Transitioning from Teaching to Instructional Design

29 June

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Transitioning from Teaching to Instructional Design

The Great Teacher Resignation

Teaching used to be seen as a respected and rewarding career that offered financial stability. However, a recent poll from the members of the National Education Union (NEU) reveals that 44% of teachers plan to leave the profession by 2027. (PA Media,2022)

In a survey of 1,788 teachers, a fifth (22%) said they would leave within two years. Teachers said their heavy workload was a significant factor in their decision to leave. More than half of respondents (52%) said the workload was “unmanageable” or “unmanageable most of the time”, up from 35% in 2021.  (PA Media,2022)

As more teachers leave the profession the issue of workload becomes a vicious cycle. Vacancies are difficult to fill, the teachers who leave are not being replaced, and thus the workload for those remaining increases. Teachers are burnt out and disillusioned, and financially worse off.

Learn more about transitioning from teaching to digital learning with our eBook


In the UK Between 2007 and 2014, there was an 8% real-terms fall in teacher pay levels right across the salary scale. There were small real-term falls of 1% between 2007 and 2010, but even this was much better than the economy as a whole, with average real earnings falling by 3% between 2007 and 2010.

Most of the real-term drop in teacher pay can be accounted for by pay freezes and caps implemented between 2010 and 2014. These large falls mean that between 2007 and 2014, teacher pay fell by 8% in real terms, even larger than the 6.5% economy-wide fall in average earnings over that period. (Cribb & Sibieta, 2021)

Across Europe, although pay levels vary from country to country, the story of the erosion of the teaching profession in both terms of remuneration and social status is similar. As I write this, inflation in the UK is hitting levels not seen for 40 years, the shortage of teachers is becoming acute, and strike action looms if demands for pay rises to meet inflation are not met. (Adams, 2022) 

The real question is not why teachers would leave, but with less financial security, more workload, and less social standing- why would they stay? 

What is an Instructional Designer and how does it compare to being a teacher?

Instructional Designers design learning experiences and focus on curriculum design, assessment, and feedback strategies using current educational technologies.  As teaching becomes increasingly digital the roles of instructional designer and teacher overlap. Teachers are having to become more familiar with educational technology in order to create digital assets for their students to learn from. 

To facilitate effective learning both teachers and Instructional Designers consider: learners’ needs and environment, learning objectives, outcomes, and goals, what success looks like for learners, and what skills/knowledge learners need to acquire.

The top transferable skills teachers have for Instructional Design include communication and listening skills, the ability to problem-solve and lead, along with the ability to distil complex information into bite-sized pieces for teaching colleagues or customers. “It makes them a powerhouse at the company,” (Dixon, 2022)

Along with these abilities teachers are trained in learning theories, and the best teachers already employ a student-centred approach and have good communication and empathy skills.

So, teachers are already acting as informal Instructional Designers, but they may not have realised!

Why choose Instructional Design?

The growth in digital learning and technology means the demand for instructional designers is beyond anything ever seen before.

Having grown by 72% in 2020, the UK EdTech sector is now valued at an estimated £3.2bn. With COVID-19 acting as an accelerator, technology has proved a vital solution amidst school closures, lockdown measures, and increased digital adoption in both B2B and B2C markets. The UK is starting to punch above its weight, attracting 41% of all EdTech investment in Europe and the growth in demand for technology solutions from schools, universities, students, and teachers. (Wright, 2021)

This is an industry that is booming and offers great opportunities for career progression. We have already touched on some of the transferable skills that teachers would bring to instructional design but just as important is the overlap in the “why” of teaching. People go into teaching because they want to facilitate learning; the reward is helping your students flourish and grow. Instructional design also gives you an opportunity to guide students and help them achieve their educational potential.

She really lights up when talking about how she is using her skills from teaching — organisational, communication, and mediating skills — but now for a different, less stressful role. “I feel like I am doing everything I’ve been trained for,” she says. (Dixon, 2022)

Skills needed to transition from teaching to Instructional Design

Teachers have a large amount of skills that overlap with the needs of Instructional Designers, however there are still a few skillsets and tools that teachers might need to learn before making the leap into the corporate and specific instructional design environment.

Instructional designers often work with various digital tools and technologies to create and deliver digital learning content. Teachers will want to familiarize themselves with popular instructional design software, authoring tools, learning management systems (LMS), and multimedia creation tools. Read more about the top tools in Instructional Design today.

Another investment teachers should make while transitioning into the newer industry is to network and collaborating with other instructional designers, educators, and professionals in the field. Joining any professional organizations, attending industry events, and engage in networking activities will expand your professional network and learn from others in the field because this isn’t a field teachers are regularly exposed to.

How to get started-make an action plan

If you want to work in education in a role where you are appreciated, respected, and well paid, Instructional Design could be for you. It offers great opportunities for career progression and is more flexible than teaching. So how do you get started?

First, Do a skills audit on yourself- Where can you transfer skills, and where do you need to skill up? If you’re looking for an avenue to build on your skills and leave with a portfolio to bring to your interviews, it would be beneficial to invest in an accredited online course like the Diploma in Digital Learning Design.

Next, take a look at current roles available in companies you would like to work for, and their ethos. If you can, connect with people who currently work at those companies to learn more about what you can contribute and what they’re specifically looking for.

Even if you don’t transition to becoming an Instructional Designer, learning more about instructional design will still help your teaching career.

Learning more about instructional design will benefit your teaching practice and benefit you and your students. As the wave of technology has flooded the education system, teachers need to catch up quickly on how to effectively use applications, software, and multimedia files in the classroom. By learning design basics, you will also be able to teach your students how to better communicate key concepts through visual design.