ASTD and ISPI both have certifications relative to the field of instructional design & technology. There are other competency models (e.g. IBSTPI.org) you can use in defining position profiles and evaluating candidates; however, beyond these I focus my evaluation of candidates in the following four areas:
Values and Business Alignment
First and foremost the candidate should show an understanding and appreciation of the organization’s business model as well as the values of the organization. According to Reighluth (1999), values play an important role in instructional-design theory. Values go beyond the needs assessment and help align the learning program’s purpose with the business needs and desired approach to learning.
Values also influence the instructional methods that should or should not be used in instructional conditions or situations specific to the organization. For example one organization I work with values learn-by-doing as a key learning principle. The organization values learning activities that combine real work with realistic learning outcomes versus lectures and instructor-led presentations.
An instructional designer who designs a course which is primarily PowerPoint presentations and uses only exams for student assessments will not be successful in this organization. So while a typical candidate’s resume may show an extensive career history in training and instructional design, the candidate may not be a good fit for the organization if there is no appreciation of the mission of the organization and willingness to adapt instructional-design models and processes to organizational values.
Comfort with Technology
Most instructional design positions today involve technology. For better or worse, technology influences instructional design. It can be an enabler to create innovative instructional methods. But it can also be a constraint or limiting factor. Because of this, many experts in the field advocate that the name of the discipline should be Instructional-Design & Technology (IDT) (Reiser, 2012). Not all formal education in the field of instructional design recognizes that the technology environment should be a meaningful part of the assessment (e.g. environmental scan). You should seek to understand how comfortable the candidate is in learning to use various technology platforms and adapting instructional methods to fit the technology. Since it is a given that the organization’s technology platform will change in time, try to determine how capable the candidate is in leading the selection and adoption of learning technologies. Will the candidate help the organization move forward with technology or become a resistor to using new technologies and innovations?
Instructional designers typically work with executive sponsors, instructors (or faculty), and line departments across organizations as well as Information Technology and/or Academic Technology teams. The ability to establish and maintain positive relationships with people and communities in complex organizations is an essential skill. Instructional designers must be equally comfortable working at a detailed level with end-users and line supervisors, and at a conceptual level with management and executives. It is more than having strong communication skills. It also includes social and networking skills. I look for candidates who can express their work in terms of a future vision or state while recognizing the environmental constraints in designs that are practical and reflect reality. Questions I ask include:
- Is the candidate comfortable working within these constraints but never satisfied with the status quo?
- Can they share this internal conflict without being edgy about it?
- Is this someone who understands transformational processes and can help achieve consensus when working with a diverse community of stakeholders?
What is the candidate’s approach to professional development? The field of Instructional Design is constantly changing so I’m interested in how the candidate keeps up with these changes. Conferences and membership in professional associations is a good sign. Actively participating in professional learning networks is even better.
I am interested in seeing examples or artifacts of previous work; not so much for the accomplishment, but for the lessons learned. The candidate should be willing to not only discuss what worked, but also what didn’t work and why. These reflections are important to me and I hope to see the candidate link learning theory, instructional design models and processes, environmental factors, etc. as they reflect on the experience. The primary factor to look for is the depth of their reflections on their experiences. What thoughts and ideas do they have; innovative designs they would like to try in future ID projects.
Reigeluth, C., (1999). What is instructional-design theory and how is it changing. In C. Reigeluth (Eds.), Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory (5 – 29). USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Reiser, R.A. (2012). What field did you say you were in? In Reiser, R.A. & Dempsey J.V. (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology, 3e. (1 – 7). USA: Pearson.