Monday, May 8, 2017

Design-Based Research: Putting a Stake in the Ground

Learning sciences refers to the study of learning and instructional methodologies. One approach to this work is design-based research, the goal of which is to create new theories, and practices impacting learning and teaching in a real-life setting. In this approach, researchers systematically asses the impact of changes to the learning context. Barab & Squire (2004) outline seven differences between design-based research and traditional methodology. Some of these distinctions include: the location of research, complexity of variables, focus of research, and role of participants. These differences emphasize that design-research often occurs in a real-life setting, that measurement is challenging due to the continuously changing context, and that some researchers may be both designing and participating in the study.  A large distinction between traditional research and design-research is that design-research requires change at a local level and this change is used as evidence to support the theory behind the design.

The authors consider how to measure overall change in this approach and they pose the question - what counts as credible research? In a design-based research approach, the terms trustworthiness, credibility, and usefulness capture the study’s reliability, validity, and generalizability/external validity. Some critics of design-based research believe problems arise when the effectiveness of design-based research is evaluated. This is because it is the researcher who is determining the effectiveness that is also the designer and participated in the interactions assessed. However, other researchers argue that design-research can be adaptable to uniquely fit a local dynamic, and thereby the goal is to develop flexible theories applicable to the current and new contexts.  

Creating design-research that is usable and sustainable when implemented in real-world contexts may be an important facilitator of researcher-practitioner collaboration. Design-researchers work together to provide credible, trustworthy, and useful evaluation of instructional methods in a real-world environment.

Blogger: Meghan Vollebregt is a student in the combined SLP MSc/PhD program working under the supervision of Lisa Archibald.

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