Leaving ADDIE for SAM


Developing learning products is a difficult task.  Most would think that anyone can watch someone else do it and imitate it, or use the logic, “I was once a student, I know what I liked and didn’t like.  I could design courses.”  This mindset leaves us in the sad place of one-sided, boring, one-size fits all products that we have seen in use for years that do not adequately service the learner.  One of the major issues that I have run into is, “What is the best model to use for design and development of said learning products?”  For this reason I began reading “Leaving ADDIE for SAM” by Michael Allen.  I know, I know it sounds like a strange romance between a couple from the 1950’s but it is comparing and contrasting the two Instructional Systems Design (ISD) models.

First some background, ADDIE stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.  The ADDIE Model was designed at Florida State University to explain  “…the processes involved in the formulation of an instructional systems development (ISD) program for military interservice training that will adequately train individuals to do a particular job and which can also be applied to any interservice curriculum development activity.” (Branson, 1975)  So how can we design materials for rapid development and implementation.  Over the years many have modified their approach to ADDIE because they found there to be challenges.    Because this model is linear in nature, each piece must be completed before moving on.  This also means that if there are any issues with the design, they may not be seen until the Evaluation phase toward the end of the project.  Allen rightly points out that this leads to strained timelines, low resources, and ultimately a poorer product than attempted. (Allen and Stiles, 2012)  Others have recognized the need of an iterative process to combat this issue but noted that the need for planning and the multiple approvals make it difficult to come up with a testable product in the early stages.

This brings us to SAM or the Successive Approximation Model.  This model brings the iterative process in the early stages to guide the design and development processes. The input is collected from the shareholders, project managers, and potential learners to improve the final outcome.  My original thought is that by gathering input from so many people this early in the project  there would be  so many ideas and/or critiques that the project will never be complete, but this model takes a change in mindset.  Being a Science teacher, I am relatively comfortable with experimenting, the SAM model asks the designer to experiment and ask the questions  “Why isn’t this a good design?” instead of “What are all of the possible ideas?”  The approvals are still necessary, but there is flexibility to make changes as you go instead of waiting until the end to realize there is a problem. (Allen & Stiles, 2012)    

As you can see from the title of the post, This is only the beginning of my exploration with this model, but I can’t help but think of how this relates to not only e-learning development but also face-to-face blended instruction.  As I read through this book I am re-evaluating many of the units that I have set up in the past.  I see areas for improvement and areas for removal in order to provide quality learning experiences for my students. I am  looking to my PLC members, colleagues, and students to assist in the design process.


Allen, M. W., & Sites, R. H. (2012). Leaving ADDIE for SAM: An agile model for developing the best learning experiences. Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and Development.

Branson, R. K., Rayner, G. T., Cox, J. L., Furman, J. P., King, F. J., Hannum, W. H. (1975). Interservice procedures for instructional systems development. (5 vols.) (TRADOC Pam 350-30 NAVEDTRA 106A). Ft. Monroe, VA: U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, August 1975. (NTIS No. ADA 019 486 through ADA 019 490).