Understanding the role of conducting design-based research in teacher education

22 February 2024

Educational project

Understanding the role of conducting design-based research in teacher education

Teacher research has become an important aspect of the teaching profession. Therefore, students in our teacher education institutes (pre-service teachers, PST) are required to conduct practitioner research in a semester course with the aim to bridge the gap between theory and practice and develop insights into practical problems and consequences of their actions in the classroom. This project addresses how design-based research supports goals of pre-service biology teachers.

Background information

A review from literature about the effects of practitioner research by in-service teachers shows three important goals of teacher research:

  1. to improve their own individual practice;
  2. to develop as a professional in a more general sense, and
  3. to explicitly contribute to a knowledge base, which showed to be rare (Zwart et al. 2015).

However, two issues still seem to be unclear: 1. What (type of) goals PST have and are activated by conducting design-based research in their teacher education course; and 2. The mechanisms by which practitioner research can lead to such attaining these goals. In the course, we use elements of the SoTL approach by having PST systematically investigate questions surrounding their student (in secondary education) learning in a systematic way, combined with investigating the conditions under which learning takes place, what learning looks like and how it can be improved – and that they do this with a view not only to improving their own practice, but also to contribute to improving education in general.

Project description

In this study we use a laddering tool interview (a well-established procedure in the field of psychology) as a method to construct goal systems of PST related to their design based research project. Goal systems consist of a hierarchy of goals and means, in which goals of the highest levels reflect important aspects of someone’s identity, providing a window in what motivates someone (Janssen et al. 2017)

Aims and results

The aim of this research is to shed light on the two aforementioned issues (what type of goals PST have in relation to the design-based research they conduct and the mechanisms by which these goals are attained). We focus on the course subject related methodology biology 2 in which PST learn didactical approaches in order to teach biology in classroom. The following research question is addressed: How does design-based research support goals of pre-service (biology) teachers? This study might inform adjustments of the course.

In an explorative study goal systems of four PST were constructed during laddering tool interviews, giving insight which goals were important (and activated) and through which route (mechanisms) in each research phase these goals were attained.


The goal systems (and types of attained goals) all show the relevance PST attribute to the role of (and phases of) design-based research in the education course. Individual goal systems give insight in PST ideas and beliefs on effectively teaching biology, now and in their future carriers as biology teachers.


  • Zwart, R. C., Smit, B., & Admiraal, W.F. (2015). Docentonderzoek nader bekeken. Een reviewstudie naar de aard en betekenis van onderzoek door docenten. Pedagogische Studiën, 92, 131–148.
  • Janssen, F. J. J. M., Könings, K. D., & van Merriënboer, J. J. G. (2017). Participatory educational design: How to improve mutual learning and the quality and usability of the design? European Journal of Education, 52(3), 268–279

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