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Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is Design-based Research (DBR)?
2. How does DBR begin?
3. How does DBR differ from other research methodologies?

1. What is Design-based Research? ( Read more... )

Design-based reasearch (DBR) in education is probably very old, but recent interest can be traced back to the early nineties, e.g. Brown (1992) and Collins (1992).

More recently, special issues of Educational Researcher (e.g. Kelly 2003), the Journal of Learning Sciences (e.g. Barab 2004) and the Educational Psychologist (e.g. Sandoval & Bell 2004) reopened the debate. In addition some researchers joined in the Design Based Research Collective.

Reeves (2000:9) draws a clear line between research conducted with traditional empirical goals and that inspired by development goals leading to "Design Principles":


2. How does DBR beign?

General considerations for implementing design-based research as a novice educational researcher are presented by the following steps, which often occur simultaneously or sometimes in a different order.

1. Begin with a meaningful problem
Perhaps the most essential differentiating aspect of design-based research is its emphasis on addressing meaningful problems faced by teachers, learners, and others. Design-based research requires an enormous long term effort by all involved and thus it should not be targeted on trivial problems.

2. Collaborate with practitioners
To begin with, researchers need to be actively involved in a real world design project collaboratively with other participants such as instructional designers, curriculum developers, teachers and evaluators when conducting design research. Two distinguishing features of the process of design-based research are being grounded in real-world settings and working closely with other stakeholders in those settings.

3. Integrate robust theory about learning and teaching
The whole process of design research is guided by the most robust existing theory about teaching and learning. Through the process of design-based research from design to enactment, to analysis, and to redesign, researchers hope to reveal what works, what do not work, and how it works under certain conditions in a specific context. Ideally, the researchers will continuously modify designed interventions and apply them to another setting for generating design knowledge or principles grounded in broader contexts.

4. Conduct literature review, needs analysis, etc. to generate research questions
Like other research methodologies, design-based researchers conduct a critical literature review and needs analysis to identify problems or gaps, thereby generating research questions (Bannon-Ritland, 2003; Joseph, 2004).

5. Design an educational intervention
To begin the process of solving the meaningful problem with which the design-based research initiative began, an educational intervention grounded in a robust theoretical framework is designed and placed in real-world contexts for testing. Ideally, design-based research can narrow the gap identified by the needs analysis by redesigning the interventions and/or refining the theory-based design principles.

6. Develop, implement, and revise the design intervention
Development of the design intervention is interactive with and responsive to iterative stages of formative evaluation and re-designs. From the initial design of educational intervention, a development team constructs and articulates a prototype, and develops a more elaborative intervention based on feedback given from evaluation of the intervention in practice (Bannon-Ritland, 2003). The iterative and responsive process may involve multiple design-test-revise cycles.

7. Evaluate the impact of the intervention
Design-based researchers gather data to reveal how well the intervention addresses the problems and how well the selective theories explain the learning process and outcomes. Evaluation of the design is formative in that the data may require the researchers to refine the initial design theories and, in turn, to develop a more detailed design intervention accordingly (Collins et al., 2004). Over time, the more fully developed intervention will be implemented in the same setting, other similar settings, and broader settings so that researchers can describe the interplay between design theories and multiple practices.

8. Iterate the process
Through the successive refinement cycles, design-based research has a potential not only to construct more robust, applicable designs over time but also to generate well-supported design theories about learning and instruction (Collins et al., 2004), thereby resulting in deeper understanding of complex learning environments (Cobb et al., 2003).

9. Report DBR
Finally, it is important to report design-based research in the forms of in-progress reports, a series of interim reports, journal articles, and books because it is likely to evolve over time (Collins et al., 2004; Reeves, Herrington, & Oliver, 2005).


3. How does DBR differ from other research methodologies?

Drawing on the literature, Wang and Hannafin (2005) proposed five basic characteristics of design-based research: "Pragmatic, Grounded, Interactive, iterative and flexible, Integrative, and Contextual" (p. 7).

First, design-based research is pragmatic because its goals are solving current real-world problems by designing and enacting interventions as well as extending theories and refining design principles (Design-Based Research Collective, 2003; Van den Akker & et al., in press). In traditional educational research, existing theories are usually tested through artificial treatments in controlled contexts. In design-based research, however, the goal is not testing whether or not the theory works (van den Akker, 1999). Rather, both design and theory are mutually developed through the research process.

Second, design based research is grounded in both theory and the real-world context (Wang & Hannafin, 2005). Theory is both the foundation and the outcome of design-based research; design-based research has a "theory-driven nature"(p. 9) and theory is continuously developed and elaborated throughout the research process acting as a framework for the enacted innovations (Van den Akker & et al., in press). In addition, design-based research is conducted in real-world contexts replete with the complexities, dynamics and limitations of authentic practice.

Third, in terms of research process, design-based research is interactive, iterative and flexible. Design-based research requires interactive collaboration among researchers and practitioners. Without such collaboration, interventions are unlikely to effect changes in the real world context (DBRC, 2003; Reeves, Herrington, & Oliver, 2005; Wang & Hannafin, 2005). Also, design-based research usually takes a long period of time because theories and interventions tend to be continuously developed and refined through an iterative design process from analysis to design to evaluation and redesign (Bannan-Ritland, 2003; Design-Based Research Collective, 2003; Van den Akker & et al., in press; Wang & Hannafin, 2005). This ongoing recursive nature of the design process also allows greater flexibility than do traditional experimental approaches.

Fourth, design-based research is integrative because researchers need to integrate a variety of research methods and approaches from both qualitative and quantitative research paradigms, depending on the needs of the research. The integrative use of multiple methods in the research process results in data from multiple sources, which serves to confirm and enhance the "credibility" of findings (Wang & Hannafin, 2005, p. 8). So called "gold standard" experiments such as those used in medical research cannot be used in most educational contexts. Instead, design-based researchers utilize multiple mixed methods over time to build up a body of evidence that supports the theoretical principles underlying a specific innovation as well as refines the innovation itself in situ.

Fifth, design research is contextualized because research results are "connected with both the design process through which results are generated and the setting where the research is conducted" (Wang & Hannafin, 2005, p. 11). It is imperative that design-based researchers keep detailed records during the design research process concerning how the design outcomes (e.g., principles) have worked or have not worked, how the innovation has been improved, and what kind of changes have been made. Through this documentation, other researchers and designers who are interested in those findings can examine them in relation to their own context and needs. To increase the "adaptability" of the findings in the new settings, guidance on how to apply those findings is also required (Wang & Hannafin, 2005, p.12).


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