Discovering Instructional Design 10: the Dick and Carey Model

According to the Encyclopedia of Distance Learning (Boettcher et al, 2005)

Design models can be defined as the visual representations of an instructional design process, displaying the main phases and relationships. Each phase has an outcomes that feeds the subsequent phase. Currently, there are more than one hundred different ISD models.


The most commonly known (and frequently used) instructional systems design models are the:

I will be looking at these models over the next few posts, beginning today with the Dick and Carey Model.

In discussing the Dick and Carey’s 2004 model, Boettcher et al describe Walter Dick and Lou Carey as the “torchbearers” (p.164) of the Systems Approach, as outlined in the former’s “authoritative” text The Systematic Design of Instruction. The Encyclopedia asserts that the Dick and Carey model is “very popular” (p.164) in current ISD development. This model is based upon the Behaviorist assumption that there is a predictable link between a stimulus and the  response that it elicits in the learner. It describes the phases of instruction (see Figure 1) as an iterative process that starts by identifying instructional goals and concludes with evaluation.

The Dick and Carey method is to break instruction down into smaller components or granular objectives that collectively constitute the competency to be acquired. Next, the stimulus and strategy for its presentation that builds each sub-skill are defined.  The steps in the model are shown in the Figure 1, and described briefly below.

Dick and Carey Model

Figure 1. Process view of the Dick and Carey Model [click to enlarge]

Phases of the Dick and Carey Method

The steps described in the the Dick and Carey process are listed below:

  1. Determine the instructional goal
  2. Analyze the instructional goal
  3. Analyze the learners and contexts
  4. Write performance objectives
  5. Develop assessment instruments
  6. Develop instructional strategy
  7. Design and conduct formative evaluation
  8. Revise instruction
  9. Undertake summative evaluation

Process to Define Performance

Phases 1 and 2 align very closely with Robert Mager’s approach (1988). He suggests a five-step process in the translation of a vague instructional goal to a set of rigorously defined desired or intended performances, which the author elucidates in a very practical manner:

  1. Write down the goal using whatever abstract terms express the intent and be sure the statement is written in terms of outcomes rather than process. For example, “Have a favorable attitude to…” rather than “Develop a favorable attitude to…”.
  2. Think about achieving the goal in terms of people performance. What would people have to do or say or stop doing and saying before you would be willing to say that they represent the goal? List as many performances as you can think of.
  3. Sort the list. Many of the items will be ‘fuzzy’ and not describe anything about performance per se. As SMEs to undertake steps 1 and 2 again. Continue until there is a list of performances that collectively represent the goal – until it can be said that if someone did these things and did not do these other things that would represent the goal.
  4. Expand the words and phrases on the list into complete sentences that tell when or how often the performance is expected to occur. This will help to establish limits around the expected performance. It will enable the instructional designer to say “how much” performance is satisfactory to undertake the task successfully. For example, a goal analysis on security consciousness might include the item ‘no unattended documents’. When expanded into a complete sentence it may read “Employee always locks sensitive documents in safe before leaving room.”
  5. Test for completeness. Review the performances on your list and ask:

If someone did these things, would I be willing to say that he or she has competence in [insert task | skill | activity]?”.

(Mager, R. Making Instruction Work. 1988, pp 45-46)

If this is the case, the goal analysis is finished. If not, return to step 2 and add the missing performances.

Next: The Morrison, Ross, and Kemp Model



Boettcher, J. V., Justice, L., Schenk. K., Rogers P. L., & Berg, G. A (2005). Encyclopedia of Distance Learning. Idea Group Reference

Carey, L. and Dick, W. (2004). The Systematic Design of Instruction (6th Ed.). Allyn & Bacon.

Mager, R. (1988). Making Instruction Work. Belmont , CA: Lake Publishing Co.