Thursday, 10 July 2014

When lens gets a little muddy, does it require action or design?



Last night's readings produced a roller coaster of emotions.


7 pm: frantically googling yet another learning science term--define action, define design, compare design versus action research.

10 pm: clutching head while rereading articles while trying to define a clear definition for action and design research.

12 pm: feeling enough clarity to move on to the next task of the evening (morning).

9 am: Sitting with my group feeling utterly confused and mistrusting my own work from the previous night. Am I demonstrating what could be a stage of action or design based research and then again what is this practice research?




Goldkuhl commented that action research was developed under John Dewey's 1938 principle of experiential learning (Goran, 2013). Its purpose was to contribute both to the practical concerns of people in an immediate problematic situation and to the goals of social science by joint collaboration within a mutually acceptable ethnic framework (Goran, 2013, p.6). 

During group discussion the next day, I questioned my understanding of what action research is after we tried to decide a clear definition.   I left the conversation wanting a simplier definition as a starting point to better understand what action based research is.  Elen and Bishop's reference to McKenney and Reeves's explanation gave me a better starting point with their definition being based on seven words:  "to contribute to both practice and theory" (Elen & Bishop, 2014). 

I returned to Goldkuhl’s explanation which delves deeper in regard to both purpose and methodology, but it was Barab's historial reference to the methodology that have further clarity.   Barab comments that the early basis of action based research is also linked to Piaget and Vygotsky. Whereas Dewey the source of information was learner driven, Piaget believed that the basis was in genetic epistemology and Vygotsky is was genetic historic method  (Barab, 2006).  

By understanding the influencers it gave me greater clarity on four main stages of the research's practice  :  

  • ·      diagnosis intervention  (Dewey)
  • ·      design intervention   (Vygotsky)
  • ·      implementation intervention (Piaget)
  • ·      evaluation intervention  (Goran, 2013, p.10).  

Goldkuhl differentiate design from action-based research by its purpose.  He refers to March and Storey's definition that design-based research “creates and evaluates IT artifacts intended to solve identified organizational problems” (March, 2008).   It was Confrey's, definition that offered further clarity by stating that design-based research focuses on analysis rather than solution building:   the emphasis is on learning from the process rather than reacting from it (Confrey, 2006).

If you could check my history on this blog, I have been reworking it as my understanding has become hopefully clearer--or maybe I'm about to receive a comment that I've really moved away from accurately comparing these research methods.   But I am still keep asking myself the sam question, if design-based research differs in that there isn't the intent to gain a solution from it, then what is the point?  

I thought research’s overall purpose was to gain applicable knowledge.  Can you really just gain an understanding of something without then applying that understanding?  To me that would be like studying to be a pasty chef and then picking up a book on floral arranging.  I think if I gain knowledge about something then I'm going to want to use within a given time frame.  Does this mean that my research philosophy is action- based?  What if I don't know what the problem is, does that mean I can learn about it but then not act upon it?   I'm not sure which winter course I'm going to choose--never mind which research methodology I will use later in the program.  Yet again, I have gone home and realized I need more knowledge.

Works Cited

Barab, S. (2006). Design-based research: A methodological toolkit for the learning

scientist. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (pp. 153-170). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. (Chapter 10)

Confrey, J. (2006). The Evolution of Design Studies as Methodology. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (pp. 153-170). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. (Chapter 9)

Elen, J., & Bishop, M. J. (2014). Methods. In J. S. al. (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology (4 ed., pp. 129 -236). NY, NY: Springer Science+Business Media.


Goran, G. (2013). Action Research vs.. Design Research: Using Practice Research as a Lens for ComparisonN and Intergration. SIG Prag Workshop on IT Artefact Design & Workpractice Improvement. Tilburg.

Goldkuhl G (2012a) From action research to practice research, Australasian Journal of Information Systems, Vol 17 (2), p 57-78 


March, S. T. (2008). Design science in the information systems discipline: an introduction to the special issue on design science research. (D. L. Morgan, Ed.) MIS Quarterly , 16 (4), 725-730.