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When Does a Theory Become Outdated

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Some of you might be aware that I write training programs. And to design training, I use the ADDIE model. It was developed by Florida State University decades ago as a way to design training for the military. ADDIE is an acronym that stands for Assessment, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.

There are other instructional design models out there. Michael Allen authored a book titled, “Leaving ADDIE for SAM”, which talks about the ADDIE model of instructional design and proposes a transition to a new model called SAM, which stands for Successive Approximation Model.

Allen’s book contends that ADDIE wasn’t really a great model for instructional design in the first place. With relatively recent trends such as social and informal learning, ADDIE isn’t keeping pace with today’s business demands. His book outlines a new model, SAM, which considers the changing face of learning and business.

Honestly, the jury is still out for me whether I’d “leave ADDIE for SAM” but I did find the book an interesting read. It offered a challenge that merits discussion.

When does a model or theory become obsolete?

I think conventional wisdom tends to suggest that, once a model or theory reaches a certain status, then that’s it. We don’t challenge its application or place in the business world. As fast as today’s world works, I’m not sure if that’s true anymore. Granted, it might take a lot of convincing that an established model or theory isn’t relevant anymore. Or that a particular model needs updating. But I believe we need to get ready for an era of change where classic models and theories are concerned.

This doesn’t mean that learning classic theory shouldn’t happen. Being able to explain the evolution of change when it comes to theories and models is incredibly important. It demonstrates a depth of knowledge about the subject matter.

It also doesn’t mean that the older models and theories were bad or wrong. Older models served a purpose. They taught us things and provided a basis for discussion and discovery.

As we look at the new innovations of our time, I can see moments where we will be forced to challenge conventional models. It will be our responsibility to listen to argument, test the new model and realize the results for ourselves.

In thinking about instructional design, is the ADDIE model passé? I don’t know. Frankly, it works for me. But I need to be open to the idea that someday, I might have to start using a different better model.

P.S. I’m very excited to be facilitating a virtual seminar for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on L&D: Developing Organizational Talent. We’ll be talking about how to design learning initiatives. Details about the learning objectives can be found on the SHRM website. I hope you can join us.

Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Gainesville, FL

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About Mildred Blankson

I am a Human Resource Professional with a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management. I have several years of experience in Human Resources and i hope this blog will be a great resource in helping you find the perfect job or candidate that you seek.

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