Design-Based Research: A Decade of Progress in Education Research?

Jan. 02, 2012

Source: Educational Researcher, 41(1): January/February 2012, p. 16-25.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Design-based research (DBR) is a methodology designed by and for educators that seeks to increase the impact, transfer, and translation of education research into improved practice.
In addition, it stresses the need for theory building and the development of design principles that guide, inform, and improve both practice and research in educational contexts.

In this article, the authors review the basic features of DBR, describe the trends toward increasing its use, and highlight and analyze the most cited articles that focus on DBR in education.

To find the articles that used or focused on DBR, the authors used Harzing’s (2010) open-source tool, Publish or Perish, to perform a Google Scholar search of articles in the humanities, arts, and social sciences that contained the keywords design-based research and education.

Data from the 47 articles selected (5 articles each year from 2003 to 2011 and 2 articles from 2002) were entered into a spreadsheet.


The authors found that most cited articles focusing on DBR in the past decade highlight the following trends in published DBR studies.

Half of all the empirical studies explored designing learning interventions for science, and 87% of studies focused on K–12 student populations.
The majority (68%) of interventions involved the use of online and mobile technologies, and all studies indicated that they were part of a multi-iteration research project.


The authors conclude that DBR is being utilized increasingly in educational contexts and especially those in the United States.
It seems to be especially attractive for use in K–12 contexts and with technological interventions.

The increasing number of studies reported suggests that researchers and graduate students are finding ways to meet the time demands of multiple iteration studies.

Most of the articles conclude that their interventions have resulted in improved outcomes or student attitudes, and they offer rich clues as to the match between the successful testing of the intervention and the context of practice.

Updated: Aug. 26, 2013