Design-based research (DBR) employs the identification of a problem as the key to designing solutions and generating new knowledge. Based on three empirical examples that highlight the potentials of three methods for elaborating on a problem, this paper argues that expanding, deepening and orchestrating this phase may provide crucial insights into subsequent attempts at problem-solving design. The authors discuss how the identification phase can be orchestrated in a way that facilitates a nuanced and explicit exploration of a problem. The matter of a problem is addressed by drawing on Schönʼs (1983) distinction between problem-setting and problem-solving, focusing on the problem-setting process and addressing the implications of a collaborative practitioner–researcher perspective (e.g. Amiel & Reeves, 2008). When discussing paradigmatic issues in different scientific domains, as well as the issue of bridging practical and theoretical problems, the authors draw on epistemological insights to define what constitutes a problem (Adolphson, 2006). Three methods practised by the authors in three DBR projects—future-workshop, dialogic-space, and co-creation methods—suggest potential approaches for enhancing practitioner–researcher collaboration when identifying a problem. From here, it is argued that the dynamic interplay between practical and theoretical problem-setting holds the potential to transcend a fixed set of problems. Furthermore, it is argued that multifaceted and diverse stakeholder collaboration creates productive tension between perspectives that can revitalize well-known ideas on the matters of a problem. The problem-setting issue in DBR is therefore not solved, but more tools are proposed for use in the phase during which a problem is identified.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
JournalNordic Journal of Digital Literacy
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)211-221
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2022


  • IT & learning design
  • design-based research
  • practitioner involvement
  • problemsetting methods
  • Practitioner involvement
  • Problem-setting methods
  • Design-based research


Dive into the research topics of 'Expanding and orchestrating the problem identification phase of design-based research'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this