Do Instructional Designers Need Research to Inform Practice?

Yesterday I posted some open questions in reaction to a discussion that Cammy Bean and John H. Curry had. They both suggested (here and here) that we pursue this further, so here goes.

While I ask questions because I am interested in my work as well as my research, I genuinely want to inform our field so we can better meet the needs of our clients, colleagues, and ultimately ourselves when we work within organizations. After all, the more we know and the better informed we are, the more we can leverage that knowledge and those experiences to effect positive change.

Of the questions regarding instructional design that I identified (to which there can undoubtedly be more added), this is the one that most grips me:

Do Instructional Designers Need Research to Inform Practice?

Let me share my perspective. I like the concept of evidence-based practice, and think it offers a lot to my work, thinking, and fundamental approach to life. I have written about the area of research and practice, as well as explored some of the questions around what practitioners even mean by the concept of research.

So, back to the question at hand. Can an instructional designer (ID) need formal, peer-reviewed research in order to do his or her job? Restated in a slightly different way, can this formal research support the work of the ID, even if on an infrequent basis?

Answering “yes” may mean that channels of communication between scholars and practitioners should be explored and opened. Answering “no” may show that academics in the field are working on research that has no practical value.

What do you think?

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