AEC Training Basics: An Introduction to the ADDIE Training Design Model

AEC Training Basics: An Introduction to the ADDIE Training Design Model

The architecture, engineering & construction (AEC) industry, like many or most industries, has some folks within their L&D departments who are super-proficient in analysis, instructional design, training design development, classroom instructor-led training skills, and similar “training” basics, as well as others in L&D who don’t yet have those skills.

And that’s OK. Almost all professions have practitioners who are spread out over a wide job knowledge-and-skills spectrum. What matters is that those less-experienced trainers/L&D professionals are enthusiastic and ready to put in the work to learn more about how people learn at work and how they can facilitate the learning of others, helping their AEC organizations reach key business goals while also helping the employees being trained reach their own goals as well. Things like making a successful transition to a new company, acquiring skills for the next job, staying safe and healthy at work, and so on. 

One of those “training basics” that new trainers and people involved in L&D in the architecture, engineering & construction industry should know about, even if they don’t ultimately choose to use it, is the ADDIE training development model. We’ll introduce you to ADDIE in this article.

This article is part of an ongoing series of articles titled AEC Training Insights that we hope will provide training professionals in the AEC industry with some helpful, basic tips to improve their training programs at work. This article on ADDIE represents the first steps of what you should do once you’ve determined that training is an appropriate solution to a workplace problem. Please read our article on the front-end analysis from HPI to learn how you might come to that conclusion. 

The Importance of A Training Design & Development Method

In many job tasks or professions, there are sequential steps for getting things done. Those have been developed over time and they generally reduce waste and errors while making sure the job gets done efficiently, completely, and well. 

The same is true when it comes to training design and development. If we didn’t have training design and development models (such as ADDIE), we’d probably make training that’s much worse than we would with the help of those models. We’d leave things out, we’d forget steps, we’d do steps in orders that aren’t the most efficient, and so on. 

So in general, it’s a good idea to have some form of training design and development method. It’s going to make things run more smoothly, it will reduce the chances that you’ll leave something out, and it will increase the chances that your efforts in one phase will more directly complement efforts in other phases.



Is ADDIE the Only Training Design & Development Model?

The short answer to this question is: no, ADDIE isn’t the only training design and development model you can use for your AEC training. In fact, there are quite a few others: SAM, LLAMA, LeaPS, design thinking, agile, and so on. Ultimately, you can choose to use whichever one of these you want, and some folks in the training profession use different models for different training efforts. 

And ADDIE has its critics. Some feel ADDIE is exclusively a beginning-to-end, linear, “waterfall” method, and they criticize ADDIE for that (still others think if nothing else it’s too close to linear). That point has been debated, and I don’t fully agree with the “waterfall” criticism, but there’s a point there. And certainly that’s why there’s been interest within the training world in models like agile, which is made for making quick stops and starts, performing iterations, evaluating quickly, failing fast, and so on. 

But once you’ve become familiar with ADDIE, you can consider some of its pros and cons and evaluate the claims of its critics, and consider other models too. That’s great! But it probably will be to your benefit to know what ADDIE is and how to use it because (1) it may well serve your training development needs; (2) it’s the most commonly used method; (3) it has a lot in common with the other methods anyway; and (4) knowing about ADDIE just might help you answer a question in Trivial Pursuit or be good for dinner conversations at home with the family 🙂



The Five Steps of ADDIE

Alright, so let’s explain what ADDIE is.

The first thing to know is that each of the five letters in ADDIE stands for one of the steps or phases or ADDIE. Those steps are:

  • A is for Analysis
  • D is for Design
  • D is for Development
  • I is for Implementation
  • E is for Evaluation 

Pretty simple, huh? Let’s take a little closer look at each of these steps.

Analysis: During the analysis phase, you’ll more closely investigate the “problem” the training is intended to solve. This is often a performance problem or performance gap. If it turns out that the performance gap is caused by a knowledge or skill gap, then training may be the right answer. You’ll also want to identify related business goals, learn more about the job tasks/procedures involved, and of course learn a whole lot more about the employees/learners.

Design: The design phase is somewhat like drawing up blueprints before you construct a building. During this phase, you’ll make a plan for how the training is going to work. Two essential aspects of this will be to create your learning objectives and learning assessments. You’ll also design the “chunks” of your training and a sequence as well as determine the correct training delivery method (example: written document, video, elearning course, classroom-style instructor-led training, virtual instructor-led training, VR, AR, etc.) or blend.

Development: If the design phase is like drawing up a blueprint, then development is like constructing the building. Here’s when you’ll create written materials, PPTs, student books, job aids, instructor books, elearning courses, videos, infographics, and so on. Additionally, one thing to think about during development, once you’ve got everything created, is to run a limited pilot/beta test with a small group of workers to catch any problems before you assign the training to a larger group of workers. 

Implementation: Implementation is a big word that means deliver the training. There are a few things to keep in mind here. First, if it’s classroom instruction or live virtual instruction, the person who is actually leading the learning experience has their hands full and will need a well-developed skill set for leading classroom training or leading virtual instructor-led training (and keep in mind, those are two different skill sets, not the same). Second, if it’s technology-based training, such as an elearning course delivered through a learning management system (LMS), you’ll want to do your homework early so there are no tech glitches. Third, remember training delivery doesn’t have to be a one-and-done-thing, and in fact we invite you to spread training out over time to create a continual learning experience and benefit from improved training results and outcomes. And finally, keep in mind that you’ll want to coordinate with the managers or supervisors of the workers who will complete the training. You’ll want to make sure the manager knows what the training is about but also collaborate together to find the best ways for the manager to reinforce and support the training when workers are back on the job.

Evaluation: Evaluation means determining if your training was effective. Of course, “effective” is a broad and vague word with multiple possible meanings. The most common way to think of training evaluation in the L&D world is to use the Kirkpatrick four-level model, evaluating training at the following “levels”:

  1. Reaction--what the learners thought about the training. This is often discovered through the use of a “smile-sheet” learners fill out when the training is over. 
  2. Learning--what the learners learned during the training, as measured by an assessment (test) of some sort. This is usually administered immediately after training, and it has some value, but keep in mind knowledge and skills can erode quickly over time. 
  3. Behaviors--what the employees actually do on the job when the training is over. 
  4. Results--the effect the training, learner, and changed on-the-job behaviors has on a business goal (typically as measured by a KPI/metric identified and tracked before training begins in the analysis phase of ADDIE)

Although the Kirkpatrick training evaluation method is the most common method, it’s not the only one. Check out our recorded discussions with learning researcher Dr. Will Thalheimer on Common Learning Evaluation Models and his own LTEM Learning Evaluation model for more. 

Feel free to download our What Is ADDIE? infographic before you go on reading.

Wrap-Up: Using Some Standard Training Design Method Will Improve Your AEC Training

We hope you found this introduction to training design methods in general and ADDIE in particular of interest. Keep in mind that ADDIE’s a very common model but not the only one. You may ultimately decide to use a different model at different times, but at least knowing about ADDIE will most likely aid in your professional development within L&D and may well provide you the training design method you’ve been looking for.

Of course, we provide online training and continuing education for the AEC industries as well, so do let us know if we can help out you, your organization, and the employees who work there. You might also find our recorded, on-demand Selecting & Using Online AEC Training webinar helpful. 

And download our guide to writing performance-based learning objectives to get you started!

Jeff Dalto, Senior Learning & Performance Improvement Manager
Jeff is a learning designer and performance improvement specialist with more than 20 years in learning and development, 15+ of which have been spent working in manufacturing, industrial, and architecture, engineering & construction training. Jeff has worked side-by-side with more than 50 companies as they implemented online training. Jeff is an advocate for using evidence-based training practices and is currently completing a Masters degree in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning from Boise State University. He writes the Vector Solutions | Convergence Training blog and invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.

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