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C2C Digital Magazine (Spring / Summer 2021)

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Gamifying: A systematic consideration of everything

By Hattie Wiley, NOAA National Weather Service

Instructions Design is a systematic stage-based process for creating curriculum, courseware, or other forms of performance development, training, or teaching materials. This process has numerous models which label the stages in a variety of manners; however, the basic “ingredients” always remain the same. These stages include some form of analysis (gathering necessary project information), design (writing training materials), development (creating presentations and/or other training materials), implementation (launching or delivering the course), and evaluation (Carliner, 2015).

Each model has its own set of merits and flaws, and many are designed for a specific type of situation. Don Clark does an excellent job illustrating this concept on his web site:

The benefits of adhering to any model, process, and/or applying some pre-organizer techniques such as outlining or charting out your approach prior to writing are many fold. Analysis stages can ensure you are spending your time, energy, and resources on the most effective solution. Deeper levels of analysis and high level design (objective writing, pre-organizers, etc.) ensure your approach covers all aspects, remains on target, and stays within scope. Well-written, active objectives lead to well-written and active materials. In fact, all of this leads to greater clarity and organization when it comes to the design or writing out your content. Separating design from development gives you time to draft out and edit content long before time consuming steps like programming and graphic design take place. Additionally, it helps prevent iconophilia from destroying an otherwise logically organized course. You know - iconophilia - when you make and love some piece of imagery sooooo much that you just have to include it - even when it is no longer relevant. I could stay on this soapbox, “the benefits of sound instructional design” for eons, but I digress. Long story short, ultimately, all of these steps lead to more effective and engaging materials and decrease the chance that you may need to rework your materials down the line. Yet, sometimes, the “how to” gets a little muddled or lost.

For example, let’s return to analysis. What do you do for analysis? The response at this point varies greatly from just writing stuff down, using what the SMEs (Subject Matter Expert) gave me, to more advanced tools like job shadowing, focus groups, surveys, and more - all of which is great stuff. However, how do you know that you have covered everything?

AQAL:  An Analysis of Everything?

Yes. Everything. Like, I see you have the job tasks listed, but how do people feel about this new thing, or how does it compare to the old thing, or how is it going to impact how people work with the greater organization? Will people need to contact or receive support from departments that they have not interacted with before? … and so forth. At that point, people generally say something like, “Oh, wow, I did not think of that. You always ask the best questions.You are a genius!” And while my ego would more than happily accept such high praise, I must admit I am using (you guessed it) a model. Of course, I am systematically applying models, right? That’s science not art.

One model that I tend to use was actually designed to be a theory of everything, Ken Wilber’s (2000) AQAL (all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, and all types) model. Today, I am going to be very superficial in this explanation, looking only at the quadrants.

Figure 1:  Ken Wilber’s AQAL Model. Data adapted from Esbjörn-Hargens, 2010

Side Note: Ken Wilber’s (2000) Integral Theory is not specifically an instructional design model; rather, it is a metatheory for everything, an attempt to create an all-inclusive or integral map of everything or anything to help ensure the inquirer is “touching all bases” on whatever inquiry they are exploring. Wilber tends to hang out in the integral and mindfulness fields, but what I love about this model is the practical application.

Looking at the quadrants above, you can note that Wilber urges us to look at the inside, the outside, the singular, and the plural - which can be translated as you see above. Drop your personal subject matter into the mix, and we will discover (at least for corporate/government training) that most of our findings will typically fall in the top right quadrant; which is great for creating objectives. However, analysis should be used for more than just creating objectives.

A closer look at individual attitudes, beliefs, etc. (the top right corner) can tell us if we need to “sell” a course. Do we need all the bells and whistles? If motivation is low because of poor attitudes, then the answer might be “yes.” Jazz up that course.  Make it exciting! Remember, a spoonful of sugar?

Is it an individual resistance, or is there something in the lower left quadrant at play? Are there cultural reasons for resistance? Are there groups or subgroups of learners who are resistant? If so, take special effort to design a course that includes relevant examples for everyone and interactive practices to build confidence, in addition to a strong visual appeal. Include those narratives that build the case. Show those learners how beneficial it is (whatever you happen to be training) in terms they can relate to. This is also a good place for including narratives from real life users and case study examples.

Conversely, if the learners are already excited about the new information, no need to waste everyone’s time building out frills. Give them what they want in an efficient manner.

Last but not least, consider the lower left corner of the quadrant. How will this training (or set of materials) impact the system as a whole? If new boundaries and new alliances are going to form, what will be the impact of such changes? Should supervisors, support services, or other positions also receive training to unify expectations? Can you tie these materials back to your organization's mission and/or strategic goals? Do the learners see this connection as well? Taking time to consider the grander system in which your materials will exist can help ensure funding and resources, as well as learner time or obligations to completing the training. Another way to think about this quadrant is “senior level by-in.” Do you have an executive champion, and will this training create lasting change in the organization?

So basically, I am just skipping around these squares when I start asking instructional designers “what” they have considered. When I make my own materials, I fill these squares in. When you work with others, you can make it a game or a challenge. So that is what I will leave you with.

Make It a Game: King of the Storm

King of the Storm is a brainstorming, points-racking game I created guided by the four quadrants of Wilber’s AQAL Model.

Materials needed: playing cards, sticky notes, something to mark the quadrants (see below), a token for the champion (perhaps a paper crown)

Set Up

  1. Use string or tape to mark the quadrants or just place a piece of flip chart paper on the table and draw the matrix. (Make the squares much larger than I did in the example below.)
  2. Print off or write down a brief description of each quadrant.

Each suite will represent a quadrant, and if you are familiar with Kirkpatrick's Levels of Evaluation, you can note these in the various quadrants as well.





Hearts - I, the self, the individual

Kirkpatrick Level 1: personal satisfaction / reaction

Diamonds - extrinsic rewards, observable behaviors, performance

Kirkpatrick Level 2: learning


Clubs - the culture, the group

Kirkpatrick Level 3: behavior

Spades - impacts to the larger system

Kirkpatrick Level 4: Return on Investment

Either deal out cards or leave the entire deck face up and scrambled on the table or divided into suites - whichever you all prefer.

Each player writes aspects of the topic on the sticky notes, and sticks it to a card that represents the level of concern.  number cards = numeric value | J,Q,K,A = 9,10,11,12 pts.

For example, I might rank a current apathetic attitude across the organization a level 6 of Clubs. If the attitude was hostile (or conversely supportive), I might rank that a King of Clubs or an Ace of Clubs.

Here’s an example:

Successfully, handling an Activations call.





Hearts - I, the self, the individual

Kirkpatrick Level 1: personal satisfaction / reaction

9 of Hearts: Low computer skills in most New Hires

King of Hearts: Gaining confidence in ability to do the job

Diamonds - extrinsic rewards, observable behaviors, performance

Kirkpatrick Level 2: learning

9 of Diamonds: Getting/keeping the job

King of Diamonds: Advancing/promotions

Ace of Diamonds: Passing the assessment


Clubs - the culture, the group

Kirkpatrick Level 3: behavior

3 of Clubs: Considered the lowest level

7 of Clubs: Team leads time calls, shorter call times are more important than quality

King of Clubs: High levels of attrition during training 

Spades - impacts to the larger system

Kirkpatrick Level 4: Return on Investment

King of Spades: Call center activation rates/ times

Ace of Spades: Customer complaints/ratings


Hopefully you all will have brainstormed quite a few for each category. Once the cards have been labeled, consider the merits of each topic as a group. You may negotiate the point values at this time.

Next, tally up the points.
Number = numeric value
J,Q,K,A = 9,10,11,12 pts.

The player with the most points wins the crown or token until the next analysis brainstorming session.

Modifications: Feel free to adjust whatever you would like; however, in some situations it may be beneficial to have the “host” stay out of the game and only moderate (to prevent bias in the flow of ideas), have each person only represent 1 suite - to help focus on each element and eliminate distractions, and/or focus on each section as a group for a more collaborative exchange.

Note:  The views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Commerce or the United States Government.


Carliner, S. (2015). Training design basics (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ATD Press.

Clark, D.R. (2012). Design Methodologies: instructional, thinking, agile, system, or x problem? Retrieved from

Esbjörn-Hargens, S. (Ed.). (2010). Integral theory in action: Applied, theoretical, and constructive perspectives on the AQAL model.  Albany: State University of New York Press.

Wilber, K. (2000). Integral psychology: Consciousness, spirit, psychology, therapy. Boston, MA: Shambala.

About the Author

Hattie Wiley, PhD, has over 20 years of combined academic, corporate, and government experience in the eLearning, training, and leadership development industry.  She currently serves as an instructional design specialist in the National Weather Service. Her duties include consultation, training, and coaching in all aspects of project management, instructional design, performance development, and educational technology. In addition, she designs and developments on-site and online training for a variety of subject matter.

Her specialties include leadership development, governance, interactive online training, and internal (training department) training. Her academic interest lies in the intersectionality of complexity science, action research, and instructional design. She is currently working on turning her dissertation, “The Broadening of Leadership Development Science through Complexity Science and Action Research”, into a book - Wicked ISD. Her dissertation was published as open access in ProQuest at

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