Design Learning Essentials



Design Thinking, as per Arnold Wasserman, Collective Invention

Systems Thinking emphasizes our need to understand a whole system and the relationships between its parts rather than focusing on its parts in isolation. The goal is to uncover those aspects of the system that with the greatest potential to change the system as a whole. Design Thinking begins by understanding both the tacit and explicit needs of stakeholders, and then carries this understanding through a design process. In this context, design thinking is the process of taking an imaginative leap into the future and working back from the desired outcome to identify what must then happen.



21st Century Learning Skills
, as per Partnership for 21st Century and Dr. Judy Willis

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student. As the United States continues to compete in a global economy that demands innovation, P21 and its members provide tools and resources to help the U.S. education system keep up by fusing the 3Rs and 4Cs (Critical thinking and problem solving, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and innovation). While leading districts and schools are already doing this, P21 advocates for local, state and federal policies that support this approach for every school.

Big Thinkers: Judy Willis on the Science of Learning
The noted neurologist turned educator talks about the science of boredom, how to get students' attention, and the most important lessons for 21st-century learning. 



Curriculum Framework
, as per Dr. Betty Garner, ASCD author

The design of instructional flow is essential to effective learning experiences. Dr. Betty Garner, a former art educator, has developed the following human-centered and learner-directed instructional model. This creative approach to learning has been successfully used with students of all ages around the world. The following instructional flow will serve as the framework for all three Design Learning Challenge categories:

  • Explore  Learners notice, experience, and gather sensory input.

  • Describe  Learners begin cognitive processing by making connections with prior knowledge.

  • Explain  Facilitator clarifies and builds on learner descriptions, introduces new materials, concepts, and asks students what sense they are making of it all and expand their processing.

  • Demonstrate  Learners share evidence of learning outcomes by analyzing and integrating information and applying their understandings.

  • Evaluate  Learners and facilitator reflect on and evaluate the effectiveness of the learning experience, how it could be improved, and what questions come to mind as a result of the experience.


Design Learning Research
, modifiied as per Dr. Betty Garner, ASCD author

Design Learning Research is a systematic, reflective and collaborative process that examines a situation or issue for the purpose of planning, implementing, and evaluating change. Action research is brain compatible learning process that maps to how you naturally go about learning something new. Action research is a self-directed study of one’s own practice that:

  • identifies a specific issue or problem
  • collaborates with colleagues to collect and analyze data related to issue
  • develops and implements action plan
  • evaluates implementation and reformulates question based on findings


Project-Based Learning
, as per the Buck Institute of Education

In Project Based Learning (PBL), students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. While allowing for some degree of student "voice and choice," rigorous projects are carefully planned, managed, and assessed to help students learn key academic content, practice 21st Century Skills (such as collaboration, communication & critical thinking), and create high-quality, authentic products & presentations.



The Human Condition
, as per Dr. Robert Greenleaf and Doris Wells-Papanek, M.Ed.

To gain a greater understanding of the learning process, it is a worthwhile investment to consider the human condition and how brain works. With this knowledge, we can make informed decisions as we engage in learn.think.do best practices. Dr. Robert Greenleaf and Doris Wells-Papanek, M.Ed. (2007) offer a framework for how humans process for understanding, retain, apply, and transfer knowledge including: the sensory system, central nervous system, short- and long-term memory, etc. 



Engaging Today's Students, the Four Essentials
, as per Elaine Millen et al.

Students, like educators, make choices every day. If students perceive their learning to be important, then they will engage, attend, and choose to invest in the activity. Instruction must incorporate real-life application of learning, performance-based assessments, and opportunity for choice. Ask these questions to gain insight into your students' perception:

Do your students perceive what they are learning to be important?

  • Relevance  How can we deliver content so our students will make connections and discover relationships?

  • Choice  What choices do we offer students to serve as evidence of their learning process?

  • Interaction  How often do students work with others within classroom activities?

  • Assessment  Do we adjust our instruction, based on student learning needs and levels of engagement?