What is design-based research methodology?

Design-based research as described by Wang and Hannafin is “a systematic but flexible research methodology aiming at improving practice through iterative processes of analysis, design and revision in real-world settings”. In this approach, the refinement of practical products works hand-in hand with the refinement of theory.

My interest in this research methodology is its similarity with the Lesson Study process which although considered more as as model of professional development for teachers but is also a rich context for investigating learning objects, students learning and teacher learning.

Design research is conducted iteratively as a collaboration between researchers and practitioners in a real-world setting. Each iteration or cycle contributes to sharpening the aims and bringing the interventions closer to the desired design outcomes and research outputs. These outputs are of course the design principles and empirically underpinned innovative interventions.

Van den Akker emphasizes the following six features of design and development research:

  1. Interventionist: the research aims at designing an intervention in a real-world setting.
  2. Iterative: the research incorporates cycles of analysis, design and development, evaluation and revision.
  3. Involvement of practitioners: active participation of practitioners in the various stages and activities of the research.
  4. Process oriented: the focus is on understanding and improving interventions (a black box model of input – output measurement is avoided).
  5. Utility oriented: the merit of a design is measured, in part on its practicality for users in real contexts.
  6. Theory oriented: the design is (at least partly) based on a conceptual framework and upon theoretical propositions, whilst the systematic evaluation of consecutive prototypes of the intervention contributes to theory building (Van den Akker et al., 2006, p. 5).

Van den Akker, J., Gravemeijer, K., McKenney, S. and Nieveen, N. (Eds) (2006), Educational Design Research, Routledge, London.

Wang, F. and Hannafin, M. (2005), “Design-based research and technology-enhanced learning environments”, ETR&D, Vol. 53 No. 4, pp. 5-23.

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