This week’s introduction to design based research (DBR) hosted by Rafi Santo and Dixie Ching has kicked my brain gears into a real grind mode. Last night, I jumped into a Twitter chat about the challenges of coalescing an “argumentative grammar” for DBR, but I still have a lot of questions about what such a grammar could look like, and its role in studying and reforming education (and education research). As the DBR community struggles to define this grammar, here are some of my thoughts/concerns:
- Since DBR often (always?) involves a process of cooperation between researchers and practitioners (teachers, school admins, other stakeholders) designing interventions, there is a need for a common language that both researchers and practitioners understand and can use to converge on shared goals, interpret events, and augment/alter the design of an intervention as needed. I’ve found that in my work with practitioners (and as one myself), the theories and evidence that help structure an intervention are often inaccessible to those outside of the research community. As a result, this can create tensions around power (e.g., seeing interventions as top-down, rather than grass-roots), feelings of alienation, and even resistance. Obviously, these can have a huge effect on the success and scale of an intervention – especially if practitioners perceive a threat that they are being treated as “guinea pigs” rather than as partners. As researchers, I think this means we need to find ways to talk about our research in ways that are humanizing, give credence to the lived experiences of practitioners, and generate points of entry for practitioners to see how learning/educational theory relates to their work.
- An argumentative grammar is necessary for any genre/approach/framework of science (social or natural) for many reasons, and so developing an argumentative grammar is one way for DBR to establish its legitimacy among other paradigms of scientific research. I worry a little that in an attempt to prove the robustness and validity of DBR as a “hard science,” we will lose touch with practitioners by building theories and methods that leave little room for them to feel central to the research-design process. I’m not trying to be pessimistic – I just want to highlight this as a concern for the DBR community to consider.
I’m sure more thoughts/concerns will emerge as the DML Commons DBR “course” unfolds over the next several weeks – and I certainly do not have answers at the moment for any of these questions. But I DO love that the DML community is bringing these issues to the fore, and making a real attempt to make these conversations accessible to a wide range of participants.