The ADDIE model of instructional design: Your complete guide


ast week on the blog, we shared our guide to the Successive Approximation Model (SAM) approach to training project development. The SAM approach is often held up in comparison to the ADDIE model, but what is the ADDIE model?

The ADDIE model of instructional design is a stalwart of the industry, refusing to budge from its top spot as the most popular approach to project development after nearly fifty years.

So how did it get so popular? And why has it stuck around?

Illustration of a laptop on a yellow background with surrounding icons of emails, graphs and documents. Laptop screen reads "ADDIE"

Who created the ADDIE model of instructional design?

The ADDIE model of instructional design was originally codified by Florida State University in 1975. The model was developed for implementation within the U.S. armed forces, but later became widespread throughout the training industry, albeit with some tweaks to the initial design.

What is the ADDIE model?

The ADDIE model is a training project methodology consisting of five steps: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation.

The ADDIE model is popular for its easy-to-understand stages and alignment with business outcomes.

The ADDIE Model of Instructional Design. Analysis > Design > Development > Implementation > Evaluation

As the model was initially proposed, a project team moves through each step, one at a time, until a solution is produced. Later variations have placed the Evaluation step in the middle of the process, with the aim that evaluation and revision is conducted between each step to give the methodology more flexibility.

The ADDIE Model of Instructional Design. Analysis > Design > Development > Implementation > Analysis. All these connect to Evaluation.

Is ADDIE an agile instructional design model?

No, ADDIE is not an inherently agile model of development.

To borrow terminology from the world of technology, ADDIE uses waterfall methodology. Like a waterfall, it only progresses in one direction, with each step completed, signed off, and theoretically never returned to. This minimizes flexibility and agility within the project.

Some proponents of the ADDIE method will often advocate for a cyclical model, whereby the process can be repeated in full to improve upon a project after it has been completed. However the reality for the vast majority of businesses is that they do not have the time and resources to keep iterating upon a project after it is completed, particularly if it has been built in conjunction with an agency.

The ADDIE Model of Instructional Design. The five stages are shown in a cyclical diagram.

The Five Stages of the ADDIE model

Stage One: Analysis

The first step of the ADDIE model is to conduct extensive analysis of the business. This analysis is intended to expose and clarify the needs of the business and the intended audience of the solution.

The analysis stage is typically undertaken by a core team including the project managers and learning designers.

Some questions asked throughout the Analysis stage include:

  • What are the goals of the business?
  • Is training the right solution to achieve those goals?
  • What training currently exists and how might it impact the project?
  • What resources and funding are available?
  • How much time is available to complete the project?
  • What limitations or risks might setback the project?

The team should also analyze the intended audience for the training, including:

  • What is the typical demographic of the learners?
  • What prior knowledge do they have?
  • What knowledge or skill gaps do they have?
  • What will motivate or discourage the learners from completing the training?
  • When and how will they complete the training?

By the end of the analysis phase, your team should have a clear picture of what kind of training solution is required, as well as a comprehensive learner persona.

Young adults in professional workwear sit around a table conducting a meeting. Two women shake hands, smiling.

Stage Two: Design

The second stage of the ADDIE model is Design. In this stage, the comprehensive picture provided by the Analysis stage is used to inform the design of a solution.

An important first step here is to develop a set of learning outcomes that clarify what knowledge, skills or behavior changes should be produced by the training solution. These learning outcomes should work to service the business’s articulated goals.

You may also use this stage to define what learning theories, models and science will inform your design of the solution.

From there, the team can select which training formats are best suited to achieve the learning outcomes, such as eLearning courses, face-to-face workshops, seminars, mentoring relationships or podcasts. You might use just one, or a combination of formats.

The team can then begin to outline these solutions with tools such as storyboards and blueprints.

By the end of the design phase, you should have a clear set of briefs for the team members who will develop the solution, such as the learning designers, graphic designers, animators, videographers and/or developers. 

While the ADDIE model doesn’t require many of these creators to be involved before the development stage, it can be highly valuable to gather their input during the design phase to avoid accidentally designing impossible solutions. Project managers and learning designers may not have the expertise or frame of mind to spot potential pitfalls in the solutions that are being outlined in this stage.

At this point, it is possible to proceed to the development stage according to ADDIE methodology. However, it is often prudent to develop one or more prototypes of the solution. Prototypes are limited but functional working models of the final solution.

The advantage of prototyping in the design stage is that it turns what are otherwise abstract conceptualizations into tangible outputs. Crucial early feedback can then be gathered before too much development time is invested.

Three young adult workers stand together. A man in a yellow polo shirt holds a laptop and explains something to the man and woman standing next to him.

Stage Three: Development

With the foundations of the project in place, the team can then began to execute the design briefs. This looks like turning raw information into fully realized courses, workshops, videos etc.

Depending on the size of the project, the project may be developed and delivered in one package, or through a series of pieces and milestones.

Because the design briefs have received complete signoff by the beginning of this phase, it can be extremely challenging and time consuming to the project if any aspects turn out to be too difficult to create, or receive overhaul-level feedback.

The development phase also includes extensive quality assurance testing and debugging of any developed solutions.

Stage Four: Implementation

Once the solution is fully developed and approved, it can be implemented. How a project is implemented is influenced by the format of the training, as well as any plans laid during the Analysis stage.

At this point the project is typically transitioned away from the “creative” team members (learning designers, graphic designers, videographers etc.) and back to the project managers, as well as any implementation specialists, such as LMS operators.

Uptake of the training may be mandated by the company, such as to meet compliance requirements, and therefore implementation may include setting deadlines and reminders for completion.

The training may also be voluntary, leading to a different implementation approach characterized by marketing activities to make potential learners aware of the existence and benefits of undertaking the training.

A photo taken through a window wall shows four workers standing around a table covered in documents in an industrial style meeting room.

Stage Five: Evaluation

Evaluation is sadly often the most frequently neglected stage of the ADDIE model. While some ADDIE advocates argue for evaluation as an integrated step of each of the prior four steps, it traditionally refers to gathering data on the success of the course.

Evaluative data can be qualitative or quantitative.

Quantitative data may include:

  • The completion rate of the complete training program, or of individual pieces.
  • Assessment success rates.
  • Rate of uptake of the training (if uptake was voluntary).
  • NPS or CSAT scores.

Qualitative data may look like:

  • Learner surveys with open ended questions.
  • Observations by the learning team of behavioral changes after training is completed.
  • Interviews or surveys with managers about changes or improvements in their teams.
A young woman of south asian ethnicity holds a notepad and smiles at her colleague.

Is the ADDIE model right for you?

The ADDIE model remains extraordinarily popular with instructional designers, but it may not be the right approach for every team.

The ADDIE model can work well for organizations or agencies in which meeting successive predetermined milestones is an unavoidable necessity of the project.

However, its sequential nature can mean that initial proofs of the project may not be available until the middle or end of the third stage. If these proofs do not meet the expectations of key stakeholders, it can then cause devastating setbacks to the project which must return to earlier stages and reestablish signoff.

The ADDIE model also traditionally excludes various team members at different stages in the project, meaning that some key members may not become involved until the development stage or later. This can lead to misunderstandings, or late discoveries of critical issues in the project.

Consequently, the ADDIE model is often criticized for its rigidity and potential for major blowouts.

In more recent years, some instructional designers have turned to more agile methodologies, such as the Successive Approximation Model (SAM) that feature much greater flexibility, earlier prototyping and more creative freedom than ADDIE. These methodologies can work well for smaller teams with looser business frameworks.


The ADDIE model is popular because it provides a clear, step-by-step process for instructional design teams to follow, with easily identifiable milestones.

However this clear, linear process can also be its greatest weakness, with the rigid structure exposing it to the risk of major setbacks.

Jul 28, 2022

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