Posted in 1. Instructional Systems Design, 503 Instructional Design for Educators

Teacher vs. Instructional Designer


I’ve thought a good deal about the differences between a teaching job and an instructional designers job. Ironically, my first hand experience in both fields makes it more difficult for me to see the distinction between the two.  As a teacher, I regularly fall back on my instructional design skills to plan effective learning units.

1. What are teachers expected to do that instructional designers are not?

I’ve been asked to answer the questionWhat are teachers expected to do that instructional designers are not?”  In short, teachers traditionally are looked at as people who deliver content.  Some key additional responsibilities include building relationships with students, communicating with parents, maintaining students’ personal records, collecting, analyzing, and reporting on performance, grading assignments, and establishing personal behavior and learning plans.  Teachers also need to complete a teacher certification program show mastery over the content areas they teach.  Contrary, as an instructional designer, I relied on subject matter experts (SME) to outline the content for course development.

2. What are instructional designers expected to that teachers are not?

To the second question I’ve been asked to analyze, “What are instructional designers expected to do that teachers are not?” I have a harder time delineating.  The basic answer is that instructional designers make decisions about how content is delivered.  They need to understand how to use different authoring tools, plan scope and sequence, write scripts, choose supportive media, and develop assessments.

By the same token, as a teacher short on time, I scavenger for material I can stitch together.  Instructional designers need to create their own material from scratch or purchase copyrights because often their work is created for a profit.  As a constructivist, it’s critical for me to design my own content so that I understand the logic behind the design. My teaching philosophy is that educators should build scenarios for students to discover new information and use the best platform possible to do that.

3. What are three major differences between instructional designers and teachers?
Three major differences between a teacher and an instructional designer are practical experience, focus, and expectations. Instructional designers must stay abreast of new technologies like graphics programs, mobile learning, podcasting, and interactive media.  Conversely, teachers gain experience in helping students fill gaps to construct new knowledge.  A second difference is instructional designers are required focus on content development and delivery.  While as a teacher, I received 6 weeks of training on Promethean’s authoring tool ActivInspire.  However, there was no requirement for me to incorporate this tool in my daily duties.  A teacher’s primary focus is on showing student growth.  Finally, Instructional designers are expected to design content and teachers are expected to deliver it.



Instructional Technology Coach. Mother. Life Long Learner.

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