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Skilling up: Using a design-based research approach to understanding the work of AEWs

Herrington, J. and Price, A. (2014) Skilling up: Using a design-based research approach to understanding the work of AEWs. In: Joint Australian Association for Research in Education and New Zealand Association for Research in Education Conference (AARE-NZARE) 2014, 30 November - 4 December 2014, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.


An overall methodological approach of design-based research (DBR), informed by Indigenous research theories and protocols, is used in the 'Skilling Up' project. DBR is a relatively new approach that is particularly appropriate for research in Indigenous settings because it addresses complex problems in real contexts in collaboration with practitioners, and because of its strongly consultative focus. The project focuses on digital stories using new technologies (iPads), where AEWs create stories appropriate to the learning context in the classroom, school and community. In so doing their technology skills are enhanced as they create the stories. It is a method that has been employed before by researchers and educators engaged with Indigenous communities, as the use of stories has a synergy with the oral tradition of yarning, but the approach has not been without its problems. For example, in Jorgensen’s (2012)study of the use of digital media to mediate learning in Aboriginal communities, several difficulties mitigated against successful educational outcomes (e.g., teachers struggled with the technology, and students almost exclusively chose to tell only sports stories). Our project differs from this study in its goals, its focus on AEW’s learning rather than student learning, and its use of the stories in ePortfolios as a key element in pathways to higher education. 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 (e.g., Reeves, 2006) involves four phases over four semesters. In the first phase, the problem area is explored with AEWs, principals and Indigenous communities. In the second phase a solution is designed to address the problem. In the third phase the solution is implemented in iterative cycles, and the last phase enables reflection to create design principles for others wishing to use the approach. The key task implicit in implementations in a real setting is not so much to assess whether the proposed problem solution works but to make it work (Gravemeijer & Cobb, 2006). Barab and Squire (2004, p. 9)pointed out that DBR researchers ‘are not simply observing interactions but are actually “causing” the very same interactions they are making claims about’. In this way, the research can provide optimal guidelines on how to make a solution work in context.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
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