Design Based Research

Perspectives on Design Based Research

David Topps, Eloise Carr, Rachel Ellaway. (2017)

Design-based research (DBR) is a practical research methodology that can bridge the chasm between research and practice in formal education and is defined as ‘being situated in a real educational context’.  [1] The approach focuses on the design and testing of an educational interaction.

Many readers, upon encountering an article that reports on findings from a Design Based Research (DBR) approach, are thrown off by the departure from the traditional positivist scientific method. “Where is the control group? What was the actual intervention? What is your dependent variable?…” are commonly raised questions.

Educational research is often conducted in a complex environment, with many confounding factors, interacting in complex systems. DBR offers an approach which accommodates some of this complexity, gathering data through mixed quantitative and qualitative methods, and looking at the multiple variables and outcomes that are emergent from these multifaceted systems.

Intrinsic to DBR is that it is an iterative process, not a single intervention. Based on successive rounds of findings, the researchers refine their processes, tools and theories. Researchers and participants are engaged interactively in the study design. Contributions from study subjects may influence subsequent iterations.

Some have raised concerns that this creates local solutions that are not generalizable. Others have countered that isolated, idealized laboratory experiments with highly controlled conditions also bear little relation to the practicalities of real-world implementation. Rather than proselytizing over principles, it is more constructive to value each approach for its strengths and what it brings to the advancement of knowledge and practice.

  1. Anderson T, Shattuck J. Design-Based Research: A Decade of Progress in Education Research? Educational Researcher 2012;41(1):16-25 doi: 10.3102/0013189×11428813[published Online First: Epub Date]|.