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Using design-based research methods to reform teaching and learning.

What are design-based research methods?

Design-based research methods are becoming popular as a way to study and theorise practice within education. Engaging in design-based research methods involves more than just trying a new method of teaching or designing an intervention with your class. The point of engaging in design-based methods of research is to develop theories about learning and teaching, and to think about teaching practice beyond a 'what works' kind of way (Cobb, Confrey, diSessa, Lehrer, & Schauble, 2003).

It is common in this type of research for teachers and researchers to work together to explore the possibilities for developing new learning and teaching environments and approaches (The Design-Based Research Collective, 2003). The approach uses theories of learning and teaching, applying them to local school and classroom contexts, to construct new knowledge, thereby increasing teachers' capacity for innovation (The Design-Based Research Collective, 2003). As such, design-based research methods are an interesting way to study and understand contexts where there is a certain amount of what Dominguez (2017) has described as 'messiness'. So, design-based researchers--who may be teachers, educators, school leaders or university researchers--take 'an active, grounded role in disseminating theories and expertise by becoming designers and implementers of educational innovations' (Dominguez, 2017, p. 3).

Design-based researchers are engaged in a cyclic or iterative research process where they analyse and identify a problem or issue, design and implement a solution, evaluate or assess its impact and success, and continue to modify along the way. All of these stages are informed by reading and by developing new understandings. These are consistently checked against established theories of learning and teaching that are relevant to the identified problem. The main point is to 'investigate the possibilities for educational improvement by bringing about new forms of learning in order to study them' (Cobb et al., 2003, p. 10).

How are design-based research methods implemented?

Figure 1 outlines how design-based research projects can be structured in primary classrooms. Five phases are identified: analysis and identification, design and implementation, assessment or evaluation, modification, and reporting (Dominguez, 2017).

This approach highlights the links between designing quality learning activities and environments, and developing theories about how children learn best. The analysis and identification phase involves the classroom teacher identifying a relevant problem in real-world contexts that is specific to their class and appropriate for the children they teach. The design and implementation of quality learning and teaching solutions to the identified problem involves enhancing instructional practices that are informed by research literature and teacher experience. Where partnerships between teachers and researchers are in place, this is the point where literature is shared and collaborative planning sessions held to consider ideas and solutions that could work. Solutions are tried and tested through iterative cycles. The evaluation of strategies and outcomes is continuous, and should consistently lead teachers to modify the intervention, approach or plan along the way. Finally, in order to ensure that the reach of the design experiment is beyond one class or group of students, the findings should be documented and reported to other teachers and colleagues both within and outside the local education context. Design-based research methods can, and should, lead to teachers formulating theories and practical ideas for resolving issues and problems with their own pedagogy and curriculum. In this way shared solutions may result.

Some examples of design-based research projects

Many of the projects that are reported in this special issue were 'classroom experiments' (Cobb et al., 2003) where a collaboration was established between the researcher and the classroom teacher. However, there is no 'one way' for design-based research methods to proceed, that is, there is a great deal of variety in the design-based research methods approach. Other forms of design-based research methods can include instances where teachers and children work collaboratively to develop effective learning environments; and teacher professional learning experiments where researchers support school leaders to develop a professional learning community (Cobb et al., 2003). Collaboration is at the centre of this approach, with teachers working with others in a 'mutually respectful relationship' where the classroom teacher's skills, experience, and autonomy are always foregrounded and respected (Bradley & Reinking, 2011, p. 308).

So what might you try if you are interested in getting involved in design-based research of your pedagogy? Figure 2 provides a brief example of what a design-based research project might look like in an early years' classroom.

Over to you ...

Getting involved in design-based research methods may be a way to refine your pedagogy to improve outcomes in your current class. But it is likely that taking on this 'researcher stance' may well also start you on the road to being more reflective about the impact of your teaching on the learning that occurs in your classroom--this year and beyond.

References

Bradley, B.A., & Reinking, D. (2011). Enhancing research and practice in early childhood through formative and design experiments. Early Child Development and Care, 181(3), 305-319.

Cobb, P., Confrey, J., diSessa, A., Lehrer, R., & Schauble, L. (2003). Design experiments in educational research. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 9-13.

Dominguez, M. (2017). Qualitative design research methods. Oxford ResearchEncyclopedia of Education. Retrieved December 2017 from: http://education.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/ acrefore/9780190264093.001.0001/acrefore-9780190264093e-170?print=pdf

The Design-Based Research Collective. (2003). Design-based research: An emerging paradigm for educational inquiry. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 5-8.

Aspa Baroutsis is a research fellow at the Queensland University of Technology. She was a member of the Australian Research Council project Learning to write in the early years. a.baroutsis@griffith.edu.au

Annette Woods is a professor in the Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology. She researches and teaches in the literacies, social justice and school reform, and assessment, pedagogy and assessment. annette.woods@qut. edu.au
Figure 1: The different steps involved in conducting a
design-based research project (adapted from Dominguez, 2017)

What will be    Analysis and       of real problems and issues from
your focus?    identification        the context in which you are
                                   teaching. What could be improved
                                               and why?

What will        Design and     that is informed by literature, along
you do          implement a       wiih your own existing theories of
about this?       solution              teaching and learning.

What was        Evaluate the       of the inervention, documenting
the effect?      impact and       the learning, the features of the
                  success           design as it was enacted, and
                                        measuring improvement.

How could        Modify the            as you continue to seek
this be            design         improvements. On-going evaluation
modified?                         continues so this is an iterative
                                               process.

What did           Report         on your findings to colleagues and
you find?                                  other educators.

Figure 2: An example of how a design-based research project
might develop

Ask yourself ...                    An example ...

Do you read about literacy and      * The ALEA journal Practical
understand current thinking about   Literacy: the Early and Primary
how children best learn?            Years is a great place to start.
                                    However, opening up the latest
                                    issue of Australian Journal of
                                    Language and Literacy or Literacy
                                    Learning: the Middle Years would
                                    also provide you with access to
                                    current research that could
                                    support your thinking too.

Have you considered utilising       * One teacher analysed her
data and observations you already   curriculum programs and daily
have to identity what isn't         plans to consider how much time
working here and where you might    she was allowing for learning and
apply some innovative thinking?     teaching of writing. She then
Think about what else you might     observed closely how much writing
want to know.                       children did in a day, that is,
                                    really writing. She was surpised!

Design an innovative way to         * The same teacher shared her
approach the problem you            data with researchers. They
identified. How will you know if    talked about it, and then read
your solution made a difference?    research related to children
What information might you need     learning to write in the early
to collect now?                     years. This teacher decided to
                                    implement a daily writing time
                                    session every single morning. The
                                    children wrote every day--they
                                    made choices about what they
                                    would write. They drew and talked
                                    too.

Evaluate the impact of what         * The teacher collected writing
you've done. Share what you now     samples from all of the children.
know with colleagues. Go back to    She compared the samples with
your design and modify.             those she had collected before
                                    she and the children began to
                                    write each day. She used what she
                                    found to make some decisions
                                    about daily writing time.' She
                                    thought: 'What is working here
                                    and what else could I do?'

                                    * She reported the findings to
                                    her colleagues during a staff
                                    meeting.
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Author:Baroutsis, Aspa; Woods, Annette
Publication:Practical Literacy
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Oct 1, 2018
Words:1412
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