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Between 2010 and 2019, ETR&D experienced increased publication of a specific type of research that does not provide useful knowledge to the instructional design field. This type of research is research to prove, which entails pitting an incumbent, “traditional” learning experience against a new, innovative learning experience that lacks maturity. Additionally, under closer inspection, these new, innovative learning experiences show significant gaps of good design judgment, in terms of their alignment with the instructional theory framework. This type of research robs the instructional design field of important and useful data associated with effectiveness, efficiency, and appeal outcomes. To provide evidence for our claims, we reviewed 39 ETR&D articles between 1980 and 2019 and 41 articles in non-ETR&D journals between 2009 and 2018 that represented traditional instruction comparisons. Our conclusion is that a change in ETR&D editorial policies around 2010, such as reviewers having more power than editors in determining which papers get published, led to the unintended consequences this paper reports. We provide recommendations for addressing this situation.

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This is a post‐peer‐review, pre‐copyedit version of an article published in Educational Technology Research & Development. The final authenticated version is available online at