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Is Instructional Design a Science?

I'm starting this year with the hard hitting questions - Is instructional design a science? This question was posed to me in one of my doctoral program courses and I can't seem to shake it. So, I wanted to take some time this week to discuss and blog about the field and the practice of instructional design. In order to effectively discuss and answer the question for this week, let's 'chunk' the information.

Let's first discuss what is instructional design. Instructional design is the process by which learning experiences are designed, developed, and delivered. One of my peers simply put instructional designers are the architects of student learning - as in we build and develop the learning experiences.

Now, let's look at the definition of science. Science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. Initially, I thought that instructional design was not a science. I believed this to be true because when I think of science, I think of experiments where results can be repeated over, and over, with different people running the experiment. When I think of instructional design, I'm not sure if you give two IDers the same project that they will both come up with the exact same results. Therefore, I was thinking that ID is more of an 'art' than a science.

However, I think when you look back at the definition of science - instructional design does fall into this category. We look at (study) the behavior of our learners and then design and develop (practical activity) instructional experiences. The more I consider the problem and this question - the more I get confused and think that there is no exact right or wrong answer. I think it really could be argued either way. In those arguments - there could even be valid and real reasons why one could say ID is or isn't a science.

I'm curious of what you think. Is instructional design a science? Is instructional design an art? Is is something else?


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