‘Industry’ vs. ‘Academia’ IV

26 May 2005 (Thu)

Falsification TriangleDAY TWO of a three-day seminar on Design-Based Research (DBR) by Asst Professor Christopher Hoadley. Intriguing, mind-boggling, relevant, complex, and “aren’t we already doing this in the industry?” (albeit with less rigor). Not surprising perhaps.

DBR subscribes to the sociotechnical systems theory and the activity theory. It studies learning in context, taking into account the impact of contextual factors on the measured outcomes of specific interventions (which in turn are based on certain theories, hypotheses or methodologies). It integrates design practices and academic research, so as to make the outcomes both relevant and rigorous for all stakeholders — teachers, students, researchers, designers and policy makers. Somewhat like Action Research (Lewin, 1946) with a contextual and design focus, as well as a longitudinal and multi-party view.

“The conjunction of problematic and determinate characters in nature renders every existence, as well as every idea and human act, an experiment in fact (reality), even though not in design (intention). To be intelligently experimental is but to be conscious of this intersection of natural conditions so as to profit by it instead of being at its mercy.” — John Dewey

Pasteur's QuadrantREVISITED the tensions between ‘Industry’ and ‘Academia’, this time with more sophisticated (or distinguished) vocabulary.

For example, ‘Research-Based Design (RBD)’ vs. ‘Design-Based Research (DBR)’, ‘practice’ vs. ‘research’, ‘relevance’ vs. ‘rigor’, ’short/quick vs. long/slow’, ‘high/low theory vs. high/low applicability (Stokes, 1997, see diagram on the right), ‘awful reputation of ed research (Kaestle, 1993), ‘methodology and the research practice gap’ (Robinson), ‘problems and possibilities’ (Shulman, 1999), ‘usable knowledge’ (Lagemann) and finally, ‘Aristotle’s three types of knowledge: episteme, techne and phronesis’ (Flyvbjerg, 2001).

And like design methods, DBR is purposeful, creative, open-ended, iterative (continuous, on-going), robust (incomplete predictability, e.g. see-move-see [Schon], participatory co-construction of meaning [Ehn]), inherently empirical in epistemology, and involves local science/wisdom (diSessa).

Will the gap between ‘Industry’ and ‘Academia’ be closed with DBR? After 100 years of educational research, have research findings been of great relevance to teaching practices yet? Perhaps we need another 15 years more, A/P H. said.

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Posted by J.K. in Design, Learning, Possibilities, Problems, Research | View Comments |

  • http://blogs.clappingtrees.com JK

    After the second (or third or … upmteenth) thought, a few questions.

    First, this DBR process requires close collaboration with multiple partners, copious data collection and longitudinal research over 2-4 years or even more than 10 years. How would (or could) this fit in with the normally quick-moving and intuitive (’thin-slicing’) processes in the industry? How would the gap be closed at all?

    Second, to collect copious data which are less burdensome (to the subjects), A/P H. suggested “Think Alouds” exercises with audio recordings. However, after the event, can one tell through mere voices “who said what?” Is a general sense of “someone said this” and “another person said that” sufficient for the ‘rigor’ required in research? Work and more work seems the order of the day.

    Third, the new terminology seem to highlight issues that are already being considered in current research methods or industry practices. For example, curricula in education tertiary institutions generally evolve over time. Iterations of specific interventions are introduced to the design of certain modules, units or topics over a semester (or week or day), based on indications from earlier data collections (e.g. surveys, focus groups or immediate student responses). I also see terminologies and people from information design/usability camps creeping into DBR, e.g. “usable knowledge”, “design patterns”, Alan Cooper.

    Wait a minute. Is this complicated, ‘relevant’, new-fangled way of doing things just some “emperor’s new clothes”? OR will DBR, with its heightened focus on complex design issues, really bridge the gap between theory and practice one day?

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