A Commitment to Iterative, Collaborative Design for Learning
How shall we coordinate researchers, solution designers or product developers, policy makers and practitioners together for problem solving and innovations in education?
Design research was originally constituted as primarily research into the process of design, developing from work in design methods, but the concept has been expanded to include research embedded within the process of design, including work concerned with the context of designing and research-based design practice. The concept retains a sense of generality, aimed at understanding and improving design processes and practices quite broadly, rather than developing domain-specific knowledge within any professional field of design.
Design-based research (DBR) is a type of research methodology commonly used by researchers in the learning sciences. Within design-based research methodology, interventions are conceptualized and then implemented iteratively 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. Data analysis often takes the form of retrospective, cross-iteration comparisons.
Design-based implementation research (DBIR)
From this publication:
Organizing Research and Development at the Intersection of Learning, Implementation, and Design, William R. Penuel, Barry J. Fishman, Britte Haugan Cheng, Nora Sabelli
DBIR represents a significant expansion of design research, which typically focuses on classrooms, to develop and test innovations that foster alignment and coordination of supports for improving teaching and learning in classrooms. What distinguishes the approach from both traditional design research and policy research is the presence of four key elements within a project:
- a focus on persistent problems of practice from multiple stakeholders’ perspectives,
- a commitment to iterative, collaborative design,
- a concern with developing theory related to both classroom learning and implementation through systematic inquiry, and
- a concern with developing capacity for sustaining change in systems.
In this paper, we argue for the potential of an emerging form of design research as a strategy for supporting the productive adaptation of programs as they go to scale. An iterative approach to developing innovations, design research is particularly well suited to informing decision-making about needed adjustments to programs (Cobb, Confrey, diSessa, Lehrer, & Schauble, 2003).
The potential utility of design research to support implementation also derives from its commitment to developing practical theory and tools that can be used to support local innovation and to solve practical problems (Reinking & Bradley, 2008).
Further, the collaborative nature of much design research positions practitioners as co-designers of solutions to problems, which can facilitate the development of usable tools that educators are willing to adopt (Penuel, Roschelle, & Shechtman, 2007).
The Nature of Evidence in Design-based Implementation Research
From The Nature of Evidence in Design-based Implementation Research, Barbara Means and Christopher J. Harris, SRI International
The four core DBIR principles (Penuel et. al., 2011) have important implications for how research evidence is defined and used:
- Working with practitioners to jointly select the problem to address, the starting point for DBIR, is incompatible with large-scale RCTs.
- Iterative, collaborative design involves practitioners in making design decisions, and types of evidence other than randomized control trials often drive those decisions.
- DBIR anticipates inconsistent outcomes across different settings and is designed to support the development of implementation theory to explain these differences.
- DBIR entails seeking greater commitment to the settings where research data are collected, to develop capacity for sustaining change in those educations systems.
The SERP(Strategic Education Research Partnership) Institute is an organization that supports coordinated design research in large districts. The partners in SERP are researchers and school districts. SERP Institute staff who are housed in partner districts or “field sites” broker relationships between researchers and educators and help facilitate ongoing work. Its approach includes the following steps:
- Recruit researchers to work on problems of practice
- Draw upon the expertise of practitioners at all stages of the work
- Embed the work in school settings
- Engage education designers who can shape knowledge and ideas into tools for experimentation, evaluation
- Respond to district needs while designing for scale
- Follow the contours of a problem through the system
- Generate genuinely new knowledge
The Institute holds fast to the principles that research and development should be a collaborative endeavor between researchers and practitioners and that partnerships should be based on addressing important problems of practice and that practitioners should have a say in defining those problems.
Another case is Designing for Productive Adaptations of Curriculum Interventions. It uses PD to help teachers become informed users and adapters of tools, and questions to provide diagnostic evidence of student understanding of core ideas taught in the units (district need). Being responsive to multiple stakeholders, and being reflexive and responsive to discourse practices are two major criteria.
More case studies can be found here.
What can learning big data bring to the table for DBIR?