Design-Based Research in Learning Environments

Defining Learning Environments

Learning environments are crucial for both students and teachers. The concept of a learning environment comprises different physical locations, cultures, and contexts that determine how the teaching is provided and how students learn. Physical environments include the placement of furniture and equipment in a way that empowers achieving educational goals. Cultures can be treated as contributions of every individual to the learning process. Finally, contexts usually presuppose an emotional environment that is also significant because the classroom atmosphere is frequently decisive for learning outcomes.

In recent decades, technology-based learning environments have been actively developing (Wang & Hannafin, 2005). Still, redesigning of learning spaces to adopt technology brings in significant challenges related to authentic learning experiences, rethinking the role of teachers, approaching digital equity, assessment of teaching innovations, and the introduction of personalized learning (New Media Consortium, 2016).

Learning environments are not homogeneous. Usually, they comprise both in-school and out-of-school learning that are bridged through formal, non-formal, and informal education (Eshach, 2007). For example, informal learning organizations cooperate with schools contributing to the development of formal-informal collaboration (Russell, Knutson, & Crowley, 2013). On the whole, it can be concluded that the learning environment is a complex of components and activities that determine the learning process.

Learning Environments within Traditional, Online, and Blended Spaces

Learning environments are crucial for both students and teachers. The concept of a learning environment comprises different physical locations, cultures, and contexts that determine how the teaching is provided and how students learn. Physical environments include the placement of furniture and equipment in a way that empowers achieving educational goals. Cultures can be treated as contributions of every individual to the learning process. Finally, contexts usually presuppose an emotional environment that is also significant because the classroom atmosphere is frequently decisive for learning outcomes.

In recent decades, technology-based learning environments have been actively developing (Wang & Hannafin, 2005). Still, redesigning of learning spaces to adopt technology brings in significant challenges related to authentic learning experiences, rethinking the role of teachers, approaching digital equity, assessment of teaching innovations, and the introduction of personalized learning (New Media Consortium, 2016).

Learning environments are not homogeneous. Usually, they comprise both in-school and out-of-school learning that are bridged through formal, non-formal, and informal education (Eshach, 2007). For example, informal learning organizations cooperate with schools contributing to the development of formal-informal collaboration (Russell, Knutson, & Crowley, 2013). On the whole, it can be concluded that the learning environment is a complex of components and activities that determine the learning process.

Application of Design-Based Research to Learning Environments

When it comes to the implementation of technology-enhanced learning environments (TELEs), the major challenge that most educators face is that of bringing together theory and practice. The problem is that theoretical research, technological opportunities, and their practical implementation do not develop simultaneously. Therefore, there is a need for a tool that has the potential to bring g together with the necessary components and create successful learning environments. Design-based research (DBR) is a methodology that can be applied to both research and design of technology-enhanced learning environments (Wang & Hannafin, 2005).

DRB can be defined as the combination of empirical educational research and the theory-driven design of learning environments. It is a significant methodology that allows understanding the way educational innovations can be implemented, the suitable time for these innovations, and the reasons for introducing educational innovations to practice. Moreover, the most important role of DBR methods is to reveal the existing relationships between educational theory, designed product, and practice.

To apply DBR, it is important to be aware of its major problems and be able to overcome them. Thus, one of the problems is that educators are frequently not sure about the DBR process because it can differ depending on the performer. Another problem is the misinterpretation of BDR and its confusion with other forms of research (Easterday, Lewis, & Gerber, 2014). A similar problem exists in relation to design and its difference from DBR. Finally, educators are frequently not aware of DBR efficiency and the ways it can be achieved. To apply DBR properly, it is necessary to define it. According to Easterday et al. (2014), the design process consists of six consequent phases: focus, understand, define, conceive, build, and test. In case the consequence of these stages is followed, the DBR process is expected to be successful.

DBR can be applied to learning environments. For example, Wang and Hannafin (2005) suggest using is to develop technology-enhanced learning environments. DBR focuses on collaboration among the participants of the educational process. It is an “interactive, iterative, and flexible” methodology (Wang & Hannafin, 2005). Therefore, it is useful for learning environments that can differ depending on conditions of educational establishments and peculiarities of learners as well as their needs.

Educational leaders have the potential to leverage the process of DBR implementation. They have the necessary knowledge and can distribute it due to their skills and abilities. Moreover, in most of the cases, educational leaders have experience of introducing change and leading the change process. Finally, they have the necessary authority and are trusted by educators, which makes their opinion more valuable. On the whole, educational leaders are able to follow the consequent steps that are necessary to understand and implement DBR. Thus, they can focus the attention of the audience on the necessity of BDR, understand its potential, define the basic concepts, conceive the basic implementation plan, build and implement the solution, and test it to assess the efficiency.

I suppose that the application of DBR to my work in learning environments can have the following consequences. First of all, it can increase the effectiveness of learning environments due to the research component. Secondly, DBR allows addressing theoretical issues about a concept under consideration. Also, it implies the investigation of a phenomenon in the real-life conditions instead of laboratory settings. Moreover, it broadens the measures of learning and allows thinking outside of a frame. DBR involves experimentation that empowers finding suitable solutions, stimulates effective inquiry, and provides the development and research through such stages as design, application, analysis or assessment, and redesign. This approach allows improving learning environments and makes them more research-based and effective.

References

Easterday, M. W., Lewis, D. R., & Gerber, E. M. (2014). Design-based research process: Problems, phases, and applications. Proceedings of the International conference of the learning sciences (ICLS) 2014. University of Colorado Boulder.

Eshach, H. (2007). Bridging in-school and out-of-school learning: Formal, non-formal, and informal education. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 16(2), 171-190.

New Media Consortium. (2016). The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12.

Russell, J. L., Knutson, K., & Crowley, K. (2013). Informal learning organizations as part of an educational ecology: Lessons from collaboration across the formal-informal divide. Journal of Educational Change, 14, 259-281.

Staker, H., & Horn, M. (2012). Classifying K-12 blended learning. Innosight Institute.

Wang, F., & Hannafin, M. J. (2005). Design-based research and technology-enhanced learning environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(4), 5-23.