Central to all of this work is a methodological approach entitled design-based implementation research, which involves building theoretically-inspired designs and then leveraging implementation stories to better understand the value of the theory.
Initially, the research was in the service of testing theoretical assumptions, and then eventually it was focused on testing designs based on those theoretical assumptions. Those motivations have continued, and for my work the research is ultimately a service in support of building warranted claims and assumptions, at the same time building cases for how these are realizable in particular designs. Here, there is a texture to advancing meaningful stories that have an element of what the anthropologist Clifford Geertz referred to as “experience near” significance to those with whom the research was conducted, and “experience distant” relevance to those who want to learn from the particular case.
At the core of this work is a “relational perspective” that spreads the unit of analysis across multiple spaces and time periods, and often involves myself as researcher and designer—conflating and complicating many of the assumptions that drive more traditional research. However, it is just these sort of confounds and agile tweaks of the context that I believe make the work interesting and ecologically sound both in terms of the particular study and in the more general claims.
Leveraging design-based and impact-based research methodologies, my work focuses the design and research of game-infused learning environments to help ALL learners thrive in a rapidly changing, digitally connected world. Beyond a social change agenda, the intent of this research is to develop rigorous claims about how people learn that have significant practical, pedagogical, and theoretical implications. This is because the messiness of real-world practice must be recognized, understood, and integrated, and the ongoing balance between what is and would could be must be managed if the claims are to have real-world explanatory value in driving future change.
Sasha Barab is a Professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, where he co-founded and serves as the Executive Director of the Center for Games and Impact.
Dr. Barab is an internationally recognized Learning Scientist who holds the Pinnacle West Chair of Education, and who has researched, designed, and published extensively on the challenges and opportunities of using games for impact.