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28 Pages

Ontological Innovation and the Role of Theory in Design Experiments

Andrea A. diSessa Paul Cobb

The nature of theory and its role in educational studies and in design research in particular is a deep topic deserving of extended discussion. It has frequently been argued that the development of theory should be one of the primary goals of design research (e.g., Collins, Joseph, & Bielaczyc, this issue; Confrey & Lachance,

2000; Design-Based Research Collaborative, 2003; Edelson, 2002; Gravemeijer, 1994a; Labato, 2003; Simon, 2000). Despite this recognition of the potential con­ tributions of theory, we contend that design experiments have generally been un­ derdeveloped as contexts for the development of theory. Our primary purpose in this article is to enrich ongoing discussion of the role of theory in design research with some new avenues of consideration.