How is DBIR different from other approaches?

DBIR is one of many approaches that an RPP might use. It is focused on co-designed projects that iteratively use implementation evidence to inform the development of processes and tools. DBIR is characterized by four principles: 1) forming teams of researchers and practitioners that focus on co-defining problems of practice; 2) iterative, collaborative design aimed at improving teaching and learning practice at scale; 3) co-developing theory related to both classroom learning and implementation; and 4) building capacity for organizational routines and processes that sustain change within systems. These four principles lend themselves to close research-practice collaborations to develop curricula, programs, and professional development.


Are there particular kinds of projects that are well suited for DBIR?

DBIR projects tend to focus on classroom-based interventions or closely related activities, such as professional development for teachers. However, any jointly negotiated intervention that addresses a persistent problem of practice could be designed as a DBIR project. Any time a team is developing resources or materials for students and teachers, or teachers and instructional coaches, DBIR may be an appropriate approach. Additionally, a DBIR approach could be applied at many different points in a line of research, including exploratory, design and development, efficacy, and effectiveness or scale-up studies.


What are promising strategies for facilitating a design process?

Continuous engagement and participation of stakeholders at all levels are core ideas in DBIR. Bill Penuel suggests that design processes should result in teams that “get things basically right fast” and/or “fail early and fail often.” The strategies that help DBIR teams build successful relationships may be instructive for all types of RPPs. These strategies include:

  • Developing long-term, structured partnerships that allow norms and routines for collaboration to evolve over time. This is critical for developing the trust necessary to undertake cycles of “test and failure” over the course of the partnership.
  • Continuously attending to dynamics of power and authority. Such dynamics exist in every partnership, but especially between researchers and educators. A co-designed process strives for equitable participation. This requires intentional effort to have all voices included and is essential to getting the design question “right.”
  • Planning around the realities of partners’ daily responsibilities and capacities. Planners of DBIR projects should do their homework to understand existing initiatives and demands on teachers’ time; the history of professional development implementation in the district, including past failures; and strategies for systematically giving and receiving feedback and incorporating feedback into the project.

What are strategies for sustaining co-designed products?

Sustainability planning starts at the beginning of a project, with active participation by as many relevant stakeholder groups as possible. Participatory design processes gain not only the input and buy-in of classroom teachers or coaches, but also the ongoing support of building and district administrators. Further, to scale DBIR projects, researchers must work not only with teachers, but with the principals, coaches, and district leaders who can support broader efforts and sustain interventions over time.

The iterative nature of DBIR work involves developing findings on implementation and using them to improve future implementation. Sustainability can also be promoted by creating organizational routines and processes that encourage research use and help innovations spread throughout the system.