Posted by: p4mristkippgrisda | April 5, 2011



Writer: Lestariningsih, IMPOME 2010




Jan van den Akker, Koeno Gravemeijer, Susan McKenney, and Nienke Nieveen

Design research has been gaining momentum in recent years, particularly in the field of educational studies. This has been evidenced by prominent journal articles (Burkhardt and Schoenfeld, 2003). As a methodological guidelines and promising examples begin to surface with abundance, pruning becomes necessary (Kelly, 2004)

Motives for Design Research

The first and most compelling argument for initiating design research stems from the desire to increase the relevance of research for educational policy and practice. Design research can contribute to more practical relevance. By carefully studying progressive approximations of ideal interventions in their target settings, researchers and practitioners construct increasingly workable and effective interventions, with improved articulation of principles that underpin their impact (Collins et al. 2004; van den Akker, 1999).

A second motive for design research relates to scientific ambitions. Design research aims at developing empirically grounded theories through combined study of both the process of learning and the means that support that process (diSessa and Cobb, 2004; Gravemeijer, 1994, 1998).

A third motive relates to the aspiration of increasing the robustness of design research. Many educational designers energetically approach the construction of innovative solutions to emerging educational problems, yet their understanding oftentimes remains implicit in the decisions made and the resulting design.

About design research

It should be noted that there are also many other labels to be found in literature, including the following:

Design studies, Design experiments

Development/developmental research

Formative research, formative evaluation

Engineering research

It is possible to outline a number of characteristics that apply to most design studies. Building on previous works (Cobb et al, 2003; Kelly, 2003; Design-Based Research Collective, 2003; Reeves et al., 2003; van den Akker, 1999) design research may be characterized as:

Interventionist: the research aims at designing an intervention in the real world;

Iterative: the research incorporates a cyclic approach of design, evaluation, and revision;

Process oriented: a black box model of input-output measurement is avoided; the focus is on understanding and improving interventions;

Utility oriented: the merit of a design is measured, in part, by its practicality for users in real contexts; and

Theory oriented: the design is (at least partly) based upon theoretical propositions, and field testing of the design contributes to theory building.




Koeno Gravemeijer and Paul Cobb

The approach to design research, which we developed over the years, has its roots in the history of the two authors. One has a background in socio-constructivist analysis of instruction. The other has done work on Realistic Mathematics Education (RME) that is carried out in the Netherlands. The underlying philosophy of design research is that you have to understand the innovative forms of education that you might want to bring about in order to be able to produce them. This fits with the adage “if you want to change something, you have to understand it, and if you want to understand something, you have to change it”. The two sides of this adage mirror the authors’ histories. The socio-constructivist approach was inspired by a desire for understanding, the RME approach by a need for educational change.

In the following, we define three phases of conducting a design experiment: (1) preparing for the experiment, (2) experimenting in the classroom, and (3) conducting retrospective analyses.

Phase one-preparing for the experiment

From a design perspective, the goal of the preliminary phase of a design research experiment is to formulate a local instruction theory that can be elaborated and refined while conducting the experiment. This local instruction theory encompasses both provisional instructional activities, and a conjectured learning process that anticipates how students’ thinking and understanding might evolve when the instructional activities are employed in the classroom.

The preparation for a classroom design experiment typically begins with the clarification of the mathematical learning goals.

Starting Points and Local Instruction Theory

In order to be able to develop a conjectured local instruction theory, one also has to consider the instructional starting points. Given the potential endpoints on the one hand and the instructional starting points on the other, the research team has to formulate theory consists of conjectures about a possible learning process, together with conjectures about possible means of supporting that learning process.

The classroom culture and the proactive role of the teacher

The norms of argumentation can differ radically from one classroom to another, and that they can make a profound difference in the nature and the quality of the students’ mathematical learning (Cobb et al. 1989). Then one of the tasks of the teacher will be to establish desired classroom culture. Furthermore, the proactive role of the teacher will include introducing the instructional activities, or specifically in the case of statistics, guiding the process of talking through the data creation process. The teacher will also have to select possible topics for discussion, and orchestrate whole class discussions on these topics.

Phase two-the design experiment

When all the preparation has been done, the overall endpoints are specified, the starting points defined, and a conjectured local instruction theory formulated, the design experiment can start. The purpose of the design experiment is both to test and improve the conjectured local instruction theory that was developed in the preliminary phase, and to develop an understanding of how it works.

Micro cycles of design and analysis

At the heart of the design experiment lays a cyclic process of (re)designing and testing instructional activities and other aspects of the design. During the enactment of the instructional activities in the classroom, and in retrospect, the research team tries to analyze the actual process of student participation and learning.

The design experiment therefore consists of cyclic process of thought experiments and instructions experiments (Freudenthal 1991; Figure 3.1).

We may associate these micro cycles of design and analysis with Simon’s (1995) “mathematical teaching cycle.” To characterize the teacher’s thinking, Simon coined the term, “hypothetical learning trajectory,” which he described as “The consideration of the learning goal, the learning activities, and the thinking and learning in which the students might engage” (Simon, 1995:133).

Phase Three-The Retrospective Analysis

A further aspect of the methodology concerns the retrospective analyses that are conducted of the entire data set collected during the experiment. The goal of the retrospective analyses will depend on the theoretical intent of the design experiment. However, one of the primary aims is typically to contribute to the development of a local instruction theory. Other goals may concern more encompassing issues, or ontological innovations.

It is important to emphasize that the results of design experiments cannot be linked to pre and post test results in the same direct manner as is common in standard formative evaluation because the proposed local instruction theory and prototypical instructional sequence will differ from those that are tried out in the classroom. Because of the testing and revising of conjectures while the experiment is in progress, a revised, potentially optimal instructional sequence has to be discerned by conducting a retrospective analysis.



Susan McKenney, Nienke Nieveen and Jan van den Akker

In this chapter, the notion of the curriculum is treated from an inclusive perspective. That is, the broad definition of a plan for learning has been used as a starting point, while related views have been sought to enhance the understanding of curriculum. Curricular decisions may be analyzed from various angles; Goodland (1994) defines three: sociopolitical, technical-professional, and substantive. The sociopolitical perspective refers to the influence exercised by various (individual and organizational) stakeholders. The technical-professional perspective is concerned with methods of the curriculum development process, whereas the substantive perspective refers to the classic curriculum question as to what should be learned?

Curriculum concern may be addressed at various levels: macro (system/society/nation/state), meso (school/institution), and micro (classroom/learner). While the spider-web metaphor emphasizes the need for internal consistency between components, consistency across levels in a system is also a chief concern.

Design Research Dilemmas

This section addresses three: designer as implementer and evaluator, real-world research brings real-world complications, and the warrants and risks associated with adaptable study design.

Designer (also) as implementer and evaluator

Due to the nature of the approach (prototyping in context), design researchers often find themselves playing the conflicting roles of advocate and critic (Design-Based Research Collective, 2003). The multiple roles can be extremely useful, for example, during formative evaluation. When designers participate in the formative evaluation activities, they are afforded the opportunity to gain deeper and often sharper insights into the strengths and weaknesses of a design. This has the potential to shorten both the lines of communication within a development team and the time needed for revision decisions. However, the methodological concerns would seem obvious. Despite efforts to stimulate criticism, the fact that the designer and evaluator may be the same person increases the chance for an evaluator effect (Patton, 1990).

Real-World research Settings bring Real World Complications

The benefits of conducting research in authentic settings would seem obvious: the more realistic the research setting, the more the data will reflect reality. But deeper understandings come at the (potential) cost of losing control over data collection rigor. Particularly when a “cultural stranger” (Choksi and Dyer, 1997) in Thijs (1999)) attempts to carry out research in a foreign setting, the degree to which an outsider can conduct meaningful research must be addressed.


The need for adaptability in design research pertains not only to planning, but also to the role of the researcher during the study. According to van den Akker (2005), the synergy between research and practice can be maximized when researchers demonstrate adaptability by: (i) being prepared, where desirable, to take on the additional role of designer, advisor and facilitator, without losing sight of their primary role as researcher; (ii) being tolerant with regard to the often unavoidably blurred role distinctions and remaining open to adjustments in the research design if project progress so dictates; and (iii) allowing the study to be influenced, in part by the needs and wishes of the partners, during what is usually a long-term collaborative relationship.


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