Formative Research: A Methodology for Creating and Improving Design Theories


In Chapter 1, Reigeluth described design theory as being different from descriptive theory in that it offers means to achieve goals. For an applied field like education, design theory is more useful and more easily applied than its descriptive counterpart, learning theory. But none of the 22 theories described in this book has yet been developed to a state of perfection; at very least they can all benefit from more detailed guidance for applying their methods to diverse situations. And more theories are sorely needed to provide guidance for additional kinds of learning and human development and for different kinds of situations, including the use of new information technologies as tools. This leads us to the important question, " What research methods are most helpful for creating and improving instructional design theories? " In this chapter, we offer a detailed description of one research methodology that holds much promise for generating the kind of knowledge that we believe is most useful to educators—a methodology that several theorists in this book have intuitively used to develop their theories. We refer to this methodology as "formative research"—a kind of developmental research or action research that is intended to improve design theory for designing instructional practices or processes. Reigeluth (1989) and Romiszowski (1988) have recommended this approach to expand the knowledge base in instructional-design theory. Newman (1990) has suggested something similar for research on the organizational impact of computers in schools. And Greeno, Collins and Resnick (1996) have identified several groups of researchers who are conducting something similar that they call " design experiments, " in which " researchers and practitioners, particularly teachers, collaborate in the design, implementation, and analysis of changes in practice. " (p. 15) Formative research has also been used for generating knowledge in as broad an area as systemic change in education We intend for this chapter to help guide educational researchers who are developing and refining instructional-design theories. Most researchers have not had the opportunity to learn formal research methodologies for developing design theories. Doctoral programs in universities tend to emphasize quantitative and qualitative research methodologies for creating descriptive knowledge of education. However, design theories are guidelines for practice, which tell us "how to do" education, not "what is." We have found that traditional quantitative research methods (e.g., experiments, surveys, correlational analyses) are not particularly useful for improving instructional-design theory— especially in the early stages of development. Instead, …

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@inproceedings{Reigeluth2003FormativeRA, title={Formative Research: A Methodology for Creating and Improving Design Theories}, author={Charles M. Reigeluth and Theodore Frick}, year={2003} }