On the Ambiguous Nature of Theory in Educational Design-based Research – Reflecting and Structuring from an IS Perspective


The lack of commonly accepted models of educational Design-based Research (DBR) hinders the effectiveness of knowledge transfer and theory development in this field. Such models are well established in information systems (IS) research. The structured approaches to DBR in IS research have the potential to inform educational research practice for facilitating the interplay between theoretical and practical advancements.

We compare existing approaches to identify compatibility in terms of objectives and structured process designs in the two fields based on a literature review. Having established common ground, we examine the role of theory as a result of DBR and identify potential for synthesis of existing concepts. Finally, we transfer an DBR contribution types model from IS and evaluate its applicability by reflecting it against outcomes in educational DBR.

We show a compatibility of the goals and characteristics of DBR in both disciplines and identify a common underlying understanding that enables a transfer of concepts and models. The nature of DBR outcomes in educational research is found to be ambiguous, in particular with respect to the role of theory. This hampers the development of generalizable and transferable findings. DBR in IS provides more coherent models of the role of theory and the processes that lead to its development and validation. We show that these models can inform the implementation of educational DBR.

The paper contributes to the advancement of educational DBR by transferring models from IS research after thoroughly examining the compatibility of DBR in both fields. The more structured approach to examine and assess DBR outcomes enables to improve the generalizability and transferability of findings in educational research

Educational Design Research
Stefan Oppl
Stefan Oppl
Professor for Technology Enhanced Learning

My research interests include technology-enhanced learning, socio-technical systems design and HCI