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Materials Development (with ADDIE)

Updated: Apr 16

Trying to avoid chaos!

I have been developing academic materials for schools and publishing houses for some time now. This is a growing market but a bit chaotic when it comes to its management. Most of the proposals I receive are turned down due to the proponent’s lack of knowledge about or experience in the management of materials development projects.


This has been so frequent that I have decided to write a bit about it, in the attempt to help companies seeking materials development think about the whole process in a more methodical way. I ended up preparing a list of questions that can work as a guide to a better instructed project, with fewer issues on the way.

ADDIE Process

There are some models for materials development management. These can help both publishing houses/schools and professionals who intend to develop their own materials for the educational area. I have chosen to concentrate on ADDIE as it is a more global model, and it does not depend so heavily on theoretical bases. This is not to the detriment of other models like ARCS, Design Thinking, or Bloom’s Taxonomy. In fact, these can be used in association with ADDIE. For example, certain phases of ADDIE can incorporate Design Thinking principles.


As most people in this business would know, ADDIE stands for:

1. Analysis

2. Design

3. Development

4. Implementation

5. Evaluation


In basic terms, these phases can minimally instruct the development process, help the players with its management, give schools, publishing houses and professionals in general a reasonably good basis to think the process through before investing in the development of their materials, be that with their own workforce or with the hiring of experts.


Still, some of the phases may conceal pitfalls that should be thought about in advance. Based on my personal experience (which was a bit chaotic here and there), here are the questions for the first two phases of ADDIE. I will save the last three for a second post, not to make this too long and to have the chance to address some of the challenges of this area.


1. Analysis


This is an extremely important phase, where the DNA of the whole project needs to be carefully studied so that the next phases can take place. Anyone wanting to develop materials will need to have precise answers to the questions below. 

About learners and learning, there should be (hopefully local) data coming from research to help answer the following questions:
  • Who are the potential learners?

  • Which is their level (or levels)?

  • What are the learners' existing knowledge, skills, and attitudes towards English learning?

  • What are the learning needs? 

About the course design:
  • What are the learning objectives?

  • Will the learning objectives be linked to (or even respond to) any curriculum/assessment models like WIDA, PISA and/or CEFR? If more than one, how will they relate to each other?

  • What are possible constraints or limitations that may impact the design and development process? (method, integration with other materials, technological limitations, budget limit, timetable restrictions, teacher-training issues, or the like)

  • What are the relevant organizational policies, beliefs, or standards that need to be taken into consideration?


Only with all these answers staring developers in the face, can they can move on to the design phase. Otherwise, disaster is just round the corner.


2. Design


This phase can be managed by linguists with experience in course design or instructional designers, always in association with the academic manager (or team) of the school or organization, which will instruct the course curriculum. Thus, after the definition of the content, topics and materials of the course, along with possible methods and approaches to be used, expert designers can plan and organize its structure, write learning outcomes, choose types of activities, define the kind(s) of assessment to be adopted, and possibly other pedagogical strategies to create a detailed plan for the learning (and teaching!) experience. Answers to the following questions are a must.


  • What are the learning objectives and how aligned with the analysis findings are they?

  • What instructional strategies and methods will be most effective in helping learners achieve learning objectives?

  • How will the content be organized? What kind of impact may this have on learners and/or learning?

  • What forms of assessments will be used on the course?

  • How will the instructional materials be structured and presented to engage learners effectively?

  • Have considerations for accessibility, diversity and inclusivity been incorporated into the design?

  • What are possible constraints or limitations that may impact the design process? (For example, are there any topics that go against the dogmas of the organization?)

  • What are the relevant organizational policies, beliefs, or standards that need to be taken into consideration? (again!)


This may be a time-consuming phase, but it is vital in the sense that it will instruct - and hopefully shorten - the next ones and be the basis of the training that all players involved need to undergo before the development takes place.


If this content was helpful, do share your thoughts and questions! I will be glad to refer to them as I write the second half of this article.

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Apr 21

Answering each question in the Analysis and Design phases is certainly time consuming. The questions do however, make it imperative we know more clearly what standards/dogmas/principles/learning outcomes apply specifically to our teaching context.

Replying to

Thank you for your comment! I couldn't agree more. I suppose, however, this is time well spent, as it will probably save players a lot of redoing (and headache) later. 🤙

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