Instructional Design Basics: What Is ADDIE?

Instructional Design Basics: What Is ADDIE?


Instructional Design Basics Image

Many people who wind up having training creation as part of their job roles have never had a full opportunity to learn about the basics of instructional design, how people learn, and how to develop training.

One of the things people in this situation sometimes don't know if that there are processes, models, or methods that already exist that make the process of creating training more orderly, more effective, and more systematic.

One of those, and in fact the most commonly known one, is ADDIE. ADDIE is an acronym that stands for each of the steps of the model--analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluation (or you might see it listed out as analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation). ADDIE's not the only model for the creation of training--there are others. And ADDIE's not without its imperfections and it's critics.

But if you're new to training, it's definitely worth your time becoming aware of ADDIE. Even if it's only your introduction to the idea that there are systematic, formulaic methods or models you can use to develop training. And even if you ultimately wind up using a different method.

But there's also a chance that you'll find ADDIE very helpful, that you'll use it a lot in your job as a trainer or training developer, or that you'll develop and use your own, somewhat-custom version of ADDIE over time.

So let's cut the introduction at this point and explain the ADDIE instructional design and/or training development model for you below in some more detail.

What Is ADDIE and What Does It Stand For?

As we explained up top, ADDIE is a commonly used method for working through issues related to whether or not training is needed for workplace performance issue; what the needs, requirements, and goals are for the organization as a whole and for the learners/employees; how to design and develop the training; implementing the training; and then evaluating the training to see if it was effective and/or if it could be improved through revisions in a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement.

ADDIE is a five-step process, although each of the steps can be divided into smaller steps or tasks. The five steps of ADDIE are:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

Let's take a little closer look at each of those five steps below.

Analysis or Analyze

The analysis phase of ADDIE is sometimes also called the training needs analysis and/or the training needs assessment. I find that confusing and I just think of it as analysis.

The first thing to do during analysis is to identify the "problem" you're thinking of developing training to fix (or in other cases, it may be an opportunity you're trying to grasp). You want to start by making sure you know what the problem is.

Next, you'll want to figure out what's causing the problem. This can be helpful because if you know the cause, you can find the best solution. And sometimes, even though you're a trainer or you were thinking of creating training, you'll find that training isn't the best solution.

Note: The processes of identifying the problem and determining its cause is discussed in human performance improvement models and often involves systems thinking.

Also during analysis phase of ADDIE, you'll want to:

  • Analyze the business or organization's goals and how training might fit into those goals
  • Analyze the actual job task or performance so you'll know how to train people to perform it
  • Analyze the current ability of employees to perform the task (as well as their possession of prerequisite, enabling knowledge and skills)
  • Learn more about the learners, including their training preferences, schedules, language and literacy issues, digital literacy issues, and similar concerns
  • Use the information you discovered while learning about the task performance and organizational goals to begin creating evaluation strategies for your training and KPIs/metrics to assist with that evaluation

For a little more on this analysis process, check out our Mager & Pipe Problem-Solving Flowchart infographic.


You can think of design as the "blueprinting" or planning phase of training development. You use the information you collected during analysis to inform your design, naturally.

During the design phase of ADDIE, you'll:

  • Create the learning objectives for your training --what must employees be able to do when the training is over (and when they're back on the job)
  • Determine the criteria for successfully completing the training
  • Create the actual assessments (tests)  based on those criteria--yes, before you develop the training itself (!)
  • Select the instructional methods that will best help employees satisfy the learning objectives (see our article on evidence-based training methods here)
  • Select the training delivery method(s), such as classroom-based instructor-led training (ILT), elearning, virtual classrooms, etc. (and/or the blended learning solution) that will best allow you to include those instructional methods in your training in a reasonable, practical, cost-effective manner in order to help employees satisfy the learning objectives
  • "Chunk" training and determine the most helpful sequence of those chunks to support learning and skill development

Develop or Development

If you designed your training materials during the design phase, during the development phase of ADDIE, you will (you guessed it!!) develop those materials. Or, in other words, you'll make them.

What you actually make will develop on the training delivery method you've chosen. For example, if you're planning instructor-led training, you may need to make a PowerPoint, and if you've chosen elearning, you may need to make an elearning course.

But remember not to get tunnel vision here. Don't just create what the employees need to complete. In addition, think about creating:

  • Learner workbooks or similar materials
  • Instructor/facilitator guides
  • All your slides for things like PPT
  • Other visual aids
  • Materials for hands-on demonstration and practice
  • And so on

Finally, run out your training program in a small beta test, ideally with a group of employees who are similar to the larger employee population the training is intended for, to try to find and fix problems before you go big-time with your training.

Implement or Implementation

During the implementation phase of ADDIE, you're going to deliver training that to the employees (honestly, I often think of "designing, developing, and DELIVERING training, but let's not bust up our nice acronym here).

There is a little more to implementation than just delivering training though, to be fair. Some things to do include:

  • Scheduling training with employees and managers
  • Informing managers/supervisors of the training program, explaining what it's about, and helping them learn how they can further support the training once the training session is over and workers are back on the job
  • Getting a room and/or similar logistical details

Evaluate or Evaluation

In the fifth and final step of the ADDIE instructional design model, you'll want to evaluate your training, determine if it was effective or not, and make revisions if and when necessary.

Just as there are several different models for training development in addition to ADDIE, there are several different models for training evaluation.

The most common training evaluation model is the Kirkpatrick Four-Level Evaluation model, which includes evaluating training at the following "levels:"

  • Level 1--learner reactions
  • Level 2--learning (tests)
  • Level 3-On-the-job behaviors
  • Level 4-Organizational results

Additionally, some other common training evaluation models include:

  • Brinkherhoff's Success-Case Model
  • The Kaufman Model
  • The Phillips "ROI" Model
  • The Thalheimer LTEM Model

To learn more about these, check out our Four Common Learning Evaluation Models interview, our LTEM Learning Evaluation Model interview, and our Kaufman's Four Levels of Training Evaluation article.

Some Additional Thoughts about ADDIE

Now that we've explained ADDIE to you, let's quickly introduce and discuss some related points.

Is ADDIE the Only Training Delivery Model Out There?

Nope. There are plenty of others, including SAM, Agile, and Llama. We'll try to cover those in some later articles. People often use design thinking for training development as well.

Is ADDIE Really a MODEL for Instructional Design?

You sometimes see folks on social media discussing this and they seem quite passionate about noting that ADDIE's not a model.

I admit, I've never found the point very interesting and I'm not sure I fully understand the point they're making. I THINK the point they're making is that because there's still quite a bit to learn, decide, and do at each step of ADDIE, it's not a model. For example, you can't just "analyze," you need a further list of analysis tasks. So I think that's their point and I apologize if I got it wrong.

But again, it's not something that seems very important to me. But it's true--you need to know more than the meaning of these five words to carry out ADDIE for instructional design purposes.

Perhaps I'm giving this point less than it's due. Here's an extended discussion on the history of ADDIE if you want to learn more.

What Are Some Criticisms of ADDIE?

To my knowledge, there are two primary criticisms.

One is that it takes too long to work through, especially in our rapidly changing world. There's a point here.

The second is that it's a linear process with no room for mid-stream iterations. When you hear people talking about ADDIE as a "waterfall" method, that's what they're saying, and they believe it's important to make more adjustments mid-stream and generally be more flexible and agile. I agree that it shouldn't be waterfall, but I also believe it's easy enough to build in iterative analysis and revisions.

Conclusion: ADDIE is the Standard, Most Common Training Design & Development Method for Instructional Design

We hope you enjoyed this quick intro to ADDIE. Be sure to read more on it and check out some of the other alternative methods as well. And let us know if you've got some questions.

And don't forget to download our free guide to writing learning objectives, below!

Want to Know More?

Reach out and a Vector Solutions representative will respond back to help answer any questions you might have.