and research findings is chosen for the study.

Another type of qualitative research may be used to identify the positive and negative aspects of the model under consideration. Observations can be used to see how different people under different conditions try to apply the same instructional design model. If there is no opportunity to develop direct observations, it is possible to rely on the documents where the experiences and opinions are offered. The analysis of literature should be properly organized. Only credible and peer-reviewed sources are necessary.

Tables and graphs should be used to introduce the material chosen for getting a clear picture of which aspects are inadequately covered by the ADDIE model and the identification of the models that can demonstrate better results.


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