Throughout all educational experiences there will always be a need for instructional design models and, a variety of processes have been introduced as a solid instructional design format over the years. All to assist with the creation of client content, these make sure it works and engages the learners. Although ADDIE is a top favourite when using these methods, the use of Successive Approximation Model (SAM) is on the increase. Just like with the ADDIE model, I want to introduce you to this new and flexible method for creating learning.

What is Successive Approximation Model?

SAM is an instructional development model in eLearning, originally created by Michael Allen. Developed long before most other repetitive processes, Allen wanted to change the way that we approach instruction. So, by using the SAM method his aim was to get instructional designers using smaller and more flexible steps when approaching learning. It is a process that focuses on taking small steps repeatedly to create instruction.

SAM consists of 3 stages:

  1. Preparation phase – the initial phase. A kick-off meeting with ALL project members to brainstorm, sketch and create learning outcomes.
  2. Iterative design phase – the second phase includes designing, prototyping and examining the prototype for any faults.
  3. Iterative development phase – similar to the second phase, the final phase of the model moves from development to evaluation and application of the learning.

instructional design model sam

This diagram shows us the stages of the SAM model.

It was an attempt to achieve high quality training as opposed to following rigid step-by-step processes that are attached to most known methods, such as ADDIE.

“Good instruction is inspirational.  It captures both the power of knowledge and skill as well as the joy of becoming competent.  Good learning experiences aren’t just about facts, they are about becoming a more proficient, capable, and valuable person.”

Dr, Michael Allen, Leaving ADDIE for SAM: An Agile Model for Developing the Best Learning Experiences (2012).


Advantages of the SAM model

  • The method of SAM is recursive rather than linear.
  • SAM combines both the ADDIE model and rapid prototyping.
  • It allows for a variety of different views to be considered as options and in addition, that could potentially improve the learning experience.
  • SAM uses iterations – small steps in development that makes time for evaluations and changes.
  • The goal of SAM is to find out where energy and resources should be placed to create learning material that can be used almost instantly.
  • This method is collaborative and heavily teamwork based. Good for smaller companies.

Disadvantages of the SAM model

  • It allows for the idea that mistakes are “inevitable.” However, this may result in overlooking potential issues with the learning.
  • SAM doesn’t acknowledge or account for risk in relation to the effectiveness of the learning. Yet, alternative instructional design models would.
  • A variety of input from more people can affect the cohesiveness of the project.
  • This method demands a considerable amount of collaboration to ensure the learning is consistent.

Which model should instructional designers use?

Take a look and follow that open road of possibilities when it comes to design methods!

So, should you leave ADDIE for SAM? In our opinion, you should come to that decision on your own.

As a result, every company should research the models. Decide which model is suitable in relation to the company. As long as the learning is good and complete, then the method of design is essentially, not that important.

Consequently, ADDIE vs. SAM shouldn’t be a battle for instructional designers. As long as you know how to use them both and the basic process phases, then simply adapt them to suit the client content! Your learning and design is going to be ace.