Doris Wells-Papanek, MEd

The Design Learning Network offers learners of all ages the opportunity to embrace design as a “pedagogical” approach to teaching and learning best practices. With each year, we intentionally pace the development and implementation of the network's initiatives with sustainability in mind.

Doris Wells-Papanek, MEd collaborates with educators, practitioners, and learners to design and research learning experiences. She has coached learners of all ages, authored multiple papers, and presented at national and international conferences. 

Doris is the founder and director of the Design Learning Network, which fosters the design learning process through individual members as well as international partners and organizations. Anchored in an action research, human-centered, and sustainable approach, the aim of the network’s efforts is to mindfully enhance educational experiences for all who are involved. 

Using a creative problem-solving approach, Wells-Papanek is accomplished at co-constructing shared visions, addressing complex challenges, and striving for positive impact. Doris is skilled at guiding cross-organizational collaborations, facilitating teams inspired by diverse perspectives, developing meaningful professional development, and creating continuous learning systems. Wells-Papanek is well-versed in action research, the co-construction process, high-impact learning strategies, formative feedback loops, criteria-based assessments, and performance evaluations.

For more than twenty years, Doris worked for and collaborated with companies such as Xerox, Apple, Lotus, Hewlett-Packard, Siemens, Philips, and Intuit where she designed interfaces, managed creative groups, and led technical teams. 

Wells-Papanek holds a master's degree in curriculum and instruction design with a focus on action research from National Louis University and a bachelor’s degree in product and environmental design from the Kansas City Art Institute & School of Design.

Doris Wells-Papanek, MEd
Director, Design Learning Network
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As Director and Founder of the Design Learning Network, Doris links like-minded members and international partners with organizations such as the School of Art & Design at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom, Council for British Teachers, Industrial Designers Society of America, National Art Education Association, Design Management Institute, Design-Ed Coalition,, and Co-oproduct. The ultimate goal of the shared efforts between network partners and members is to create effective and sustainable design learning links between primary, secondary, and higher education students and teachers on a global scale. The overarching objective of the network is to create a wide cross-section of disciplines to engage in meaningful design learning experiences within a network of activities such as design learning challenges, workshops, and symposiums. Grounded in an action research approach, the aim of the network’s efforts is to mindfully enhance overall educational experiences for all educators and students involved.

As principal of Tailored Learning Tools,
Doris consults with companies and learning organizations to develop change strategies, conduct human-centered action research studies, and design and implement program evaluations. She specializes in student-centered learning and accountability, student engagement and self-directed learning, formative assessment and instructional decision-making, grant program evaluation and systems design, and contextual storytelling. Doris collaborates with companies and learning organizations such as the Industrial Designers Society of America, the National Art Education Association, Waukegan Public Schools, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of Illinois at Chicago. 

As partner of Greenleaf Papanek Publications, Doris and her partner, Dr. Robert Greenleaf, produce books that blend the best of educational practices with what the cognitive neuroscience and psychology literature has to offer to date. Our primary interest is focused on ideas and strategies that impact learning. Major concentrations include the concepts of memory, recall, and transfer to sustained learning practices, as well as building capacities for well-being and productive choices and behaviors.

As facilitator of the IDSA K12 Design Education Initiative,
 each school year Doris invites K-12 educators and students to engage in the IDSA Design Learning Challenge. As partners of the Design Learning Network, the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) teams up with the National Art Education Association (NAEA) to challenge learners to explore a world of infinite creative ideas to tackle a problem worth solving within their classroom, school, neighborhood, or community. The goal of the challenge is to engage students in the design learning process as they produce and report on an investigative topic of their choice. The highly interactive and collaborative design learning process is grounded in creativity, problem solving, and innovative thinking via critical inquiryThe objective is for students to learn how to make good decisions with the intent to produce innovative outcomes that result in positive impact in the form of design: product, communication, service, or user experience.

As program evaluator for the Terra Foundation for American Art,
Doris and her partner, Dr. Linnea Rademaker, serve as consultants to the “American Art at the Core of Learning” project where 15 institutions and museums in the Chicagoland area are collaborating with local K-12 educators to integrate art as a form of text within English Language Arts literature as aligned with the Common Core State Standards.