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Design-Based Research (DBR) is a type of research methodology associated with Ann Brown and Allan M. Collins each of whom are foundational members of a movement in education called the Learning Sciences. Within Design-Based Research methodology, interventions are conceptualized and then implemented in natural settings in order to test the ecological validity of dominant theory and to generate new theories and frameworks for conceptualizing learning, instruction, design processes, and educational reform.
Role of Design-Based Research within the Learning Sciences
Methodologically, the Learning Sciences is distinguished from other fields that study learning in humans in its methodological treatment of the subjects of its study, learners, their localities, and their communities. The Design-Based Research methodology is often employed by Learning Scientists in their inquiries because this methodological framework considers the subject of study to be a complex system involving emergent properties that arise from the interaction of more variables than are initially known to researchers, including variables stemming from the researchers themselves (Brown, 1992). As such rather than attempting to isolate all the various factors that impact learning as in traditional research, the learning sciences employ design based research methodologies which appeal to an approach to the study of learning – in particular human learning both inside and outside of school – that embraces the complex system nature of learning systems. Learning Scientists often look at the interactions amongst variables as key components to study yet, acknowledge that within learning environments the interactions are often too complex to study all or completely understand. This stance has been validated by the findings of Cronbach and Snow (1977) which suggest that Aptitude-Treatment Interactions, where variables are isolated in effort to determine what factors “most” influence learning, will not be informative but rather inaccurate and potentially misleading if used as a ground for educational decisions or educational research of complex learning situations such as those characteristic of human beings in their lived experiences.
Design-Based research methodologies are often viewed as "non-scientific" by circles in the post-positivist leaning research tradition due to the ongoing changes and interactions that are made by researchers who neither do purely empirical observational ethnographic research or purely empirical experimental research in which "fixed and isolated variables" will be measured and not tinkered with mid-experiment but rather use "quasi-experimental methods" in which the experimental design is always going through changes and modifications during the middle of "experimental" interventions. Ann Brown famously defended these “quasi-experimental” methods in her final, seminal deathbed paper which outlines the rationale for Design Based Methodologies.
Varieties and forms of Design-Based Research Methodologies
As mentioned in the conclusion to the 2008 ICLS keynote(), there are several forms of Design based research now in use in education research. These are associated with papers from:
- Brown, A.L. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2(2), 141-178.
- Collins, A. (1990). Toward a design science of education. New York, NY: Center for Technology in Education.
- Collins, A. (1992). Toward a Design Science of Education. In E. Lagemann and L. Shulman (Eds) p. (15-22)
- Cobb, P., Confrey, J. diSessa, A., Lehrer, R. and Schauble, L. (2003). Design Experiments in Educational Research. Educational Researcher. 32(1) 9-13.
- diSessa, A. (2006). Designed-Based Research Theory2 and Practice. Presented at the London Knowledge Lab. 2 November 2006. http://www.lkl.ac.uk/video/disessa1106.html
- Hoadley, C. interview: http://projects.coe.uga.edu/dbr/expertinterview.htm
- Kelly, A. E. (2004). Design research in education: Yes, but is it methodological? Journal of the Learning Sciences, 13(1), 115-128.
- Reeves, T., Herrington, J. and Oliver, R. (2005) Design Research: A Socially Responsible Approach to Instructional Technology Research in Higher Education. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 16(2), 97-116.
- Reeves, T. interview: http://projects.coe.uga.edu/dbr/expertinterview.htm
- Sandoval, W. interview: http://projects.coe.uga.edu/dbr/expertinterview.htm
- Shavelson, R. J. and Towne, L. (Eds.) (2002) Scientific Research in Education. National Academy Press. Washington D.C.
- Shavelson, R. J., Phillips, D. C., Towne, L., & Feuer, M. J. (2003). On the science of educational design studies. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 25-28.
- Paper from the Design based research collective