Why design research?

This type of research has emerged one the one hand to improve the design of educational materials, tools, and curriculum, which often are developed without a proper research basis. This focus was especially prominent in some technical universities (Van de Akker et al., 2006). Apart from this research-based design, researchers were after practically useful design principles as generalized ideas how to design similar learning environments in other situations.

On the other hand, many educational and psychological researchers wanted to make their research practically more relevant, work in classrooms rather than laboratories (Brown, 1992). They had ideas how to improve education and worked with teachers to create settings in which they could realize and test these ideas by means of new design.


Brown, A. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. Journal of the learning sciences, 2, 141-178.

Van den Akker, J., Gravemeijer, K. P. E., McKenney, S. & Nieveen, N. (Eds.) (2006). Educational design research. London: Routledge.

What is design research in education?

Where most educational research is about how education was or is, design research is about how education could be (Schwartz et al., 2008). You do design research if you need to solve a complex problem (Plomp & Nieveen, 2013) or if you have an idea how you could improve education, or perhaps achieve new and important learning goals. If there is no existing educational setting in which you can study what you want to study, you can design such setting yourself. What you then do is research-based design, and subsequently design-based research. Together they can be called design research, but there are many other names for this type of research: educational design research, design experiments, or design studies. The design work and research process are then like the two hands of Escher drawing each other.

escher hands.jpg

Plomp, T., & Nieveen, N. (2013). Educational design research: Introduction and illustrative cases. Enschede: SLO.Retrieved from: http://​www.​international.slo.nl

Schwartz, D. L., Chang, J., & Martin, L. (2008). Instrumentation and innovation in design experiments: Taking the turn towards efficiency. In A. E. Kelly, R. A. Lesh, & J. Y. Baek (Eds.), Handbook of design research methods in education: Innovations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics learning and teaching (pp. 47-67). London: Routledge.

Image retrieved from here.