Understanding Distinctions of Worth in the Practices of Instructional Design Teams


Instructional design, Design practice, Distinctions of worth, Instructional design teams; Case study


In this article we report our research into the concerns and other matters of significance for members of instructional design teams. Specifically we studied how members of a design team depicted the quality of their own motives while participating in team pursuits. This is a type of self-evaluation known as drawing distinctions of worth. Our research took the form of a case study, focusing on an instructional design team at a university in the United States. Based on interviews with team members and observations of their work, we devel- oped an account of our research participant’s distinctions of worth organized around three themes: (a) distinctions of worth could guide their decision-making more than did the goals of the project; (b) competing distinctions of worth could be difficult for them to reconcile; and (c) their distinctions of worth could be accompanied by unanticipated costs. Over- all, these themes reflect that distinctions of worth were a real aspect of our participants’ team involvement, and not merely their subjective responses to situational factors. This has implications for those managing teams or otherwise helping teams improve, which we dis- cuss. We also discuss how research into instructional design teams that only focuses on external dynamics team members experience, and not on factors such as their distinctions of worth, cannot fully account for what it means for people to contribute towards team outcomes.

Original Publication Citation

McDonald, J. K., Jackson, B. D., & Hunter, M. B. (2021). Understanding distinctions of worth in the practices of instructional design teams. Educational Technology Research and Development, 69(3), 1641-1663. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-021-09995-2

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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David O. McKay School of Education


Instructional Psychology and Technology

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor