Instructional Design Principles – How to Improve Effective Learning

Instructional Design Principles – How to Improve Effective Learning

Instructional design principles are the foundation of effective instructional design. When you understand and apply these principles, your learning materials will be more engaging, effective, and efficient. But what are instructional design principles? And how can you put them into practice? In this article, we’ll answer those questions and more. Let’s get started!

Instructional Design

We need to understand what instructional design (ID) is before learning what Instructional design principles are.

Instructional design (ID) is the process of creating instructional materials that help learners achieve their goals. It involves the assessment of learning needs, the development of instructional goals and objectives, the selection and creation of instructional content, the design of instructional methods and procedures, and the assessment of learner progress.

ID is aimed at creating learning materials/tools and experiences in a way that leads to one acquiring knowledge and skills as well as applying them. In doing so, the principles of instructional design are followed.

What Are the Principles of Instructional Design?

Instructional design principles are the guidelines or standards that instructional designers use to create effective instructional materials. There are a variety of instructional design principles, but some of the most common ones include the following:

  1. Learner-centered design
  2. Problem-based learning
  3. Instructional scaffolding
  4. Active learning

Each of these principles is discussed in more detail below.

1. Learner-Centered Design

One of the most important instructional design principles is learner-centered design. This principle emphasizes the importance of understanding and meeting the needs of learners. It’s based on the belief that learners are more engaged and successful when actively participating in their learning process.

To create learner-centered materials, instructional designers must first understand what learners need and want. They must then tailor instructional materials to meet those needs and interests. This can be done by incorporating elements such as:

  • Relevant content
  • Real-world applications
  • Interactive activities
  • Individualized instruction

2. Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) is another popular instructional design principle. PBL is based on the idea that learners learn best by solving problems. In PBL, students are given a real or simulated problem to solve, and they must use what they learn to solve it. This type of learning is more engaging and effective than traditional instruction, which often relies on lecturing and rote memorization.

3. Instructional scaffolding 

Instructional scaffolding is a technique that instructional designers use to help learners build upon their knowledge and skills. Scaffolding involves providing learners with supports or frameworks that help them understand and complete tasks. These supports are gradually removed as learners become more proficient. Scaffolding can be useful for both novice and experienced learners alike.

4. Active Learning

Active learning is another popular instructional design principle. Active learning encourages students to engage with the material to learn it better. There are a variety of active learning techniques, such as problem-solving, inquiry-based learning, and collaborative learning. Each technique has its own benefits, which we’ll discuss later in this article.

Importance of Instructional Design Principles

Why are instructional design principles important? There are a few reasons:

  • The instructional design principles help instructional designers create effective instructional materials.
  • They ensure that instructional materials are aligned with instructional goals.
  • Instructional design principles improve the quality of instructional materials to make them more engaging for learners.
  • They’re beneficial to students looking for high-quality courses, especially the ones offered online.
  • Instructional design principles are used to optimize the student’s learning experience over time. This is done by utilizing certain techniques to recognize areas that need to be improved after assessing students.

Best Instructional Design Principles

Now that we’ve discussed some of the most important instructional design principles let’s look at the best ones.

Best instructional design principles include the following:

1. Alignment

Instructional materials must be aligned with instructional goals. This means that all instructional materials should support a course or program’s learning objectives and outcomes. Instructional materials not aligned with instructional goals will be ineffective and may interfere with learning.

Alignment can be achieved by using a variety of instructional strategies, such as:

  • Sequencing instructional activities in a logical order
  • Organizing instructional materials around key concepts
  • Using graphic organizers to show relationships between concepts

2. Assessment

Assessment is an important instructional design principle because it helps instructional designers determine whether or not learners are meeting the learning objectives. Assessment can take many forms, such as quizzes, exams, projects, and presentations.

Types of assessment include:

  • Formative assessment– used to provide feedback to learners to improve their understanding and performance.
  • Summative assessment– used to evaluate learners’ understanding and performance at the end of a course or program.
  • Authentic assessment– requires learners to apply what they have learned to real-world tasks or problems.

3. Comprehensible input

Comprehensible input is the idea that learners need to understand what they’re hearing or reading to learn from it. This instructional design principle is based on the work of linguist Stephen Krashen, who developed the Comprehension Hypothesis.

According to the Comprehension Hypothesis, learners need to be exposed to language at or above their level of understanding to acquire new language skills. This instructional design principle can be applied to any content area, not just language learning.

One way to provide comprehensible input is to use scaffolding. Scaffolding is a technique in which the instructional designer provides support that will help learners understand the material. This support can take many different forms, such as:

  • Asking questions
  • Providing definitions
  • Giving examples
  • Modeling
  • Using graphic organizers

4. Active participation

Active participation is an instructional design principle that states that learners must be actively engaged to learn. This means that instructional materials should not be passive, such as a lecture or reading a textbook. Instead, instructional materials should be interactive and require learners to do something, such as solve problems, discuss ideas, or work in groups.

The active participation principle is based on the work of educational psychologist Lev Vygotsky, who developed the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The ZPD is the idea that learners can only learn new material if it is within their level of understanding. If the material is too difficult, they will not be able to understand it. If the material is too easy, they will not learn anything new.

The instructional designer can use a variety of techniques to ensure that learners are actively engaged, such as:

  • Asking questions
  • Using discussion boards
  • Giving assignments
  • Designing games and simulations

5. Providing feedback

Feedback is an instructional design principle that refers to the information that learners receive about their performance. Feedback can be either positive or negative, but it should always be specific. For example, instead of saying “good job,” the instructional designer might say, “you did a great job of organizing your ideas.”

Feedback should be timely, meaning it should be given as soon after the learner performs the task as possible. This instructional design principle is based on the work of educational psychologist Albert Bandura, who developed the concept of self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is the belief that one can be successful in a task. This belief can be enhanced or diminished based on a learner’s feedback. If the feedback is positive and timely, it will enhance self-efficacy and motivate the learner to continue trying. Conversely, if the feedback is negative or delayed, it will diminish self-efficacy and discourage the learner from continuing.

The instructional designer can use a variety of techniques to provide feedback, such as:

  • Asking questions
  • Giving assignments
  • Using discussion boards
  • Designing games and simulations
  • Providing feedback

How to Identify a Good Instructional Design?

Keep the following in mind in order to recognize the best instructional design principles for you:

  1. The course is drafted in line with the needs of students.
  2. It is drafted based on organizational necessities.
  3. The educational program has specific objectives.
  4. Its structure and sequence are well-arranged.
  5. The education utilizes the right delivery channels.
  6. It states approaches for feedback and evaluation.

Frank’s Instructional Design Model

Frank’s ID Model is relevant in having the best instructional design principles to follow. It consists of sequential questions that need to be answered before developing and creating educational programs and materials. Each of the eight questions in the model is based on the following points:

  1. Purpose of the program
  2. What the students need
  3. Audience
  4. Achievable knowledge and skills
  5. Topics
  6. Delivery media
  7. Effective learning
  8. Assessment techniques

Robert Gagne’s Instructional Design Model

Robert Gagn’s instructional model is a task-oriented approach. It has nine instructional design principles that instructional designers can use to create instructional materials and activities. The nine instructional design principles are as follows:

  1. Gaining attention
  2. Informing students of objectives
  3. Helping to recollect what was learned earlier
  4. Presenting materials to learning
  5. Guiding students
  6. Evoking performance
  7. Providing feedback
  8. Evaluating performance
  9. Improving memorization and encouraging the practice

How to Improve Effective Learning?

Instructional design principles are important for creating effective learning experiences. By understanding and applying these principles, instructional designers can create materials more likely to lead to successful learning outcomes.

Take a look at the following tips that can help you become an effective learner:

  1. Improve Your Memory
  2. Practice what You Learned
  3. Try Various Approaches to Learning
  4. Don’t Learn Too Many Things at a Time
  5. Test Yourself

1. Improve Your Memory

A good memory will easily make you remember things you were taught or things you studied. There are many ways you can do this, such as the following:

  1. Attentive listening in class
  2. Focusing better while studying
  3. Reading to understand rather than cramming.
  4. Planning your study times
  5. Consuming memory-boosting foods and drinks. Examples; include blueberries, broccoli, coffee, dark chocolate, eggs, fatty fish, green tea, nuts, oranges, etc.
  6. Practice what You Learned

You shouldn’t just learn the theoretical aspect of something and not gain practical knowledge of it in a workplace, laboratory, research institute, or anywhere else. Instead, implement what was learned in practical situations and try to improve your skills over time.

Even Science supports practicing what you learned: A study showed that gray matter in the occipital lobes (the part of the brain connected with visual memory) of individuals increased when they practiced new skills. However, the gray matter disappeared when they were discontinued.

Furthermore, specific brain pathways are wiped out when you don’t practice a skill after a significant period. Therefore, regular practicals and rehearsals are important. For example, you need to keep practicing the graphic design techniques you’ve learned if you don’t want to lose your skill level. Skill levels can drop as time passes.

2. Try Various Approaches to Learning

Use various means of learning that you’re comfortable with, such as video, audio, and written formats. Bullet journaling, mind maps, explaining to others, recalling, and so on are learning techniques you can try.

Ascertain the learning strategies that work for you. Take note of how you learn and make improvements or changes if it isn’t effective enough. See some learning style theories below.

  • Carl Jung’s Learning Style Dimensions
  • Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences
  • Kolb’s Learning Styles
  • VARK Learning Styles

3. Don’t Learn Too Many Things at a Time

Learning too many things simultaneously can be ineffective or not useful, especially when the subjects are unrelated. It can also lead to slow learning processes due to sharing your time among various interests.

However, there are people who learn a range of things simultaneously, such as lifelong learner Elon Musk who studies various subjects related to technology. It has worked for him, and he has been able to diversify his business interests because of that practice. You can also be like Elon with the right limit for your strategy.

4. Test Yourself

According to a study, testing yourself can be effective in helping one remember something that has been learned. It’s even more effective than using all the time to study (only). You’ll be able to push your brain to better recall what you learned or read earlier.

Watch this YouTube video to learn more about how to improve effective learning:

Supporting Effective Learning

Best Ways to Learn Instructional Design

The course described below is suitable for learning instructional design principles for online courses:

Description: Students will know the principles of instructional design for online courses that can be implemented quickly and strategies to help them get their first one thousand learners.


What Are the Three Basic Elements of Instructional Design?

The three basic elements of instructional design are goal setting, instructional methods, and assessment. Instructional design theories provide a framework for how these three basic elements can be used to improve learning.

What Are the Stages of Instructional Design?

The instructional design process has five stages:
1. Analysis or needs assessment,
2. Instructional design,
3. Development,
4. Implementation, and
5. Evaluation.
Needs assessment is the first stage, and it involves identifying the objectives of the course and the needs of the learners. The instructional design stage involves creating a course plan that meets the objectives identified in the needs assessment stage. The development stage involves creating instructional materials, such as videos, audio recordings, or written content. The implementation stage involves putting the course into action by uploading content to a learning management system or distributing it to learners. Finally, the evaluation stage involves assessing how well the course meets the objectives and whether it was effective in helping learners achieve their goals.

Related Articles:


We hope you found the instructional design concepts explained in this guide understandable. Also, the answers in the FAQs section should give you more ideas for research on instructional design principles. Finally, take advantage of the YouTube video and courses suggested to improve effective learning and know the best ways to learn ID.

Instructional design principles are very beneficial to the education sector. Therefore, the ball is in the court of any educator to find out how he/she can partner with instructional designers to achieve better results in students’ learning processes.

One response to “Instructional Design Principles – How to Improve Effective Learning”