Design-based Research in EFL Context

Design-based research literature claims that design-based research is different with other similar research design such as research and development (R&D) and action research (AR). Design-based research (DBR) is simply based on the notion that the nature and condition of learning can be learned by attempting to engineer and sustain educational innovation in everyday setting (Bell, 2004) which emphasizes the study of learning as an impact of particular instructional interventions (The Design-Based Research Collective, 2003).

In simply, it is a systematic study of designing, developing, and evaluating educational programs, processes, and products which is characterized by complex problem in real context it addresses in collaboration with practitioners (T. Anderson & Shattuck, 2012, p. 187).

Design-based research, can also be identified as the terms so called (1) design research, (2)) development research, (3) developmental research, (4) design experiments, (5) educational design-research, and (6) formative research (Akker et al., 2006; Cobb et al., 2003; Collins et al., 2004; Herrington et al., 2007; Kennedy-Clark, 2013; McKenney & Reeves, 2012, 2014; Shattuck & Anderson, 2013, p. 187; F. Wang & Hannafin, 2005a).

Crucial point to be noted that DBR researchers should be in collaboration with professional educational practitioners - as mandated by literature on design-based research. In addition, it is also characterized by dual goal it targets - solving contextual educationa issue/problem and generating theory.

This post is composed based on author's personal experience in prototyping the web-based academic English module which facilitate the primary school teacher education study program students at Universitas Negeri Makassar learning academic English. In the whole process, the author was in collaboration with the English lecturer teaching at the study program, supervised by 2 professors as well as senior lecturers.

Instructional System Design (ISD)

The term so called instructional system design (ISD) model applied in this post operationally refers to various models of educational product/artefact design and development. On the internet, there are some potentially confusing terms that refer to design and development models. Some researchers identify it as instructional design (ID) and some others clarify it as instructional system design (ISD).

In its practice, design-based researcher can opt one among various types of instructional system design models. Some of the most famous instructional system design models are Plomp Model, ADDIE, 4D, ASSURE, and Borg & Gall. A DBR researcher may choose one which is considered in line with the planned research. Generally, these instructional design models share the similar processes. In general, the design and development of any educational product/artefact start with analysis/investigation, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. Those steps are cyclically conducted - meaning that when the design and development of educational product/artefact can only be ended once the target/aim/objective/goal is scientifically achieved. This point is discussed in detail in Instructional System Design in Educational Context.

Design-based Research: Procedure

The procedure discussed in this post is based on the author's experience in prototyping an educational product called the web-based academic English module (2017 - 2021) taht facilitates the learning of academic English among 6th semester students majoring primary school teacher education study program at Universitas Negeri Makassar, Indonesia.

Instructional design model adopted was Plomp model - consisting of preliminary study, prototyping, and assessment. As informed by McKenney and Reeves, the author added systematic reflection as the fourth step of instructional design model.

Preliminary Study

In conducting design-based research, the design-based researcher should firstly determine the contextual educational issue to be solved. Right from this phase, professional educational practitioner should be involved. The contextual educational issue can be from the students' side, pedagogy, technology, etc. Based on the previously mentioned instructional design models, this phase is described as (1) analysis in ADDIE and ASSURE, (2) define in 4D model, (3) preliminary study in Plomp model, and (4) problem and potential in Borg & Gall model.

In the searching of contextual educational issue/problem (preliminary study/analysis/problem and potential), a design-based researcher may conduct interview to individuals considered having meaningful information of the environment. Questionnaire may also be employed to strengthen the preliminary data. In addition, observation can also be helpful.

In design based research, based on the author experience in prototyping the web-based academic English module, the result of preliminary study is better to be systematically written. By this stage, the design-based researcher has initial impression of the environmental condition.

Still in preliminary study, the design-based researcher should conduct systematic literature review. The design-based researhcher may break the contextual educational issue/problem found in preliminary study into some research variables. It is expected that after conducting systematic literature review, the design-based researcher is able to measure the potential of solution offered and how to contextually apply it in the setting of the study.


In design-based research, the terms so called prototyping refers to cyclical design and development phase. The DBR researcher may start prototyping the artefact offered as solution towards the identified problems. The artefact (also termed as 'product') should be based on certain parameter oriented toward validity, effectiveness and practicality.

Design-based Research: Resources

In case you are interested to conduct study based on design-based research, here are some worth reading books on design-based research suggested to you:

  1. Design-Based Research in Education: Theory and Applications
  2. Cultural-Historical Activity Theory Approaches to Design-Based Research

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