Why Educational Design Research

A previous post described educational design research, a method for designing and understanding interventions:

In this post, I continue developing the rationale for using this method.

Compared to other planning methods and other methods of gathering data and evidence, educational design research may be perceived as necessitating greater time and other resources. There are several advantages of this method, however, that justify its use.

First, IT managers adopt researchers’ objectivity and consistency and this reduces the conflict that can arise from the disparate views of the various stakeholders who are interpreting actions and outcomes from different perspectives. That objectivity and consistency also helps conserve the conceptual artifacts that IT planners seek to improve.

Second, students, teachers, and school administrators live and work in a dynamic and evolving environment in which outcomes have multiple causes and an action may have multiple effects. By collecting evidence from multiple sources, IT managers are more likely to understand the interventions as they were experienced by the community. Also, interventions that are developed through iterative processes are more likely to reflect theory. Theory tends to change more slowly than the methods that gain popularity only to be replaced when the next fad gains popularity. Theory-based evidence tends provide a more stable and sustained foundation for interventions that improve how conceptual artifacts are instantiated.

Third, education and technology are domains in which individuals can have seemingly sophisticated experiences, but these methods tend to minimize the threats posed by novices believing they are experts. Many educators have purchased a wireless router, connected it to a cable (installed by a technician working for the telephone company or cable company), and then connected a house full of computers, phones, and games consoles to the Internet in a matter of minutes. The simplicity (and low expense) of setting up a network for use by consumers hides the complexity of planning, configuring, and managing the enterprise networks found in schools.  Technologists are also prone to believing that the years they spent in school give them expert knowledge of teaching and learning. The clear language and diverse perspectives introduced to IT management adopting research methods preserves the complexity of each field while facilitating common understanding.

Fourth, by evaluating and reflecting on the design process as well as the quality of the interventions, IT managers make sense of the interventions they created and can account for their observations. Those conclusions improve their own ability to design similar interventions, contribute to growing institutional knowledge of how the interventions are instantiated in the community, and can support generalizations that can be used by other researchers and by other managers.