MET:Dick & Carey Systems Model of Instructional Design

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March 17, 2013. Original design by Mel Burgess

The Dick & Carey Systems Model of Instructional Design is a step-by-step guide of how to deliver educational content.[1] The Model itself is not the delivery method, it is simply an example of how learning can be structured in a way that puts the learners' interests first, while incorporating feedback at all levels of the design in order to improve further teaching lessons.


Walter Dick received his undergraduate from Princeton, then his PhD from Penn state University in Educational Psychology before teaching at Florida State University.[2] Dick studied alongside Robert Gagne and was heavily influenced by the work of Gagne, specifically his “The Conditions of Learning” published in 1965.[3] Lou Carey was a graduate student of Walter Dick and later was co-author with Dick to “The Systematic Design of Instruction” published in 1978.[4] Her husband, James, joined in the effort to help write this book due to his expertise in educational technology and new media technologies. Together, Dick and Carey developed a model of Instructional Design described as the “Systems Approach Model” which was presented within “The Systematic Design of Instruction”. This model has simply become known and the “Dick & Carey Model”.

The Dick & Carey Model

This systems approach model incorporates 10 interrelated parts, which depend upon each other, and offer feedback for each other to accomplish an educational goal or set of goals. Based on many years of research, learning theory, and practical experience, the Dick & Carey Model is used to plan, design, implement, and evaluate instruction . Described by Gustafson and Branch (2002) as "one of the most popular and influencial ID models", the Dick & Carey Model places emphasis upon constructivism, which at its focus, describes learning as being “constructed” as new information combines with previous knowledge and/or experiences, and therefore dependent upon appropriate learning environments designed by the teacher.

Components of the Dick & Carey Model

The 10 components (Dick and Carey, 1990) of this systems approach relate to each other directly, as indicated by the solid lines in Figure 1[5], and also indirectly, through feedback during and after learning, as represented by the dashed lines in Figure 1.[5]


Figure 1. The Dick & Carey Model of Instructional Design

Assess Needs to Identify Goal(s):

Educators must determine what it is that we wish learners to learn through assessment, experience, analysis, practical requirement, and/or descriptive goals.

Conduct Instructional Analysis:

The entry behaviours required of learners must be determined, that is, the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to begin instruction

Analyze Learners and Contexts:

The learners’ current level of skill, preferences, and attitudes are determined as is the environment in which learners will learn and then use new skills.

Write Performance Objectives:

The teacher writes specific outcomes of student learning. These outcomes outline the skills to be learned, the conditions under which skills are shown, and criteria for success.

Develop Assessment Instruments:

The assessments utilized by the instructor should parallel the learners’ ability to show what was described by the learning objectives. Measurement of the desired behaviours is represented by the assessment.

Develop Instructional Strategy:

The teacher will identify strategies to be used that best elicit learning. Strategies include pre-instructional activities, how information will be presented, as well as how students will practice and receive feedback before testing. An emphasis on current learning theories and research is placed on strategy selection within the context of learning.

Develop and Select Instructional Materials:

The artifacts of instruction are presented, such as a learner’s manual, tests, and all other materials of instruction (ie. modules, learning activity packages or “handouts”, interactivities, resources, etc.).

Develop and Construct Formative Evaluation of Instruction:

Data is collected on how to improve upon instruction through evaluation of the preliminary learning. Evaluations in the form of one-to-one evaluation, small-group evaluation, and field evaluation are performed. The results of these evaluations provide valuable feedback on how to improve instruction.

Revise Instruction:

The results of the evaluation shed light on the validity of the instructional analysis and assumptions of leaners’ behaviours and characteristics. The instructional strategy is reviewed and altered accordingly to be more effective. This final step can also be seen as the first step when repeating instruction.

Design and Conduct Summative Evaluation:

Because summative evaluation does not involve the creator of instruction (usually), this component is often regarded as being separate from the design process. This evaluation determines the overall value of the instruction.

The Dick & Carey Model and Individualized Education

Some of the key benefits (Dick and Carey, 1990) to using this systems model include:

  1. A focus is placed on what learners will be able to do when learning is complete.
  2. A focus is placed on what learners must know in order to begin instruction.
  3. Skills and knowledge are thoughtfully taught.
  4. Conditions for learning are considered.
  5. Instruction is designed to be replicated, and therefore revised and improved upon.
  6. A wide variety of potential users, including teachers and others involved in instructional design.

It is important to note, that this model of ID is used to design instruction, and is not in itself the delivery method. Instructors, modules, and computers are examples of ways that learning is delivered. The Dick & Carey Model can be used to design individual learning as well as design instruction of groups, whether the instruction itself is being teacher-led or self-directed in nature. As such, the Dick & Carey model serves as a valid model of systems design for initiatives such as "21st century learning".


Gustafson, K. L., & Branch, R. M. (2002). What is instructional design. Trends and issues in instructional design and technology, 16-25. <references / "dick"> <references / "gagne"> <references / "wikipedia"> <references / "opencontent"> <references / "flowchart">