||The practice of instructional design in higher education is informed by a spectrum of educational theories, many of which are contradictory. First developed by the U.S. military and then widely implemented in business and industry, instructional design (ID) has only recently been adopted by academia. As an ID practitioner in a university setting, the author has identified the need to quickly select from a range of relevant theories, reconcile and blend them into an effective practical strategy, and apply it to the design challenge at hand. The selection, blending, and application of theory happens on projects of any scale and is performed almost automatically after accumulating enough design experience.
In order to explore and write about this process, the author considered his role as an ID consultant for the design and delivery of both academic and technology presentations. He first identified core theories such as andragogy and cognitive load theory, but soon discovered that he routinely intertwines dozens of theories, pedagogies, and best practices from a surprising array of sources. Understanding this blended theory required detangling each thread and considering it in isolation. It was this exercise of deconstruction that led the author to conclude that no single theory can unilaterally guide practice. For every design assignment, the instructional designer is bound by multiple constraints including teacher and learner ability, affordances of the physical or virtual learning environment, time, resources, and the limits of his or her own experience and knowledge. Comprehension of theory is crucial, but the design process requires the practitioner to continuously adapt his or her approach to the perpetually shifting constraints of each design challenge.