What is Design-based Research?
While there is an ongoing debate about what constitutes design-based research (Van den Akker & et al., in press), the definition of design-based research proposed by Wang and Hannafin (2005) captures its critical characteristics:
Main characteristics of design-based research
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. People engaged in these experimental approaches hope to be able to design instruction based on the principles that the theory and associated experimental results support (Edelson, 2002). 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. Therefore, researchers use design to enact and refine theories continuously (Edelson, 2002) so that the theories ¡°do real work¡± in practice (Cobb, Confrey, diSessa, Lehrer, and Shauble, 2003, p. 10) and eventually lead to substantial change in educational practice (van den Akker, 1999).
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. The way design-based research is conducted is fundamentally different from laboratory experiments that deal with a single variable, control all other factors and isolate subjects and situation from the real world (Collins, 1999; Collins, Joseph & Bielaczyc, 2004; Van den Akker & et al., in press; Wang & Hannafin, 2005). The theories of traditional research are metaphorically tossed over the walls of schools and other contexts with little resultant improvement. Design-based research, by virtue of being conducted in real world context in collaboration with practitioners, is much more likely to lead to effective application.
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).
As explained above, design - based research produces both theories and practical educational interventions as its outcomes. Edelson (2002) proposed three kinds of theories that can be generated from the design:
Domain theories describe learning situations involving students, teachers, learning environments and their interactions. Edelson (2002) argued that theories about context and outcomes are some of the theories that design research generates.
A design framework is a ¡°design solution¡± that provides a set of ¡°design guidelines for a particular class of design challenge¡± (p. 114).
Design methodologies are prescriptive in nature, serving as guidelines for how to implement a set of designs, what kind of expertise is required and who should provide the expertise. As a result of the iterative design process, researchers also continuously refine design interventions to make them more applicable to practice. The forms of interventions vary from concrete artifacts (e.g., tools) to learning activities and curricula (CDBR, 2003). These interventions are more usable and applicable because they are developed and enacted based upon theories that are elaborated and revised during the design process.
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Van den Akker, J., Gravemeiger, K., McKenney, S. & Nieveen, N. (in press). Introducing Educational Design Research. In Van den Akker, J., Gravemeiger, K., McKenney, S. & Nieveen, N. (in press) (Eds.), Educational design research. (pp. 1-8). London:Routledge.
Wang, F., & Hannafin, M. J. (2005). Design-based research and technology-enhanced learning environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(4), 5-23.
@ Peer Group 2006