Posted by: bbannan | March 30, 2008

Thoughts on design research

Here is a Camtasia file of a keynote presentation I gave at Brigham Young University on design research with some brief examples. See how it aligns with some of your own thinking discussed here or if you have a different perspective based on your own experiences and/or readings, please share your thoughts with all of us.



  1. Design Research for a Complex World of Learning

    In my 22 years of teaching special education, not once have I said, “Oh, this is so simple!” I suppose that’s why Brenda’s presentation resonated with me in so many ways. One need only speak briefly with a twice-exceptional student to realize that the learning needs of this group are necessarily complex. And those of us who work in K-12 education realize that, for these and many other students with exceptionalities, the current resources are woefully inadequate and that there are few suggested solutions. Therefore, design research is perfectly suited to the multifaceted environment and objectives of learning.

    The multiple research methods that the ADHD/Gifted group has incorporated into our design-research cycles have been powerful reminders of the real people involved and the incredible impact that design innovations may have for them. In a two-hour interview with an engaging student, I felt the power of participatory research. This young man was a fountain of ideas, which he readily and enthusiastically shared. After working to collect and analyze the data from teachers and parents, I experienced both the validation of our group’s conceptual design and the need to refine the design’s objective. Design research is not appropriate for all problems, but it certainly applies to the learning needs of students with ADHD and giftedness.

    Although it can be grueling to schedule and sometimes tiring to analyze, the research element is crucial to the ultimate success of a design: that is, a usable, valid, and relevant solution. The important thing, though, is to really care about the solution.

  2. This presentation really pulled together the whole concept o f design research for me in a new way. Up until now, I had been viewing design research as something other people did, or something I attempted as part of this class, but had not made the leap to seeing ho w I could apply it to my own work environment. Thi s presentation showed me that design research is very relevant to what I do. I’ve been designing language courseware for almost 5 years, and built language courseware as a programmer for several years before that. I can see tha t for the language projects I work on, design research can help me and my teams look at the larger picture of language training before beginning design, and then using the knowledge gained in the design process for one project, to inform the design process for the next project. Currently, every language project is stovepiped and treated as a completely separate instance; there is no crossover or transfer of knowledge from one project to another. I’m seeing now that though the languages are different and the audiences for each course differ, and thus require different linguistic considerations, the knowledge regarding design of language courses in a browser-based environment IS transferable, and much knowledge is lost on many fronts every time we start a new project without factoring in what’s come before. I can know see how design research could be valuable to my current job, both for me and the entire development team.

  3. With each new article I read and after listening to Brenda’s presentation, I continue to learn something new about Design Research. An intriguing piece of this presentation for me was the concept of sharing and reusing knowledge. Brenda points out the importance of sharing our designs, creativity, analysis and effective design solutions we create for real world and applied practices. The examples she provides of combining engineering design, software design and human computer interface design and human factors, sharing their innovative ideas and concepts, is a great way for small groups to enhance the overall scope of knowledge for the project by exchanging expertise and information attained through lessons learned (whether good or bad, what worked, what didn’t, what is the same and what is different) and bring about a more informed solution for different learning situations and from differing perspectives. Why reinvent the wheel every time when we can reuse knowledge learned in other contexts. In our informal meeting in class Monday night we discussed the possibilities of taking our GAMED prototype one step further – what would the possibilities look like if we added a marketing team or a software development team’s abilities and knowledge using our existing data and analysis? Certainly a more effective and informed design, based on multiple perspectives combined together to reach a usable, effective solution. It would certainly be interesting to take this project further and involve other disciplines and watch the outcome.

  4. Building on Rhonda’s comments, I was also intrigued by the idea of recycling information rather than “reinventing the wheel.” Maybe something will happen with GAMED–it appears to be a viable idea–but what if none of us can or want to pursue it? How can we share what we learned so that anyone in the future interested in improving the learning for ADHD-gifted can see what we learned and what we did. Our work was not formulated from a literature review, but a real problem, easily identified. Our work should be available for the “informed exploration” that others behind us might do.

    In thinking about this idea, I agreed with Brenda that the solution may lie in technology and documenting our knowledge by codifying information. However, I’d like to take it a step forward and propose that a common repository should be established most likely by a university where codified information could be stored. It isn’t a formal research site, but a site for “informed exploration.” Just brainstorming . . .

  5. Design research and the idea of reusing knowledge are very interesting to me. With the advent of the internet and Web 2.0 information is simply at our fingertips. It is amazing how quickly you can find information about all kinds of different subjects. With that said, the purpose of instructional design is to find solutions to perceived instructional problems using systematic approach that includes research. I think that with amount of information that is freely available to us, humans, which makes knowledge easier to “reuse.” For instance, if one company has a problem and another one has already done and published a solution to a similar problem, I don’t see the problem with “reusing” or adapting the solution as long as it does fit the need of the original problem.

  6. This presentation helps me to understand Design Research in much more simplistic way. Although, the complexity of the concept when applied into something goes
    into a more deep process, the examples provided by the speaker makes me think that just about every human made tool (design) has been developed following a
    Research Design process without knowing what this process was about, or its words. I can see how Design Research is closer to nature, where iterative cycles
    happens naturally from years of reiterative try outs (i.e. The start of a forest), while in human made creations that succeed for the longest time are
    achieved only after that creation followed an accurate process of discoveries based on experience, exchange, and constant evaluation, even if was not intended for a specific purpose, the learning and exchange of those experiences made that creation unique to last (i.e.: bike)

  7. Following Laura’s example, I believe that in Design Research, even if the adapting solution doesn’t fit the original problem, it will expand the thinking process of the problem and will find solution to more problems in diverse disciplines. It is the experience and exchange of ideas what makes this process engaging and successful. The first photography wasn’t created for one person, but from the experience and discoveries of several innovators in the field. It also makes me think in the open source code, without ownership, it continues growing and expanding in a reiterative cycle.

  8. Knowledge 2.0 was a very intriguing and thought provoking term. The reuse of the artifacts within the knowledge goals suddenly seemed attainable through this 2.0 technology. Designing learning solutions to attain knowledge goals through reuse of artifacts can and has proved successful. From the example of the Right Brothers who designed and tested and then designed again proved much more successful. As with each test they evaluated what went wrong and what worked and eventually they came up with a plane that actually flew in the air. Here I agree that “Design Research is instructional design on steroids” (Bannan-Ritland 2008) as the whole process of instructional design integrates approaches from different disciplines and has theories tested. “The process of Design always reuses the base and grows it by the same cognitive processes of memory learning and problem solving that characterize reuse.(Sutcliffe 2002)
    Throughout the course we tested our prototype for what will work and will not work with the Geosciences Professors to make their teachings more knowledge oriented and reach the learning solutions that they aspire for their students.

  9. I agree with Rhonda about reuse knowledge. Research will never stop and it always generates new ideas. That is why once we started learning about research we learned how to find similar researches or related information. That is what we did last semester once we thought about GAMED as a competitive analysis to build on technology already there.
    The presentation helped me to see a whole picture of Instructional Technology Design. It went very smooth from introduction to the history of design research to introducing definition of design research to introducing different design models , etc.
    As Tiffany mentioned, I did not feel that design research was something we could use in the real world. However ,Our work this semester in ADHD/Gifted project inspired me that DR is essential to solve problems. Hypothetical DR worked examples discussed in this presentations gave me deep wide view and deep understanding for how we could use DR in authentic situations and urgent needs.
    The part of local impact made much sense after we are done with this semester. I can see how we apply usability tests, validity, etc to examine the effectiveness and weakness of design.

  10. What might constitute “data” broadly defined in design research?

    Data is the “voice” of design. One of the necessary elements associated with a design research methodology is the acquiring of means necessary to either support or disprove a selected path. This would indicate that testing optimals by looking at actuals in terms of scope of available data is virtually without limits. This also indicates that the definition of “data” can be without limits.

    Where might we look for information in regard to a design problem’s optimals and actuals?

    If we think about it for a bit, almost anything that has association with the path we are pursuing can be considered “data.” Taking this a step further, we might begin to use data that is more closely associated with the path to create a base for comparison, then begin taking other kinds of information and, by comparison, see if we are able to create a more complex picture of the pursued path. By continuing to select, compare and choose the data we find, we should be able to move toward the correct elements that constitute the path we are seeking.

    How might we analyze the information that does not necessarily involve formal qualitative and quantitative research analysis?

    Often, when beginning a new project with a client as the unknown, two elements come into play. The first is a “feel” that comes from having interacted with numerous previous clients. While formal qualitative and quantitative research analysis is a proven method for arriving at results, the comparisons that experience can allow can be very important. The second comes from a form of rapid prototyping. Using this methodology, in a brainstorming fashion can be useful if there is sufficient interaction with the client to allow the project group to make rapid decisions, involving rejections and acceptances of gathered data.

    Where do these thoughts lead?

    All right, now that I have said all of that, I have to add an additional question. “Where do we go from here?” No event is a clone of any other when working with client expectations. We approach the problem, not as instructional designers but as detectives, trying to ascertain what elements the answer will contain. We try to see if we will be able to fulfill all, some, or none of the expectations. We look at the time factor, and at the relative importance of things that may be accomplished.

    After going through Allison Rossett’s text for the first time, one of the things I came away with was a feeling of balance, speed, and decision. The tools she talks about are those of any instructional designer trained in the Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation (ADDIE) method. The difference is in the way she looks at each stage. She believes in putting your effort toward getting the greatest return for your effort. Becoming aware of the front-end of the analysis process will, by its nature cause the needs analysis results. In effect, you are multi-tasking. As you move forward, using rapid prototyping, allows you to quickly refine the areas that you have selected to concentrate on as a result of your analysis of what the performance should be and which parts are doable at this time.

    Final thoughts (for now)

    As with anything, these thoughts are not concrete. Because of this, I will come back to this blog and add to, refine, and perhaps even remove thoughts and ideas I have posted today. Instructional Design is a malleable process, often changing as ideas are tried and decisions are rethought.

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