The ISD concept has been around for at least 25 years. Conceivably, there are as many approaches to the process as there are practitioners of it. The basic model is simple to understand and easy to use in almost any training environment. Essentially, it is a series of steps leading to the production of a successful training program.

The ISD steps for building a course are analogous to steps for building a home. Building a quality home requires a systematic process so the home meets standards---personal, structural, and community standards among them. It could be disastrous if one left out a critical step, such as drawing up the blueprints.

The same ideas apply to developing quality training. Most ISD approaches contain five major phases (see Figure 1). The first four phases (analysis, design, development and implementation) are generally sequential; the outputs of one phase are the inputs to the next. The fifth phase, evaluation, involves feedback that applies throughout the model. This lesson looks at these phases and describes their purpose, relationships, and results

Figure 1. The phases of the Instructional Systems Development (ISD) model


Analysis involves research, and the skills required to conduct a good instructional analysis are similar to those of any good investigation: thoroughness, objectivity, and a systematic approach. This phase determines training needs and expresses them as information useful for training development. The ISD model requires that training fulfill specific needs. This is done through the generation and evaluation of such analysis elements as needs assessment, job analysis, and target audience analysis.

A. Needs assessment

A needs assessment is conducted when a job performance problem has been identified. Needs assessment involves a systematic identification of solutions to performance problems. The assessment determines the root cause of the problem, then proposes a solution. The problem may be due to inadequate training, poor job documentation, poor equipment, lack of motivation, or other organizational issues. Conducting training without repairing faulty equipment, for example, will not solve the problem; it will only exhaust resources. Needs assessment determines whether training, alone, will solve the problem.

B. Job analysis

Job analysis is a systematic method of listing all the tasks necessary to competently do a specific job. These tasks represent the foundation on which we construct performance-based training objectives, course content, and evaluation instruments. Simply put, the job analysis provides a detailed "picture" of the job to be trained. The job analysis can also provide information about entry-level skills and possible prerequisites for training.

DOE Order 470.1A requires that all DOE "Safeguards and Security training shall be based on the results of job analyses." Job analysis is particularly critical for designing performance-based training.

C. Target audience analysis

A target audience analysis identifies characteristics that affect trainee learning. The analysis includes information about trainees' educational background, previous training experiences, relevant work experiences, and motivation for training. This information helps designers customize training for the intended audience.

The analysis phase also identifies training requirements and training outcomes. Training requirements are the knowledge and skills that must be taught during training. Training outcomes are the tasks that trainees must demonstrate to ensure competent performance back on the job.


The design phase is the planning stage of ISD. Its purpose is to transform relevant content into concise, behavioral objectives, creating the instructional "blueprint" that will direct the development of all training materials, tests, and methods. Training requirements and outcomes identified during analysis are written as goals and objectives. Then other design elements are addressed, such as instructional strategies, media selection, types of training materials, evaluation methods, and the design document.

A. Goal statements

A goal statement is a broad general description of the learning outcome. It describes what the trainee will be able to do at the end of the training. Goal statements are written for the entire course, as well as for each lesson within it.

B. Instructional objectives

An instructional objective specifies a measurable level of a behavior for a trainee after training, including the conditions and standards for the performance. Objectives are used to ensure achievement of the larger goal. Viewed as a unit, lesson objectives are the detailed steps leading to attainment of the lesson goal. Usually, several instructional objectives are written for each lesson goal.

C. Instructional strategies

Since objectives form the framework for the training structure, the sequence of objectives is a very important part of lesson design. Objectives may be arranged in the order that tasks will be performed on the job, by their ease of performance, by order of the complexity of the task, or according to other appropriate strategies.

D. Evaluation methods

Decisions on how trainees will be evaluated or tested are made in the design phase. Evaluation options include knowledge tests and performance tests. If a trainee learns by practicing a skill during training, the trainee must perform it when evaluated. He or she should not be evaluated with multiple-choice questions or by describing the skill in writing.

E. Types of training materials

Training materials include such items as texts, student guides, workbooks, instructor guides, job and training aids, visual aids, and case studies. While these items are produced in the development phase, they are identified in the design phase.

F. Media selection

Taking target audience characteristics, number of trainees, and environmental requirements into account, decisions are made about how to deliver the training to meet instructional objectives. One of these decisions is media selection, the course designers' choice of appropriate instructional media for a course. Media selection requires a close look at the strengths and weaknesses of each medium based on the type of student, what he or she needs to learn, and how to teach it.

Growth in electronic technology has substantially increased the media options for delivery of training. Today's media choices include video, computer-based training, interactive television, video-conferencing, written correspondence, and on-line training, along with the usual classroom or workshop options. Choices may change from goal to goal and lesson to lesson to get the best training results from the available media. Many electronic media now provide delivery of training or partial training without trainees ever entering a traditional classroom--we call this distance learning.

G. Design Document

The outcome of the design phase is an instructional "blueprint," a design document, that guides development, delivery, and evaluation of the training. Often a design document details design decisions that guide the training development team in production of course materials. In addition, the design document serves as a managerial review instrument in the approval process required at this stage of training development.


The development phase translates design decisions into training materials. This is where the real work of course development is done. Using the objectives, instructional approach, and media selections from the design phase, development produces course materials for the trainer, course materials for the trainee, and evaluation instruments.

A. Course materials for the trainer

Lesson plans are the major element constructed during this phase. They function as a written "advance organizer" for the delivery of lessons by the instructor. Course materials include anything the instructor will need to present the lesson, including workbooks, handouts, visual aids, demonstration props, media equipment, and administrative materials.

B. Course materials for the trainee

Course materials for the trainee are materials that support and supplement lessons. These may include handouts that provide a summary of the presentation, replace or facilitate note taking, and provide references or job assistance back in the workplace.

C. Evaluation instruments

Testing and evaluating trainees' skills is a familiar part of learning and ISD. Often trainees are evaluated with cognitive or performance-based tests. Any form selected must test the trainees' mastery of lesson objectives. Written tests may include multiple-choice questions, and performance checklists may be used to record behavioral skills. The evaluation approach, form, and content identified in the design phase are produced in the development phase.

The development phase produces a standardized, documented approach to training delivery. This outcome assures that a trained, qualified instructor can deliver this training confident that training goals and objectives will be met.


The implementation phase focuses on the details of training delivery. Logistical arrangements, such as scheduling a training place, preparing an agenda, setting up the training environment, and even practicing the presentation ensure delivery of a training session that captures trainee interest.

A. Logistical arrangements

Logistical arrangements are addressed in the implementation phase. These are time-sensitive planning and coordinating details such as scheduling training facilities, arranging for the set-up and use of equipment, accommodating guest speakers, etc. Another step is generating the training schedule. This schedule ensures that the trainer and trainees are informed of all events programmed to occur during training.

A good training environment is critical to good learning outcomes. Arranged well in advance, the training environment should fully support delivery of training. In a classroom or other on-site setting, comfortable yet functional furniture, work areas, equipment, safety plans, and training materials should be ready to meet the learning needs of each trainee, including those with special needs. When using a distance-learning medium, distant-site facilitators should prepare training environments at their sites. In the case of on-line training, site facilitators or training department staff must schedule trainees' access to computer terminals and server connections.

Training room heating and cooling, lighting, and trainee accesses to rest rooms, food facilities, smoking areas, telephones, and parking are additional considerations that require preplanning. Most administrative tasks should be completed well in advance of training: trainee registration, issuance of maps and directions, etc. Another aspect of preparing the training environment is arranging for facilitation of a social climate conducive to group formation and peer interaction. Placement of furniture, rules of conduct, and "ice breaker" activities are useful for creating a desirable social climate.

B. Delivery of training

Delivery of the training is next in the implementation phase. The trainer must employ adult learning principles throughout the presentation. Using effective verbal and nonverbal techniques, the trainer must engage the trainees and demonstrate the appropriate skills necessary to achieve instructional objectives. He or she then must permit the trainees to practice their new skills, evaluate trainees' learning, and provide the trainees with feedback and an opportunity for remediation. The desired outcome of implementation is a roster of educated, skilled trainees.


The purpose of evaluation is to ensure that training-under-development stays on track, safeguarding achievement of training goals. Decisions about revisions for future course iterations can be made after evaluating the strengths and weaknesses in a completed training program. Finally, evaluation ensures that training improves performance back on the job. The ISD process includes two types of evaluation: formative and summative.

A. Formative evaluation

Formative evaluation monitors the training as it proceeds through the ISD process. Monitoring involves periodically reviewing the analysis and design documents to confirm that objectives are being developed and delivered as originally intended.

B. Summative evaluation

Summative evaluation is the process of reviewing a course or training after it is taught. It includes measurement of training outcomes in terms of trainees' opinions about the training, test results, on the job performance, and the benefit, or return on investment, of the training to the trainees' organization.

C. The feedback loop

Dynamic feedback loops are very important parts of the ISD evaluation process. If the training under development does not satisfactorily proceed through a particular ISD phase, checking it against specifications from an earlier phase may identify the problem. If a problem is identified, the training product must be corrected in the deficiency phase. For example, if the implementation phase training does not teach actual job skills performed at the trainees' job sites, the initial job analysis may be in need of revision. Back in the analysis phase, the training package must be corrected and re-developed from that point forward.

Training developed with the ISD model depends upon systematic movement through all five phases at least once or more than once, if revision is necessary. The evaluation phase tells us if training was successful, how successful it was, and where to correct the problems. Evaluation is the ISD phase that ties all other phases together through feedback. The outcome of one phase become input for the next. Feedback ensures that the transition of training through the phases stays on course.


Analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation: these are the production steps of training. They are also the phases of the systematic process for the development of training known as ISD. The strengths of the ISD approach are its simplicity, reliability, self-adjusting mechanism, and applicability to a broad range of training and educational needs. Withstanding the test of time, ISD persists as a strong influence in contemporary training.

Previous Next Go to PuzzleGo to Puzzle