Instructional Designer Competencies: The Standards, Fourth Edition

reviewed by Anthony Piņa - May 18, 2015

coverTitle: Instructional Designer Competencies: The Standards, Fourth Edition
Author(s): Tiffany A. Koszalka, Darlene F. Russ-Eft, & Robert Reiser
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1623964032, Pages: 178, Year: 2013
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As one who has been an instructional designer for higher ed, industry, government, and military organizations, and who has also taught instructional design for universities and now oversees a team of instructional designers, I was eager to read and review the latest edition of Instructional Designer Competencies: The Standards. Tiffany Koszalka, Darlene Russ-Eft, and Robert Reiser are well known and highly respected academic professionals in the fields of instructional design (ID) and human resource development. Their authorship of this volume helps to establish its credibility.

Since 1986, the International Board of Standards for Training Performance and Instruction (IBSTPI) has been publishing competency standards for instructional designers. These standards have enjoyed acceptance by the leading professional associations in instructional design and technology, performance improvement, and training/talent development.

This latest edition of Instructional Designer Competencies: The Standards, is the result of twelve years of work by ID professionals from a dozen countries and reflects changes in the field and practice of ID from 2000–2012. The IBSTPI competency series also includes books on competencies for instructors (Klein, Spector, Grabowski & de la Teja, 2004), evaluators (Russ-Eft, Bober-Michel, Koszalka & Sleezer, 2013), training managers (Foxon, Richey, Roberts & Spannaus, 2003), and online learners (Beaudoin, Kurtz, Jung, Katsuaki & Grabowski, B. 2013).

The basic set of ID competencies is available as a free download from the IBSTPI website; however, the book adds significant value by including commentary, analyses, research, and most importantly: ideas and recommendations for implementation of the competencies in different settings and specializations. As a bonus, the book even includes a note about the origin of the wonderfully awful acronym IBSTPI.

The first chapter provides a history of IBSTPI since its foundation in 1977, and an understanding of how the competencies have been derived and will be presented. Chapter Two presents the 22 competencies within the framework of the “ID Competency Model.” The model breaks the competencies into five general domains: (a) professional foundations; (b) analysis and planning; (c) design and development; (d) implementation and evaluation, and (e) management. Each domain contains from three to seven competencies. Not surprisingly, the design and development domain contains the greatest single number of competencies. Each competency is classified as either essential (expected to be possessed by all practicing instructional designers), advanced (possessed by experienced/senior instructional designers), or managerial (possessed by those who manage the ID process).

A highly useful aspect of the ID Competency Model is the inclusion of between three and ten performance statements for each competency. The performance statements are classified as essential, advanced, or managerial. Using the same classifications for both competencies and performance statements has advantages (e.g., being able to apply the competencies at different levels) and disadvantages (e.g., having advanced competencies with essential and advanced performance statements might be confusing to those who assess novice instructional designers). Overall, I would judge the advantages to outweigh the disadvantages.

Chapter Three reinforces the importance of the ID competencies by offering a brief commentary on each domain and each competency. Chapter Four provides guidance and examples of ways in which the competencies can be used to guide practice for (a) instructional designers; (b) ID practitioners; (c) ID/training managers and administrators; (d) academics and researchers; and (e) organizations involved in the professional development and performance improvement of their members. The recommendations were sound and appropriate. For me, this was the most applicable and value-added chapter in the book.

Chapter Five is the most original and ambitious contribution by the book. In it, the five domains, 22 competencies and 105 performance statements are mapped to common specializations within the ID field: (a) instructional designers specializing in a particular area, such as distance education or performance improvement; (b) analysts and evaluators; (c) ID managers, and (d) e-learning/instructional technology specialists (e.g., multimedia/online designers and developers). Overall, the authors do a commendable job by providing a well-formatted table to present this array of information in a user-friendly manner.

Chapter Six provides an account of the design and results of research conducted over a period of 15 years to establish and validate ID competencies. This offers readers empirically-based evidence of the credibility of the authors’ work. The book’s appendices include the previous standards from 2000 for comparison, a glossary of terms, and IBSTPI’s ethics standards for instructional designers. There is also a comprehensive list of references cited within the book.

As an ID manager, I was concerned that a number of items that my peers and I tend to deal with on a regular basis (including the determination of professional development for IDs and person-based issues involved in overseeing and supervising IDs and subject matter experts) were not recognized as part of the ID managerial role. This was not surprising, since management has played a relatively minor role in the field of instructional design and technology and is not included in most academic programs preparing instructional designers (Ashbaugh & Piña, 2014).

The field still emphasizes management of processes, rather than leading and managing people; however, M. David Merrill (2007) has recommended that academic programs should prepare instructional designers to manage “designers by assignment”—people charged with designing instruction who have not received formal ID training. My concern is tempered by the fact that this latest edition of the competencies has now established management as one of the five principal domains of instructional design, thus paving the way for the future development and expansion of the management domain.

Instructional Designer Competencies: The Standards is a useful reference for instructional designers who want to do a personal inventory check on their competencies and look for areas in which to enhance their skill sets. Academic programs in instructional design can benefit by comparing existing curriculum to the competencies to identify any gaps in the training of students. Researchers in the emerging area of design research can find many fruitful topics. Finally, those like me who oversee instructional designers and instructional design processes will find many useful insights and ideas for implementation.


Ashbaugh, M. L., & Piña, A. A. (2014). Improving instructional design processes through leadership thinking and modeling. In B. Hokanson & A. Gibbons (Eds.), Design in educational technology: Design thinking, design process and the design studio (pp. 223–248). New York, NY: Springer.

Beaudoin, M., Kurtz, G., Jung, I., Katsuaki, S., & Grabowski, B. (2013). Online learner competencies: Knowledge, skills and attitudes for successful learning in online settings. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Foxon, M., Richey, R. C., Roberts, R., & Spannaus, T. (2003). Training manager competencies: The standards (3rd ed.). Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology.

Klein, J. D., Spector, J. M., Grabowski, B., & de la Teja, I. (2004). Instructor competencies: Standards for face-to-face, online & blended settings (3rd ed.). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

Merrill, M. D. (2007). The future of instructional design: The proper study of instructional design. In R. A. Reiser & J. V. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 336–341). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. 

Russ-Eft, D. F., Bober-Michel, M. J., Koszalka, T. A., & Sleezer, C. M. (2013). Fieldbook of evaluator competencies. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: May 18, 2015 ID Number: 17969, Date Accessed: 12/2/2021 8:18:36 PM

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