Teaching and Learning in a Net-Centric World

Why you should do design based research (DBR)

In this post I’ll review and respond to two useful posts by Rebecca Hogue – Why you shouldn’t do Educational Design Research Part 1  and Part 2.

First of all I think the title is quite misleading, in that my reading of it provides amble reasons for doing DBR, in line with the literature. Perhaps I should allow a bit more literally license, but I expected the posts to be attacks on DBR itself as a mythology for doctoral student research. However, the series does highlight contexts and understandings which are inconsistent with DBR and thus is of significant value.

 

My second problem, is that Rebecca urges the readers to first read her article:

Hogue, R. J. (2013). Epistemological Foundations of Educational Design Research. Paper presented at the World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education.

Unfortunately, she only provides the link to the article in the EdIT database, which charges for access. I was able to access it through my University, but I urge Rebecca and others to NOT submit her work to closed sources (if possible) and to post the article in open fashion if you must give copyright away. Let the copyright police get after you. The worst that can happen is a cease and desist order, unless the copy owner can proof significant economic loss from the infringement.

The first post notes the underlying epistemology of the DBR research paradigm. Pragmatism  supports and defines DBR, action research, many “mixed methods designs” and some types of grounded theory. In the post, Rebecca does a great job of explaining the differences in research design, research questions and methodologies that do not create a ‘mismatch’, with the overarching research paradigm. She gives a good example of why students interested in the nature, phenomena or experience of learning, should be using interpretive paradigms and not pragmatic. One can easily provide additional examples of valid research questions that really are only a match with positivist or critical research paradigms.  Both her article and this post provide amble evidence for the particular epistemological underpinnings (Pragmatism) that are associated and she argues, and I agree, are  required of a DBR research project.

She goes on talk about the output of a “design” as itself being a valid research output. I also agree, but always urge my DBR students (from my own pragmatic world-view) to provide emperical evidence (qualitative and quantitive) that their design has or has not worked – that is as important a contribution to the research as is the design.

The second post is more “pragmatic” and gives 3 potential “show stoppers” which can derail a DBR research thesis.

The first deals with time and notes that a dissertation takes time and the problem should still be around when committee, ethics and a zillion other delays have been surmounted. I would add the converse, that DBR studies almost always involve multiple iterations. This is fine for an established academic to build a research agenda upon, but is nearly impossible for a DBR student who wants to graduate with the decade they begin!!  In science a PhD student can often do a small piece of a research agenda being enacted within their supervisor’s “lab”. Unfortunately, in education due to funding problems and lack of clear and concrete identification and action on particular problems, doctoral students often have to create and define their own research problem and context.

Jan Herrington et al have addressed this issue in more detail see:

Herrington, J., McKenney, S., Reeves, T., & Oliver, R. (2007). Design-based research and doctoral students: Guidelines for preparing a dissertation proposal. Paper presented at the Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications, Vancouver. Retrieved from http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/6762/

As an aside, note how the above article was published and likely owned by EdIT but there are 5 other versions (including the uRL above) of the article (mostly in University databases) available.

A final constraint that I would as is that the intervention must be feasible and cost effective. If one is designing for example a mobile app, one needs the resources to actually create a compelling app that likely needs to run on multiple operating systems. Without resources and time, the design may fail, not because it isn’t an effective design, just that it can’t be built within the contexts of the environment in which it is designed to operate. DBR is pragmatic in more than just the epistemological sense of the word.

 

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