Incorporating Social Factors into Instructional
Daniel W. Surry
University of Southern Mississippi
John D. Farquhar
NOTE: The following article was orignally
printed in a Conference Proceedings. The authors grant permission to copy
this article for educational purposes but retain copyright and other applicable
rights. The citation for the original article is:
D.W. & Farquhar, J. D. (1996). Incorporating social factors into instructional
design theory. In M. Bailey, & M. Jones, (Eds.) Work, Education, and
Technology (pp. 6.1-6.8). DeKalb, IL: LEPS Press.
Incorporating Social Factors into Instructional Design
Instructional developers commonly use the Research
Development Diffusion model when developing products. A major problem
is that products developed with this model have failed to be widely adopted
in practical settings. The authors believe the model is flawed because
it fails to account for the social factors present at the adopting sites
that influence adoption. The authors conclude that social factors must
be incorporated into the instructional development process in order to
society are inseparable. The design, development, adoption, utilization,
and diffusion of technology are inherently social processes. As Howard Segal
writes in his book Future Imperfect (1994), "all structures and machines,
primitive or sophisticated, exist in a social context and, unless designed
for the sake of design itself, serve a social function" (p. 2). Technology
and society interact and influence each other, sometimes benignly, other
times violently. Technology impacts, shapes, and àredefines society
and, in turn, a variety of social factors affect the development, implementation,
and spread of technology.
As with all other technologies, society and the technology
of instruction are irrevocably intertwined. Many instructional design
theories, however, neglect or ignore the social context in which instructional
products are intended to be used. The primary purpose of this paper is
to provide a basic understanding of the important role that society plays
in the adoption of technology and to suggest methods for incorporating
societal factors into the instructional development process.
Before discussing social factors specifically, it is important
to have a general understanding of why social factors are important and
relevant to the field of instructional design . Social factors are important
to ID because instructional products have not been widely utilized in
educational and training settings (Burkman, 1987). The Research Development
Diffusion (RDD) paradigm that predominates in the field of instructional
development has proven to be inadequate to the task of producing instructional
pàroducts that people want to use.
The RDD paradigm seems capable of producing effective
instruction but is flawed by its over reliance in "Technology Push" --
a belief in the inevitable forward advance of society powered by ever
improving and more powerful technology. Technology Push assumes that products
which are technologically sophisticated and technically sound will be,
as a direct result, widely adopted and correctly utilized. The overall
failure of many large-scale curriculum development projects in the 1960s
(Hall and Hord, 1987) iàs a notable example of the fallacy of Technology
Push and highlights the limitations of the RDD paradigm
The current development paradigm's lack of attention to
social factors and over reliance on Technology Push often result in the
development of instructional products that are not widely adopted even
though the products may be technically sophisticated and instructionally
sound. In order to increase the utilization of instructional technologies,
it will be necessary to expand the RDD paradigm and account for the many
factors which impede or facilitate the adoption of instructional products.
As will be discuàssed in this paper, societal factors play a vital
role in the process of technology adoption. Incorporating social factors
into the process of instructional development is essential to creating
instructional products that are both instructionally sound and desirable
to potential adopters.
Social Factors and the Adoption of Innovations
All technologies impact the society in which they are used. Toffler (1970)
succinctly describes technology's impact when he writes that "new machines
do more than suggest or compel changes in other machines -- they suggest
novel solutions to social, philosophical, even personal problems ... they
alter man's total intellectual environment -- the way he thinks an looks
at the world" (p. 29). Segal (1994) adds an important point when he writes
that "if, as in the significant case of the auto, modern technologày
solved a number of problems, social as well as technical, from the outset
it simultaneously bred or helped to breed several others, social and technical
alike" (p. 30).
The literature related to the adoption of innovations
is replete with discussions of the importance of societal factors. One
of the most comprehensive theories of diffusion is described in E.M. Rogers'
(1987) book Diffusion of Innovations. Figure 1 summarizes a number of
variables identified by Rogers that influence the rate of adoption.
The variables which
influence an innovation's rate of adoption
(Rogers and Shoemaker, 1971)
As shown in Figure 1, a number of factors play a role
in determining the rate at which an innovation will be adopted. What is
most notable about Rogers' model is that the technological superiority
of an innovation plays a relatively minor role in determining rate of
adoption. Many other factors, most of them relating to the social factors
present at the adopting site, play just as large a role as technological
superiority in influencing rate of adoption. Among the factors identified
by Rogers are: the way àthe innovation is perceived by potential
adopters; the type of decision making processes at the adopting site,
and; the social system (the values and norms) in place at the adopting
Another model of innovation diffusion that stresses the
importance of social factors is the Stockdill and Morehouse Model. Stockdill
and Morehouse's (1992) model is a synthesis of many diffusion theories
and provides a thorough overview of the many factors that affect the adoption
of an innovation. The factors are grouped into five categories: 1) educational
need, 2) user characteristics, 3) content characteristics, 4) technology
considerations, and 5) organizational capacity. The authors recommend
that thàe change agent hoping to introduce a new technology analyze
the factors included in each category. Based upon the analysis of each
category, the change agent must decide whether to stop the adoption effort,
reconsider the effort, or to proceed to the next category for analysis.
As with Rogers, Stockdill and Morehouse emphasize that a number of factors,
not only technological considerations, play a vital role in the adoption
of innovative technologies.
The Rogers and Stockdill and Morehouse models point out
the central theme that social factors play in the diffusion of innovations
literature. Current diffusion literature is, in many ways, antithetical
to the RDD paradigm's reliance on Technology Push. In spite of this, instructional
developers continue to believe that instructional effectiveness and technological
superiority alone will guarantee the adoption and diffusion of their products.
Limitations of Existing Instructional Development
Despite the central theme societal
factors have in the adoption and diffusion literature, instructional products
are often designed without regard to the social factors that influence
adoption and utilization. One likely reason for this neglect can be found
by examining the theoretical models commonly used in the field of instructional
technology. These models are used by instructional designers and systems
developers to manage and organize instructional development activities
and to communicate the overalàl process to clients (Gustafson,
1991). Instructional development models provide the procedural framework
by which instructional products are produced.
There are numerous models of instructional development.
Gustafson (1991) skillfully organizes many of the most widely-used instructional
development models into a logically organized taxonomy. Gustafson classifies
the models into Classroom ID Models, Product Development Models, and Systems
Development Models. For the purpose of this paper, we will primarily discuss
the product development models.
Perhaps the most widely used instructional development
model is the Dick and Carey Model (1990). While Gustafson classifies this
as a Systems Development Model, it is also commonly used by instructional
product developers. The Dick and Carey Model describes a development process
that begins with the identification of goals and proceeds through formative
evaluation, revision and summative evaluation. There is little doubt that
the model provides a valuable description of all of the key ID activities
and plaàces them in a logical sequence. Notably lacking from this
model, however, is any mention of the social context in which the product
will be implemented.
As with the Dick and Carey Model, other widely used product
development models also fail to account for social context. Gustafson
(1991) writes that the goal of product development models is "to prepare
an effective and efficient product as quickly as possible" (p.7). While
all three of the product development models reviewed by Gustafson describe
a logical process for developing "an effective and efficient product",
none of them contains a thorough discussion of the need to analyze the
social context in wàhich the product will be used. In fact, only
one of the three, The Van Patten Model (1989), even mentions the need
to consider the implementation or continuing maintenance of an instructional
In reviewing Systems Development Models, Gustafson writes
that such models usually call for an extensive analysis of the use environment
before instructional development even begins. Of the five systems models
reviewed by Gustafson, two -- The IDI Model and The Diamond Model -- do
discuss in some detail the need for an analysis of the social context.
The IDI Model (Twelker, 1972) calls for an analysis of the audience, organizational
personnel, and organizational resources before development begins. The
Diamond Model (1989) goes even further than the IDI Model and calls for
an analysis of societal and organizational needs and for an examination
of human and organizational resources before development.
The examination of the preceding instructional development
models leads to three important conclusions. First, none of the most widely
used product development models include an analysis of the social context
as an important part of the development process. Second, product development
models do not always mention adoption and diffusion, and when they do,
adoption and diffusion are typically considered near the end of the development
process, usually after the product has been developed. Third, while some
systems development models do tend to call for a thorough analysis of
social context, these models are not often used to guide the production
of specific instructional products but, rather, are reserved primarily
for the development or repair of broader instructional systems.
Tools for Incorporating Social Factors into the ID
We have seen in the previous section that most ID models don't adequately
account for the social factors that influence an innovation's rate of adoption.
There are, however, a number of tools that can be incorporated into existing
practices to increase the attention to social factors. Incorporating these
tools into existing models will create is a logical and necessary step in
the evolution of instructional development theory and result in a powerful
synthesis of diffusion theory and instructional developmàent theory.
Beginning with the initial research phase of instructional
development, the diffusion literature tells us that key consideration
should be given to the physical and social attributes of the implementation
environment. Critical factors can be discovered through an Environmental
Analysis (Tessmer, 1991) and an Adoption Analysis (Farquhar & Surry,
1994). Each procedure identifies key social characteristics that have
profound impact on the design of instructional products.
Adoption Analysis is a process, performed during the analysis
phase, by which instructional developers identify key factors that will
likely influence the adoption of their product. The analysis will allow
developers to account for the most vital adoption factors during the development
process. An adoption analysis focuses on both individual and organizational
factors. Developers look at the user characteriscs and perceptions of
the potential adopters in order to determine the type of product potential
adoàpters are looking for. Also, the physical environment and support
systems in place at the adopting site are analyzed to determine the technical
specifications that will make the product more likely to be adopted and
maintained. Based upon the adoption analysis, modifications are made to
the product's design in order to create a product that is desirable and
practical to the adopters.
Product evaluation, both summative and formative, has
long been an essential part of the instructional development process.
Formative-evaluation methodologies commonly practiced in the field of
software development include rapid prototyping, usability testing, implementation
evaluation and field testing (Flagg, 1990; Skelton, 1992; Tripp &
Bichelmeyer, 1990). Each of these methods incorporate a cycle of feedback
from selected individuals within the target population. This information
is used to modify desiàgn and implementation strategies thus improving
the product's chances for successful adoption and utilization. We contend
that the most successful formative-evaluation methods are those that are
conducted in social environments most reflective of the planned implementation
Ernest Burkman (1987) was one of the first authors in
the field of instructional technology to provide specific suggestions
for incorporating social factors into the RDD paradigm. Burkman writes
that, in order to increase the utilization of instructional products,
instructional development models should be more user-oriented. Burkman's
User-Oriented Instructional Development (UOID) Model is a five step process,
based in part upon Rogers' (1983) theory of perceived attributes, for
incorporating important social factors into the development process. The
five steps of the UOID Model are:
The Concern Based Adoption Model (CBAM) (Hall & Hord,
1987) is another excellent tool for incorporating social factors into the
instructional development process. In their book Change in Schools, Hall
and Hord (1987) describe a process change facilitators can use to bring
about change in a school setting. The CBAM model stresses the need for change
facilitators to understand change from the point of view of the people who
will be affected by the change. While CBAM deals with change in school settings,
the àtechniques described by the authors and the model's emphasis
on seeing innovations from the point of view of the potential adopters are
transferable to other settings.
- Identify the Potential Adopter
- Measure Relevant Potential Adopter Perceptions
- Design and Develop a User-Friendly Product
- Inform the Potential Adopter (of the user-friendly
- Provide Post-Adoption Support
There are several components to the CBAM Model. One of
the most useful components to instructional developers is Probing.. According
to the authors, the change facilitator must probe to determine how the
change clients experience a proposed innovation. The authors write that
change clients experience an innovation through three dimensions: Stages
of Concern, Levels of Use, and Innovation Configurations. The authors
also stress the importance of considering the context in which an innovation
will be used. Hàall and Hord recommend that the change facilitator
make an intervention based upon the analysis of the three dimensions and
the context of the innovation.
The final tool that can help integrate social factors
into the instructional development process is Systems Theory. Systems
Theory attempts to create a holistic view of a given process by identifying
all of the inputs and outputs of a system. Systems Theory is not a new
concept nor is it completely foreign to the ID filed. The systems engineering
approach gained popularity in the 1950s, partly as a response the prevailing
view that hardware was the most important component of a successful system
(Saettler,à 1990) The 1950s notion that hardware is the most important
component of a system is very analogous to the prevailing notion in instructional
development today -- that an effective and technologically superior instructional
product is the most important factor in adoption.
Schiffman (1991) describes five views of instructional
development ranging from the most narrow media-only view to a highly synthesized
systems view. The systems view sees an instructional product not as a
separate, isolated entity, but as an entity that will exist in a highly
complex, integrated and interconnected system. The systems view represents
a modern and sophisticated way of looking at an instructional product
and can be a valuable tool for developers looking to increase the adoption
of their products.
Conclusions and Recommendations
A complex variety of social factors influence the
adoption of new technologies. The RDD paradigm, and the myriad of instructional
design models based on that paradigm, do not adequately account for the
importance of social factors in product adoption. As a result, instructional
technologies have experienced a lack of utilization, not only in traditional
educational settings, but in military and industrial settings (Burkman
1987) In order to address the inadequacy of existing models and to facilitate
the adàoption of instructional products, social factors should
be incorporated into instructional development models. The following recommendations
are provided in the hope that they will contribute to the evolution of
instructional development theory:
Instructional developers should consider adoption
and diffusion as strongly as they consider instructional effectiveness.
Developing effective and efficient instructional products does not necessarily
mean that the products are desirable or useful to potential adopters.
The field of instructional development has made great breakthroughs in
designing and developing effective instruction. Few breakthroughs have
been made, however, in developing products that people want to use. One
of the basic tenets of instructional technology is "if the objectives
were not met, it means the instruction was not adequate." It seems odd,
therefàore, that when an instructional product is not adopted,
instructional developers often blame the potential adopters. Another basic
tenet of the field should be "if the product was not adopted, it means
the design of the product did not adequately plan for adoption."
Instructional developers should understand that
adoption is the result of purposeful planning and does not automatically
follow the development of instructionally or technically superior products.
adoption theories of E. M. Rogers and Stockdill and Morehouse discussed
in this paper describe innovation adoption as a complex process that is
influenced by many factors. Technological superiority is only one of a
number of factors that influence a person's decision about whether or
not to adopt an innovation. The complex process outlined in the adoption
literature reveals Technology Push to be an overly simplistic concept
and shows that instructional developers must to more than create effective
products if they want to increase utilization. In order to increase utilization,
developers must understand the complexity of the adoption process and
develop a systematic plan that determines and accounts for the most important
Instructional designers should modify their design
and development models to incorporate the various tools discussed in this
If instructional developers are to plan for adoption as carefully
as they plan for instructional effectiveness, then current models of instructional
development will be insufficient for the task. Planning for adoption requires
an evolutionary advance in the models instructional developers use. Emerging
theories that place an emphasis on the user and on the social context
in which a product will be used can be incorporated into existing product
development models. Adoption Analysis, User-Oriented Instructioànal
Development, Rapid Prototyping, and Field Testing are only a few of the
tools that developers can use to determine and account for adoption factors.
Research should be undertaken to determine the best
method for incorporating the tools into the ID process and to determine
if the tools have any affect on product adoption.
The tools described above have not been examined in practical settings.
There is no published evidence to suggest that employing any of the tools
will result in the increased adoption or facilitated implementation of
an instructional product. Research into the effects of these tools is
non-existent and urgently needed. Large-scale longitudinal studies that
examine the impact and effectiveness of these tools on the adoption and
continuation of instructional products would be laborious and costly,
but very uàseful. In addition, applied research is needed into
how to use the tools during the development process. How, for example,
should a development team actually conduct an adoption analysis? What
are the best techniques for testing the usability of a product? How can
rapid prototyping assist developers in determining the perceptions of
potential adopters? These are only a few of the important and unanswered
questions related to social factors and instructional development.
In conclusion, it is not the intention of this paper to
put forth a new model of instructional development. We agree with Gustafson's
(1991) conclusions that "the literature is replete with models, each claiming
to be unique and deserving of attention" (p.47) and "it appears that well
over half of the ID models have never actually applied, never mind rigorously
evaluated" (p. 47). The last thing the ID field needs is another untested
design model claiming to be unique and valuable.
Much more importantly than putting forth a new ID model,
what is really needed is a new way of thinking. Instructional developers
should consider the potential adoption and implementation of their products
as carefully as they consider the instructional outcomes. Put another
way, the value of an instructional product should be measured by the degree
of adoption and the success of implementation just as much as it is now
measured by cognitive and affective outcomes. In order for this to happen,
instructionaàl developers will have to analyze and account for
the social context in which their products will be used. Also, developers
will have to make adoption an important consideration of their design
models throughout the entire ID process.
Like it or not, instructional products do more than help
learners in attaining certain instructional objectives. To borrow from
Toffler and Segal, instructional products suggest novel solutions, alter
the way people look at the world, and simultaneously solve and breed a
number of problems. Instructional products will never be widely utilized
until instructional developers understand the powerful role that social
factors play in adoption. Instructional developers who don't realize the
impact their productsà have on society, on real people in real
places, are viewing their products too narrowly and ignoring the biggest
obstacle, and greatest potential, of their field.
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Cite this document as:
Surry, Daniel W., & Farquhar, John D. Incorporating
Social Factors into Instructional Design Theory. [Online] Available http://www.hbg.psu.edu/bsed/intro/docs/social/,
August 1, 1996.