This study employs design-based research to investigate how university teachers and their students from vietnam perceived and adapted an evidence-based pedagogy known as student-teams achievement division (stad). Two hundred and twenty one students and their teachers from three classes at a vietnamese university participated in this one-semester qualitative study. It was found that both teachers and their students resisted many key procedures and practices of stad. Specifically, the students did not work effectively in mixed-ability groups, found role-rotating within groups to be an ineffective strategy for promoting learning, and engaged only superficially in small-group study without the teachers supervision and scaffolding. Instead, the vietnamese university students worked more effectively in friendship groups, participated in group work more fairly under the management of a designated group leader and engaged in more complex knowledge construction when they were guided by scaffolding questions from the teacher. Our study highlights the importance of adapting evidence-based pedagogies to local institutional conditions and to the cultural expectations shared by students and teachers about how to interact in the classroom. Our study also highlights the efficacy of design-based research methods in systematically investigating policy borrowing and the adaptation of pedagogies to local sociocultural contexts. 2015,Taylor & francis.