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Final reflections

Morning - I've been reading through our conversations again and was struck by how rich it's been. I'm sharing some summary thoughts here, but there are so many threads and details to this forum, I would love to hear what you got out of this, your parting thoughts, or summary reflections. 

Our week-long conversation often came back to a core set of questions, What’s the deal? (thank you Kevin!) What do DBR or DBIR approaches bring to informal STEM learning that we didn’t already have? And, how do we apply DBR and DBIR to informal STEM learning environments? 

I saw many examples of practice-driven research and design iteration that were valuable, but admittedly not exactly DBR or DBIR. There was some agreement that the practical relevance of research and a focus on the design and study of the problems of practice faced by educators was not enough to categorize research as DBR or DBIR. There was also some agreement that, at times, definitions of DBR and DBIR--such as studying what interventions work, but also what works for whom and under what conditions--were difficult to distinguish from definitions of formative evaluation or a strong iterative prototyping approach. 

So then what is distinctive about using the DBR or DBIR approach? First, participants pointed to a necessary balance of theory building and design iteration. Forum participants had a number of examples of iterative design research that included research-practice collaboration. But theory building was the characteristic that distinguished these projects from DBR and DBIR. 

Second, participants pointed to addressing a question of strong interest to both practitioner and researcher as a distinguishing characteristic of DBR and DBIR. Quite a few project examples involved researchers and practitioners willing to compromise to address a common question that would further a collaboration. A number of the examples that came up were admittedly focused more on the interest of the practitioner or researcher, so wouldn't necessarily be categorized as DBR or DBIR.

Our forum conversation spotlights why funders would be interested in supporting a specific research approach like DBR and DBIR. The power of these approaches is the balance of advancing theory and improving practice around a question that *both* researchers and practitioners care deeply about. When you find the rare research questions that exist at the intersection of this Venn diagram, you’ve found the questions that could transform our field. 


it's happening

Hi Kristen

Thanks for this excellent summary of the conversation. I agree totally that it’s the balance between theory building and iterative refinement of practice/tools/improvement strategies that characterizes DBR.  And also that the forum didn't highlight that many examples of existing DBR ISE projects.

One thing I’d hate, though, is if we left this conversation with the impression that there is no DBR happening in informal settings.  Studies that are designed to test and refine research conjectures (addressing both theory and practice) are happening in many different types of informal settings.  The CTAN study, we shared earlier, is just one.  And there are a lot of other people doing such work in informal settings: Sherry Hsi, Heather Zimmerman, Megan Bang, Phil Bell, Yasmin Kafai...  

I'm pushing back a little because I would hope this conversation would encourage more DBR and DBIR work in ISE.  We have found that it is both highly rewarding and eminently do-able.  I don't think questions that sit at the intersection of R+P are rare at all.  We have evidence that very rich questions -- maybe even better questions -- exist at that intersection, and, if anything, once R+P really begin to interact, it's hard to keep a lid on the questions!  



thank you, and...

Thanks for these summary reflections and prompts for further thinking and dialog, Kirsten and Bronwyn. I found the content of this forum rich with expertise, experience, resources, recommendations and challenges. We had 23 active participants over the course of a week+ and 340 unique visitors to the forum. Some points that struck me as either new, resonant, cautionary or in need of further reflection (by me, at least) are:

  • DBR makes iterative processes explicit and it involves researchers in experience/setting design and practitioners involved in research/question design + theory generation
  • DBR can produce rigorous results, but perhaps not all iterative research and practice work is a good fit for DBR (e.g. R& P work to discover general design principles for promoting learning of various kinds in informal settings)
  • That said, as participants reflected back on various types of research practice partnerships projects through a DBR (or DB) lens, new understandings of previous work seemed to emerge
  • There is a wealth of experience and resources around supporting R& P partnership development at various phases (Collaboratory toolkit, e.g.)
  • It's nice when folks recognize the 'parallel play' of others and can let the context drive how and why to work together, vs. forcing a relationship
  • Important to see problem spaces as a places of possibility where everyone had assets/perspectives to contribute
  • Taking leaps to start partnerships in order to do something new and potentially innovative can break the cycle of “closed circles”
  • DBR and DBIR can be a way of getting new eyes and minds on issues that matter, as well as on multiple levels in a system
  • A "value mapping" exercise may save time and ensure that a project doesn't “tacitly adopt the values of those in power”
  • In DBIR confounding variables addressed through systematic data collection/analysis/synthesis
  • Overall question with regard to the role/goal of ‘change’ in choosing a DBR/DBIR approach- to what degree to informal STEM education professionals see themselves as having an “interventionist agenda”?
  • Some who are undertaking this work are experiencing tensions around coordinating resource and resource production, misaligned R & P timelines and staff/leadership turnover in ISE institutions and on ISE projects

Resources that participants shared are distributed throughout the forum topic threads via urls and where permissible CAISE has cataloged related articles and project descriptions on InformalScience.org.  Finally, to Bronwyn’s assertion that “it’s happening,” here are a few examples of designed-based ISE work from our repository:

DIP: Potential for everyday learning in a virtual community: A design-based investigation


Investigating STEM Literacies in Maker Spaces


Collaborative Research: Advancing Early STEM Learning Opportunities Through Tinkering and Reflection


CAREER: Digital Badges for STEM Education: Designing Networked Learning Environments That Promote High School Students' STEM Identities and Learning Trajectories


DIP: Next Generation WeatherBlur: Expanding Non-Hierarchical Online Learning Community Models for Citizen Science


Learning to See, Seeing to Learn: A Sociotechnical System Supporting Taxonomic Identification Activities in Volunteer-Based Water Quality Biomonitoring


DIP: ScienceKit for ScienceEverywhere - A Seamless Scientizing Ecosystem for Raising Scientifically-Minded Children


Robotics and E-Textiles Backpacks for Family Learning


Making for Change: Becoming Community Engineering Experts through Makerspaces and Youth Ethnography


RESEARCH: "Making Connections: Exploring Culturally-Relevant Maker Experiences through an Iterative, Cross-Institutional Approach"


Research: Researching the Value of Educator Actions for Learning (REVEAL)


PLUM RX: Researching a new pathway for bringing active science exploration to urban families


Research: InforMath: Mathematics to Enrich Learning Experiences in Science and Art Museums


SYNERGIES: Customizing Interventions to Sustain Youth STEM Interest and Participation Pathways

We’d love to hear further reflections from those who participated in or observed the forum, especially anyone who came to it hoping to gain a better understanding of design-based approaches in informal STEM learning settings. Thank you for your interest and participation!








Great conversations plus pointers to DBR-ISE

I want to echo the comments and sentiment here that this was a great conversation that surfaced many important ideas. Thanks to the organizers, facilitators, and CAISE for hosting this. To build on what Bronwyn said, there is value in DBR/DBIR not just for researchers who are trying to advance design knowledge, frameworks, and theories, but also usable knowledge in practice (even if few might view themselves as design-based researchers). Some examples include Leslie Herrenkohl's work which was recently featured in the NSF video showcase, Noel Enyedy at UCLA on technology-enhanced play, Catherine Eberbach's research on learning in botanical gardens, and Susan Land and Heather Zimmerman's work with families at Penn State, among others. These kinds of projects bring researchers, practitioners, and designers in closer proximity and collaboration to work on really hard problems of designing for uptake, effective implementation and on-going practices. There are many design traditions from architecture, computer science, media, and engineering.... some which are useful for designing things, but not necessarily for designing for deeper changes, infrastructure, systems/policies, and for human development (learning, engagement, identity, interest, agency, community, etc.). I look forward to more opportunities like this to share and discuss these ideas!

New DBR/DBIR Knowledge Base Article

An new article has been added to the InformalScience.org Knowledge Base entitled Design-Based Research and Design-Based Implementation Research. The article is based on some of the conversations from the online forum.

The Knowledge Base is a collaboratively generated resource designed to provide evidence for the impacts of different informal STEM learning experiences and strategies.  You are all welcome to add to the article.  If you would like to do so, send an e-mail to caise@informalscience.org and we'll give you account-level permissions to do so.

Thank you again for participating in the forum!

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