As instructional designers and eLearning developers, our ultimate goal is to create effective learning experiences for our companies and organizations that lead to real changes in performance. We have many models and approaches that can guide our work, but with the release of the Leaving ADDIE for SAM Field Guide, co-written by Richard Sites and Angel Green, we now have a handy reference to make the most of Michael Allen’s iterative and pragmatic Successive Approximation Model (SAM). The Field Guide builds on the checklists, worksheets, templates, and tools from Leaving ADDIE for SAM and is formatted in a way to help you effectively implement SAM and “move the needle” on your eLearning and instructor-led training initiatives.

What it is … and what it isn’t

To be clear, the authors point out that the Field Guide is “a companion to Leaving ADDIE for SAM, not a replacement.” And having read Allen’s book and put many of the SAM tenets to work in my own practice, I wholeheartedly agree. Readers will find the most value in the Field Guide when they fully understand the basic background information found in Leaving ADDIE for SAM.

The authors divided the book into four main parts: Preparation Phase, Iterative Design Phase, Iterative Development Phase, and Conclusion. The authors do highlight the fact that although the Field Guide moves through SAM in this chronological order (Figure 1), in real-world application the process is indeed iterative and non-sequential. Given those details, the Leaving ADDIE for SAM Field Guide will quickly become an essential reference for everyone who uses SAM to guide the design and development of their eLearning, instructor-led, or blended learning initiatives.

Figure 1: SAM is an iterative design and development process for creating interactive learning events

Making SAM work

The team at Allen Interactions has seen much success using SAM to develop highly effective learning experiences that are meaningful, memorable, and motivational, and the authors structured the Leaving ADDIE for SAM Field Guide in a way to help other project teams use the process to guide their own work. Let’s take a closer look at each section in the Field Guide:

  • Part I: Preparation Phase

    This section focuses on the tasks involved in backgrounding (information gathering) and conducting the Savvy Start. The Savvy Start is distinct from most project kick-offs in that the goals of the meeting are to brainstorm, prototype, plan, revise, and tell stories that will clarify the actual performance the project seeks to improve. Within Part I of the Field Guide, readers will find a list of backgrounding questions and numerous worksheets to help plan, manage, and document the Savvy Start. This section includes instructions for four exercises (role play, timeline, rotating flipcharts, and build a skills hierarchy) to help the group define the desired behavior of the learners, as well as ideas and worksheets to help guide the prototyping process.

  • Part II: Iterative Design Phase

    This section of the Field Guide includes high-level content about SAM’s Iterative Design phase and includes a project-plan outline, project-status report template, and ways to build learning activities and involve a different kind of SME—the subject matter enthusiast—throughout the process. As readers likely acknowledge, most projects begin with a sizeable amount of existing content. But, the challenge for instructional designers is to develop and refine that content into different or new forms that result in more than just passive learning (Figure 2). The team at Allen Interactions builds learning events based on four components—context, challenge, activity, and feedback (CCAF)—and the Field Guide includes a sample CCAF content grid and worksheet to help guide your own development efforts.

    Figure 2: Content development through SAM

  • Part III: Iterative Development Phase

    The third section of the Field Guide features important guidance and useful project tools needed to bring a learning product to fruition. Specifically, readers will find strategies and worksheets for managing user reviews from the Design Proof through Alpha, Beta, and Gold releases. Most helpful in this section is the fact that design of the review worksheets is for eLearning and instructor-led training projects alike. Part III wraps up with great suggestions related to planning for future revisions and quick questions for a one-year course revision strategy.

  • Part IV: Conclusion

    The Field Guide concludes with the SAM Leadership Self-Evaluation worksheet from Leaving ADDIE for SAM, with additional insight on rating yourself and the one key skill needed to be a successful SAM leader. Curious about what that skill might be? You’ll have to read the book! Sites and Green close the Field Guide with a note to readers about the importance of making small changes and steps towards “moving the needle” on current training efforts.

The bottom line

If you’ve read Leaving ADDIE for SAM and put the process to work, then you will certainly find the Field Guide helpful in your day-to-day work. Yes, some of the examples and worksheets are the same from one book to the next, but the added resources and updated format make the Field Guide a practical reference guide that you’ll be sure to turn to again and again.

Bibliographic information

Sites, Richard and Angel Green. Leaving ADDIE for SAM Field Guide: Guidelines and Templates for Developing the Best Learning Experiences. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press, 2014.