Design Based Research in Education

Design-based research (DBR) is a research methodology used in the learning sciences whereby interventions are conceived and implemented in real-world environments in order to test hypotheses and generate frameworks in a practical and iterative manner. As an approach, it was  popularised in education research by Jan Herrington and colleagues such as Thomas C. Reeves. Reeves presentation ‘Enhancing the Worth of Instructional Technology Research through Design Experiments and Other Development Research Strategies’ (2000:8), defines the characteristics of DBR as an approach that seeks to address complex problems by collaborating with practitioners in real contexts to incorporate technical affordances and known as well as hypothetical design principles to propose potential solutions. There is an iterative process in play which is used to refine and reflect on the process and principles used.

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A Learning Design Model for Africa?

Digital education products and platforms are often brought into Africa from more advanced digital societies such as the United Kingdom or the United States of America. While these products could be world-class and highly effective in the markets they were developed, they have not been conceptualised with the societal, cultural  or technological contexts of Africa schools and learners.

Dabbagh and Bannan-Ritland’s  Integrative Learning Design Model, posited in their book Online learning: Concepts, strategies and application (2005) is a pedagogical approach that aims, through a series of phases, to decide on the most  appropriate learning technologies and  learning strategies required to achieve a specific learning objective.  The three phases of exploration, enactment and evaluation form a circular model, with the learning developer situated at the centre. Each of these phases have a number of tasks or actions that need to be completed. I have illustrated them as circles within the larger circular framework in the diagram below.

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The FRAME Model for developing mobile learning products

The Framework for the Rational Analysis of Mobile Education (FRAME) is a useful analytical lens to develop engaging, pedagogically-sound learning via mobile phones. It provides an understanding of the context of the learners as well as being a tool to test existing assumptions. These assumptions could include the types of devices learners have (feature phone, smartphone or both), the access they have to these devices and the level of connectivity and appetite for data usage they may have. The social aspect of the learners use of mobile devices is also a primarily concern, particularly in relation to their potential learning.

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