Are you a burnt-out teacher convinced teaching is the only job you can do? You’re not alone! But, you’re wrong about changing careers from teaching. You’ll be surprised to learn how many transferable skills exist between teaching and instructional design. Instructional design is a great job opportunity for former teachers.
By leveraging the skills I’ll review below, you can change careers from teaching with confidence because an instructional design job is within reach with the skills you already have from your teacher job! You don’t even have to get a new degree to make the transition.
15 Teacher Job Skills That Can Help You Change Careers From Teaching to Instructional Design
Considering changing careers from teaching is stressful enough without worrying about starting from scratch with your employable skills. Luckily, this is not the case for educators considering a switch to a career in instructional design.
Take it from me. A former burnt-out teacher turned instructional designer and Trainologist. As a mentor, I’ll help you find the connections between your teacher skills and relevant instructional designer skills. As a business owner, I find tremendous value in hiring former teachers. Did you know our Director of Learning Solutions, Katie, is also a former teacher? As are many of our freelance instructional design contractors
Well, Katie has pulled together 15 common teacher job skills that have direct relevance to instructional design jobs. Check her out in the latest episode of The Accelerated ID.
Why Change Careers from Teaching to an Instructional Design Job?
One thing all teachers have in common is a love of learning. That’s why an instructional design career can be a natural transition for teachers.
If you’re brand new, you should first understand what is instructional design. You’ll see that as an instructional designer, you get to take your passion for education and apply it to a variety of audiences.
Not to mention, many of the less desirable aspects of teaching are non-issues in instructional design. For example, you won’t have to deal with student behavior issues, and you won’t be asked to give up your plan period to cover for a colleague.
Best of all, you’ll be compensated for your time and talents! If you need any more motivation, read this article about why teachers make the best instructional designers.
Teacher Skills and the ADDIE Model
In instructional design, we often follow the ADDIE Model to complete a training project.
The teacher job skills below are organized to match the ADDIE Model. I’ll walk you through the parallels to see how what you do in your teaching job fits into instructional design work.
Now, let’s dive into the 15 teacher skills you can apply to an instructional design job!
1. Planning Curriculum and Lessons
As a teacher, you lesson plan daily and maybe even have a hand in curriculum planning for your department or district.
In instructional design, we do the same thing! We call it the Analysis phase of ADDIE. More specifically, we conduct a training needs analysis. The more you learn about instructional design, the more you see how important this phase is. When considering changing careers from teaching, these skills are the foundation of what we do in instructional design!
2. Understanding an Audience
Teachers know their learners and can present new learning in a way that the students will best understand. In fact, teachers get to know the needs of their grade level and their specific students so well that they can do this step without much thought after a while!
Instructional designers don’t necessarily know their specific audience as well as a teacher knows their students. That’s why we define a learner persona. Essentially, we use the information at our disposal to answer questions like:
- Who is our learner?
- What are their pain points?
- How will they benefit from this course?
3. Examining Learning Objectives
Next up in our analysis phase, we have the learning objectives. Teachers work with learning objectives every day. Some teachers have a list of learning objectives they have to meet by the end of the year, while others are given a textbook and have to figure out the goals themselves.
When you’re working in instructional design, you define the learning objectives with input from stakeholders as a result of the information you gathered during the needs analysis.
4. Mapping Lessons
Working with learning objectives in teaching also means mapping to your curriculum and state benchmarks. This involves careful planning, so your objectives are evenly spread throughout the year, and nothing gets left out.
I would say this process is much easier in instructional design! We take training learning objectives and align them to business goals within the organization. For example, an organization’s goal might be to reduce costs, and our training project is for new software. To make a connection, we would focus on how effectively using the software will allow employees to work smarter.
5. Creating Activities and Slides
Now, we’re getting into design and development.
Once teachers know what learning objectives they’re teaching on any given day, they have to start creating resources that will allow their students to meet those objectives.
Whether a worksheet or a slide deck, the teacher job skills required here are the same we use in an instructional design job. Instructional designers often write a formal script to be sent to narration or for a facilitator to read in preparation for facilitating a learning experience. This is a step teachers usually get to skip since you’ll be delivering that information yourself.
Instructional designers also create storyboards. Storyboarding is when we use a template to plan out where we’ll introduce content and how it should look onscreen.
6. Choosing Resources
Often, teachers need to find existing resources (like videos) that complement their lessons. Then, you make sure the resource is a good fit for your lesson and that it’s appropriate for your audience. Maybe, you even edit or alter an existing resource to make it work for your class.
Instructional designers also have to be mindful of the multimedia they add to their training projects. For example, images and videos have to match an organization’s brand guidelines and be ADA compliant. Sometimes, we work with graphic designers or video editors to get the multimedia we need.
7. Delivering Lessons
This is a teacher’s bread and butter. Finally, you’ve got all the planning done, you have your resources, and you’re ready to teach.
We call this implementation in instructional design, and it looks a little different for us, but the principles are the same.
Instructional designers don’t often facilitate the training we create. Instead, we make sure the scene is set for successful implementation.
8. Evaluating Lesson Success
Evaluation is the last part of the ADDIE Model. It holds great value in both teaching and instructional design.
After a lesson, teachers gauge success in many ways. For example, they reflect on student engagement. They might also use formative data, like how students answered questions and how well they could complete activities.
This reflection informs how they deliver instruction, whether the next lesson or the next class period. Teachers continue practices that went well and scrap the ones that didn’t work out.
When instructional designers evaluate the success of a learning solution, they have to use different data points. Since instructional designers aren’t always in ‘the room where it happens,’ they rely on anecdotal data, participant surveys, and reports from training facilitators or a learning management system. Just like teachers, instructional designers will take whatever course data they have and use it to improve the next iteration of the course.
9. Creating Quizzes and Tests
Love it or hate it, writing test questions is a job requirement of both teachers and instructional designers! The good news? If you change careers from teaching to instructional design, you won’t have to be grading these tests.
Instructional designers have to be able to synthesize subject matter and create questions for knowledge checks. This can be tricky because as the instructional designer, you aren’t the subject matter expert. But, the basics are the same. Teachers know how to craft questions that will test knowledge.
More good news: knowledge checks in course creation are typically much shorter than the average test.
Bonus Skills That Support a Career Change from Teaching to Instructional Design
I’ve got a few more important skills teachers have in their tool belts. These don’t necessarily fit in just one phase of the ADDIE Model, but they are highly transferable to instructional design.
10. Managing a Classroom
I know I mentioned earlier that being an instructional designer means you don’t have to deal with classroom management issues. This is different, I promise! All the planning, organizing, and managing you do within your classroom will contribute to a crucial instructional design skill.
Project management is a skill that employers look for in their instructional design hires. While project management is a formal process that might sound a little intimidating, your teacher skills lay the foundation for you to be an awesome project manager. You can read more about project management in instructional design here.
11. Facilitating Activities
It’s one thing to be able to come up with learning activities. However, teachers also understand that you have to match an activity to your audience. For example, I have a great scavenger hunt activity I use to do with my fifth and sixth graders. However, I would never plan to do it on a Friday afternoon or the last day before winter break.
That understanding helps you as an instructional designer to choose learning activities thoughtfully. It would not be a good reflection of the instructional designer if a chosen activity ended up being too confusing for the learner to navigate themself.
12. Planning for a Substitute
Did you ever think writing sub plans would come in handy outside of teaching? I sure didn’t! Teachers understand the balance of clarity and detail that goes into sub plans. If they’re too wordy, the sub might skim or get lost. But, if you don’t spell out the instructions clearly, your class could be a disaster!
This skill is directly translatable to instructional design. Writing narration, creating course companions and facilitators guides, and leaving presenter notes all require that same level of clarity. Just like in teaching, the better your instructions are, the more likely your training will be successful.
13. Using a Learning Management System
If you weren’t using a learning management system (LMS) much before COVID, you definitely got a crash course during! Google Classrooms and Canvas are both LMS you might use to post your lessons.
Instructional designers also rely on an LMS to deliver learning to adult learners, so this is a valuable skill. However, even if the LMS is different, the organization and understanding of how learners navigate the content are the same.
14. Communicating With Others
Teachers are great communicators! Not only that, but you know how to deliver information- good and bad- to multiple groups. This means you tailor your language to better communicate with a child, parent, administrator, or coworker. That’s huge! And it will help you navigate conversations you might have as an instructional designer. We work with subject matter experts, human resources, department heads, developers, and more (no teenagers, though).
15. Finding Creative Solutions
Teachers are the most creative people I know, whether they’re aware of it or not. Of course, a teacher’s creativity comes in many different forms.
Visual creativity: some teachers are artists! They can pull together projects that combine art and learning. Their graphic design skills shine through in their slide decks and other resources they build from scratch.
Creative problem solving: if you’ve got a problem, a teacher will solve it! Not enough money to fund a project that students will love? A teacher will find a way to make it happen. A huge unit to finish in the middle of mandatory state testing? Teachers are on it. A global pandemic that forces all kids to learn from home with no notice? Yep, the teachers did that, too!
That’s just to name a few!
Teaching is a Superpower
Too often, educators are made to feel like they’re ‘just a teacher.’ I hope by now you’ve realized that the job skills required of teachers every day can make a significant impact in the field of instructional design.
A teacher’s love of learning and learners sets a firm foundation to build a fantastic instructional designer. So, if you’re curious about making a move, here are a few more resources you have to check out.
Teacher to Instructional Designer Resume guide: learn how to translate your teaching resume into one that will get you noticed for an instructional design job.
Instructional Design Basics: learn more about instructional design in one of these beginner classes.
The Accelerated ID: subscribe for free, weekly instructional design mini-lessons.
Wrapping it Up
Have questions about instructional design? Then, you’ve got to join The Hangout. You’ll find an incredible community of current and aspiring instructional designers that can help you decide if instructional design is right for you!