Education as Design for Learning: A Model for Integrating Education Inquiry Across Research Traditions

WCER Working Paper No. 2019-4

Rich Halverson and Erica Rosenfeld Halverson

May 2019, 23 pp.

ABSTRACT: How can we see education research as a coherent body of inquiry? The naturally occurring diversity of epistemologies and methods give education research the appearance of discord. In this paper, we propose that all of these various methods, questions, and interpretive frameworks of education research share a common commitment to the idea that education is design for learning. We begin with a discussion of how recent efforts at the global and national policy levels have sought to position scientific inquiry as the premiere version of education research based on the model of social sciences. We then discuss the role of practical inquiry as a necessary complement to both receive and generate positivist knowledge. The iteration between scientific and practical inquiry describes a path for how scientific and practical work can be naturally linked in an iterative inquiry for improving education processes and outcomes. However, without a critical perspective, this iterative process can become detached from valued social concerns and become an exercise in optimization, rather than improvement. We propose that critical inquiry should be systemically integrated into the design process for researchers and educators to reflect on both the intentions and consequences of the scientific-practical cycle. We then describe how integrating these approaches can show the way toward to a coherent model of education research.

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keywords: education research, design for learning, scientific inquiry, practical inquiry, critical inquiry