Design Research

The Design Based Research (DBR) strand is aimed to support junior scholars to use design to bridge research and practice. The strand consists of four unit topics, each addressing key aspects and questions within design-based research. These include:

  • Purposes and the argumentative grammar of DBR
  • Organizing design processes
  • Research in DBR
  • Critiques of DBR and responses

Each unit consists of two 60-minute synchronous DML Commons Salons, in which junior and senior scholars discuss vital aspects of the unit topics. Senior DBR scholars will share their insights and experiences working on real cases, and optional hands-on exploratory activities are offered for participants to deepen their understanding. The units were co-created with DML junior scholars to ground the discussions, activities, and questions in their particular needs, expectations, and interests.


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Unit 1 - Introduction: Purposes/Argumentative Grammar of DBR

Design-based research is a growing area within Educational Research and poses unique questions and challenges to academic scholars at the intersection of practice, design and research. In this unit, we explore the goals, purposes and grammar of Design-Based Research, where it originated, what design-based research may look like in practice, and how it differs from other educational research approaches that engage people outside of the academic sector in research practice. As part of this unit, we will explore the Hive Research Lab as a concrete example of design-based research, and facilitate the collaborative making of a Design-Based Research history timeline, asking participants to contribute to the making process.  

Working at the intersection of research and practice, organizing a design-based research process may unfold differently across different projects. In this unit, we will explore questions related to co-construction of the design-based research process including ways of learning about context, shaping research questions, and collecting and analyzing data together. Through sample projects, we will explore ethical research norms and standards that comply with academia and ways for working towards sustaining design-based research interventions from the outset. Along with two live webinars, we will feature a collaborative making activity to illustrate key ideas from the readings and discussions. Join us and start sharing your ideas on your DML Commons blog using the hashtag #DBRMakes.


While design-based research is performed from within academic research settings, it is not often clear what research consists of at the beginning of the process, and how to make the decisions around design, data collection and analysis transparent at various points of the process. Senior Design-Based Research Scholars will join the discussions of this unit, presenting examples of their work to illustrate the ins and outs of the contextual practice-centered approach to research.

Unit 4 - Critiques of design research and responses

In this unit, we will critique the methodology, agency and scalability of design research practices. Over the course of the engagement in design-based research, scholars have identified limitations and challenges of the design research approach. These limitations and challenges can be productive in further developing design-based research in relation to theory and practice. Through these explorations we intend to inspire conversation around the “new directions” of design-based research.


  1. Introduction Post for DML Commons | Katrina Kennett - April 6, 2015

    […] looking forward to participating in the DML’s design research course. Coming into this course, I’m asking the ongoing questions of what methodologies will help […]

  2. Charting my way to and through design-based research | DML Commons Design Research DOCC - April 8, 2015

    […] we’ve kicked off this first week of the DML Commons design research course, I’ve been reflecting on the evolution of my own relationship to design-based research (DBR). […]

  3. Iterating, reiterating | Anne Donlon - September 10, 2015

    […] am going to follow and blog along with the DML Commons course on Design Research over the next few weeks. Coming from the discipline of English, Design Research is not a familiar […]