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Skilling Up: Using a design-based research approach

Herrington, J. and Parker, J. (2015) Skilling Up: Using a design-based research approach. In: Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) 2015, 29 November - 3 December 2015, Notre Dame University, Fremantle.


The methodological approach used in the Skilling Up project needed to be appropriate for the investigation of complex problems in real settings. Because of its adaptable and strongly consultative focus, design-based research (DBR) was considered to be an ideal research approach, in particular because of its capacity to align with overall Indigenous research theories and protocols. The project focuses on digital tasks and activities using new technologies (iPads), where Aboriginal Education Workers (AEWs) create stories and products appropriate to their own learning contexts in classroom, school and community. In so doing, their technology skills are enhanced so that they are enabled within their teaching, guiding, and administrative roles. DBR aligns with these goals because its emphasis focuses on broad-based, complex problems critical to education, and on intensive collaboration among researchers and people in the schools and communities. The DBR approach typically involves four iterative phases (such as those proposed by Reeves in 2006): 1) Analysis of practical problems by researchers and practitioners in collaboration; 2) Development of solutions informed by existing design principles and technological innovation; 3) Iterative cycles of testing and refinement of solutions in practice; and 4) Reflection to produce design principles and solution implementation. In the first phase in the Skilling Up project, the problem area was explored with AEWs, principals and Indigenous communities. In the second phase a solution was designed to address the problem in the form of a professional development program. In the third (current) phase the solution is being implemented in iterative cycles in the form of an ongoing series of workshops and on-site visits. The key task implicit in this phase is not so much to assess whether the proposed program solution works, but to make it work. In this way, the project research goes beyond simply observing the effects of the technology implementations, but includes seeking to actively cause the effects required. In this way, the workshops and consultations are adaptive to both the circumstances and the learning opportunities available to the participants. The last phase enables reflection to create design principles for others wishing to use the approach. In this presentation the research design, together with the DBR model used, will be explained in detail.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
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