Failing a Little Bit Better But Want to Fail Together

Lessons Learned. Sure

Creative Commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Mike Licht,

I guess I am an educational psychologist. At least that’s what my fancy diploma says. I consider myself a teacher and literacy researcher. Does that make me a learning scientist?

This question has perplexed me since watching Bill Puenell and reading about the grammar of Design Based Research. Bill set up the article as a dichotomy between educational psychologists and learning scientists.

This debate, while alluded to in the article, traces back to the cognitivists and situativists. The article set up an almost either or situation (as a side note manyof the words on the Wikipedia Article on Situated Cognition are still mine ours).

Can I be a Deweyian Pragmatist about this? Can I draw from both traditions based on my line of inquiry and more probably from the funding sources I chase?

Then I joined Chris Hoadley, Rafi Santo, and Dixie Ching to discuss Design Based Research in the field.

I really liked Chris description of DBIR and the routes to iteration. My big question came about as post-reflective data analysis. This impacts #walkmyworld. We have been doing this project for two years and we iterate. We are not explicity DBR, maybe. We collected all of out planning documents, archived the emails, hosted reflective video conferences. The data is there.

What Chris taught me was to not just look between iterations but across all the iterations. I have some background with DBR. I trained with Dave Reinking on his ideas of Formative Design. I need to hash out the difference between Formative Design and DBR but I am seeing Formative Design synonomous with DBIR.

Then Rafi and Dixie shared their work from the Hive Research Lab. There methodology for tracking growth and development across different domains is mind blowing. I am going to steal it. One of my first joys was discovering Rafi’s work with Hive. I knew him from Twitter and XMCA listserv but had no idea he was involved in Hive. I have a long term dream of elevating New Haven to a Hive City

Deserted hive
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My History with DBR


At the same time we were using Formative Design to develop Internet Reciprocal Teaching the tension between educational pyschologist and learning scientists boild over in my every day. Don Leu, my advisor, studied under Jean Chall. You can’t get more edpsychy than Dr. Chall’s work in reading.

This created a tension in the project that was a microcosm on the field. Plus many iterations in the porject had nothing to do with design or learning but with political power. As an IES grant there were strict rules as to what counts as research. We handled this by building in Formative Design in Year Two and empirical testing in year three.

Yet we were in local contexts. You can’t control the noise. You have to embrace it.


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My Future with DBR

I am currently engaged in a DBR project. Well I might have given up. Not really. Just put the iterations on hold.

The project, #QuestionTheWeb was designed to create a learning space to build the critical evaluation of websites and argumentative writing.

Long term I want to create something like this. Short term I just needed to develop the reading activities and pilot test biased think-alouds.

Once again real life impeded design. By the time I got the learning environment built and the Institutional Review Board approval I bumped into Smarter Balanced Testing. Every computer in most Connecticut tools is no longer available for learning they have to be used for testing.

So here is where I need your help. If anyone wants to give me feedback, do some cognitive labs, on the the Think Alouds I am open to it.

Knitting together

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Our Future with DBR

I learned that DBR can’t be done alone. This isn’t unique to me. I am a researcher at a teaching university. This means no doctoral students, no centers, no senior faculty to bounce ideas off of or study under. Everything I do I am often alone.

Then there is the whole 4/4 load. (I am lucky here as I have release time for Gear Up and this semester I was given 9 credits for research). The University gives me the space to work. What I need now is the community. We did start a STEM center (who hasn’t), and our new Provost wants to elevate research. Our new Dean is also focused on external funding. Capacity is developing on campus but I want to look outside.

I think the future of DBR has to be distributed. We open scholars need to network and develop our projects outside of the usual channels. We need to play and hack together.

I believe the problems we face and investigate are to big for one person and to complex for one discipline. You need developers, instructional designers, ethnographers, learning scientists, and someone to do the all the paperwork.

We need to design the future together.

2 responses on “Failing a Little Bit Better But Want to Fail Together”

  1. Greg, it’s been so great to reconnect with you through the course, and to discover that you’ve been involved in Mozilla’s education work as well. +1 to bringing a Hive to New Haven!

    It’s fascinating to hear a little bit about your own history in relation to DBR and similar approaches. I’m not explicitly familiar with formative design, but it sounds super relevant to these conversations. Perhaps you’d be able to share at some point over the course where you see Formative Design fitting in with the group of approaches we’ve been discussing.

    And hearing about your own challenges putting these approaches into practice is also I think quite instructive for others that might be in similar positions. Bumping into testing within the school context, into your own demands of being faculty at a teaching university, all of these need to be put on the table if we’re going to evolve and resolve design-oriented approaches to research within both the contexts we’re trying to being new designs to, but also the contexts we are in institutionally that might support (or hinder) that work depending on how they’re structured.

    1. Thanks Rafi. Your talk and Chris’s conversation of when is it design and when is it design research was very informative.

      I will put together a post on Formative Design but its just another naming lens it just seems to align with DBIR more than DBR. Lindy is probably our resident formative design scholar.

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