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Design as a Catalyst for Learning 



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Design as a Catalyst for Learning 


Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development 
Alexandria, Virginia USA 

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development 
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Copyright © 1997 by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in 
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this book should not be interpreted as official positions of the Association. 

Printed in the United States of America. 

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December 1997 member book (p). ASCD Premium, Comprehensive, and Regular members 
periodically receive ASCD books as part of their membership benefits. No. FY98-3 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Design as a catalyst for learning / Meredith Davis ... [et al.]. 
p. cm. 

Papers based on research conducted by the OMG Center for 

Collaborative Learning. 

Includes bibliographical references (p. ). 

ISBN 0-87120-284-0 (pb) 

1. Creative thinking— Study and teaching— United States. 2. Design— Study 
and teaching— United States. 3. Problem-solving— Study and teaching- 
United States. 4. Active learning— United States. 5. Curriculum planning— 
United States. 6. Educational change— United States. I. Davis, Meredith 
(Meredith J.) 
LB1062.D475 1997 

370.15'2-dc21 97-43361 


01 00 99 98 97 5 4 3 2 1 

Table of Contents 


Chapter 1 
Chapter 2 
Chapter 3 

Chapter 4 
Chapter 5 

Chapter 6 

Appendix A 

Appendix B 

Appendix C 
About the Authors 
About the NEA 
About ASCD 

Learning Through Design 

Lifelong Learning. 

A Strategy for Excellent 

Design in the Curriculum 

Opportunities and 
Challenges for Schools 

Conclusions and 

Design Education in the 
Context of Education Reform 

Sources of Information 
and Assistance 

Schools Cited in this Study 

The Design as a Catalyst for Learning project was funded through a 
cooperative agreement (DCA 93-08) from the National Endowment for 
the Arts, a federal agency. The initial project research was conducted 
by Gertrude J. Spilka, principal researcher, Bernard McMullen, and Lisa 
Nutter of the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning in Philadelphia, Pa. 


this book speaks directly to educators, 
but I believe it holds insights that 
will be of interest to parents and 
business leaders as well. In his 1997 State 
of American Education address, U.S. 
Secretary of Education Richard W. 
Riley reminded us that as we approach 
the 21st century, "nothing should be 
more important to us as a nation than 
the actions we take now to help our 
young people prepare for the future." 1 As 
a mother, I know what all parents want 
for their children: to give them every 
opportunity to reach their full potential. 
We want our children to know how to 
work well with other people. We want 
them to feel competent in solving the 

problems they may encounter at work 
and in the community. Above all, we 
want them to be happy and engaged 
in life, to know how to keep learning, 
enjoying, and contributing. 

Goal Three of our National 
Education Goals, endorsed by the 
nation's governors and both parties in 
Congress, summarizes these desires well. 
After stating that all children should 
graduate from high school with a firm 
understanding of core subjects including 
math, science, social studies and the arts 
it continues ". . . and every school in 
America will ensure that all students 
learn to use their minds well, so that 
they may be prepared for responsible 

citizenship, further learning, and pro- 
ductive employment in our Nation's 
modern economy." 2 

The world into which students now 
graduate is changing rapidly as global 
competition increases and information 
technology transforms the way work is 
conducted. Where once the "three R's" 
were sufficient for most young people 
to gain entry into the workforce, today 
they are only the foundation for a set 
of higher-level thinking and perfor- 
mance skills sought by employers. The 
"knowledge worker" now in demand is 
a person who works well in a team, 

particularly with people from different 
cultural backgrounds. Such workers also 
know how to access, evaluate, interpret, 
and communicate information in a 
variety of media. They have the curiosity 
and creativity to pose questions and to 
innovate. They can grasp the dynamic 
relationships among parts that consti- 
tute larger systems. They know how to 
allocate human and material resources 
to get things done on time and to high 
standards of quality. 

We need these skills in all spheres of 
our society: in government, business, 
and the nonprofit sector. The quality of 
everyday life in our communities as well 
as the nation's economic vitality depend 
upon people's ability to view problems 
from many perspectives, to construct 
creative approaches to solving them, 
and to evaluate those solutions with a 
critical eye. Such skills lie at the heart 
of engaged, responsible citizenship. 
They are also fundamental to the inno- 
vations that stimulate entrepreneurship 
and job growth. 

How then do we develop these skills 
in our children? What kind of schools 
can nurture them? I am convinced — 
and an increasing number of business 
and civic leaders are too — that education 
in the arts is an essential component. 
This was illustrated last year in a spe- 
cial education supplement published by 
Business Week magazine. 3 There, business 

and civic leaders gave testimony to the 
value of the arts in developing the kinds 
of well-rounded, hard-working, innov- 
ative performers they are seeking. 

They know that, in any art form, the 
artist is concerned with both process 
and end product. Design, the subject of 
this book, is a good example. Whether 
the objective is a product, a building, a 
city plan, or a graphic communication, 
when children are engaged in the process 
of designing, they are learning to 
identify needs, frame problems, work 
collaboratively, explore and appreciate 
the contexts within which a solution 
must work, weigh alternatives, and 
communicate their ideas verbally, 
graphically, and in three dimensions. 

Design is also about making and 
doing as a way of knowing, of really 
understanding the abstract concepts 
taught in schools. It's about putting 
ideas to work in situations that allow 
children to test themselves and the value 
of learning in everyday life. Engaging 
in periodic self-assessment and critiques 
of work in progress, students come to 
understand that performance testing to 
high standards and continual improve- 
ment are fundamental to the process, in 
lifelong learning no less than in design. 

Dance, theatre, music, and the visual 
arts share many of these characteristics 
and should be part of any comprehen- 
sive educational program. Design is in 


G o a 

a unique position, however, because 
the very "stuff' of design is all around 
children: in the classroom, the neighbor- 
hood, and even in the virtual worlds 
available on the Internet. As the teachers 
you will meet in this book reveal, the 
very fact that the products of design are 
so ubiquitous and so tangible makes 
design itself an easy hook to capture 
students' attention, a natural path on 
which to set them exploring how the 
world works and how they can make a 
difference in it. 

These teachers also will tell you 
that design helps students integrate 
knowledge from other disciplines and 
motivates them to attend school. Given 
that truancy costs the United States 
some S228 billion a year and corpora- 
tions spend an additional S30 billion 
annually on the remedial education of 
their employees, any pedagogical method 
that invigorates students' learning and 
keeps them coming back for more is 
worth a close look by educators, parents, 
and business leaders alike. 

As President Clinton has stated on 
numerous occasions, education is our 
most important bridge to the 21st 
century. It's one we all have a role in 
building. In this book you will see that 
design in education itself constitutes a 

powerful bridge, both literally and fig- 
uratively You'll see children building 
and testing bridges as a means of learn- 
ing math, science, and social studies. 
You'll see how design helps teachers 
bridge different subjects and connect 
classroom learning with the larger 
community. Ultimately, whatever the 
type of design and its curricular context, 
you'll see that the creative, problem- 
solving process of design helps both 
teachers and students achieve their goals. 
In closing, I want to thank all those 
who made this book possible both within 
and beyond the Arts Endowment and 
to thank ASCD in particular for recog- 
nizing the potential of design to help 
teachers all across the curriculum. If 
what you see excites you, as I am sure 
it will, consider how to integrate these 
methods into your community's schools, 
into teacher-training programs, and 
into school-business partnerships. 
You will find design a potent catalyst 
for excellence. 

Jane Alexander 


National Endowment for the Arts 

Middle school students design 
the ideal city of the future for 
the annual National Engineers 
Week Future City Competition. 
Here, the winners show their 
computer-designed city to 
President Clinton. 

1 Riley, Richard W. (February 18, 199 7 ). Fourth Annual State of American Education Address. Washington, D.C: U.S. Department of Education, p. 2. 

2 Goals 2000: Educate America Act. 0994). Public Law 103-227, signed into law March 31. 1994. 

3 Business Vai. (October 28. 1996). "Educating for the Workplace Through the Arts " 

*1 ' »"''" ■'■'■ 


Unless you are looking at this 
book in the middle of a wilder- 
ness, you are surrounded by 
the designed world: the landscapes, 
buildings, products, and graphic 
communications that go together 
to form the world humans have 
shaped to their own ends — and are 
constantly in the process of revising 
and recreating. 

Designing is an inherent human 
capability. We see evidence of humans' 
creative adaptation to the natural world 
as far back as archaeologists, anthro- 
pologists, and paleontologists can take 
us. We also see daily, gleeful evidence 
of design wherever young children are 
allowed to let their keen curiosity and 
inventive imaginations engage the 
world around them. 

The act of designing is so multi- 
faceted — encompassing so many syn- 
aptic flashes linking mind, eye, and 
hands — that it is hard to convey its 
dynamism, much less its pedagogic 
potential, in the single word "design." 
Our British colleagues are closer to 
capturing its Protean character when 
they talk of the "designerly way of 
thinking, knowing, and doing." 

It is that dynamism and potential 
that this book attempts to capture and 
present, to show that design belongs 
in the curriculum not merely as a noun 
or verb but as adjective and adverb too. 
This book also attempts to show that 
design belongs not only in the art studio 
and industrial arts (now "technology") 
classroom but in and among all the 


As the following pages will reveal, 
dedicated professionals across the coun- 
try — teachers, curriculum specialists, 
and administrators — have seen the 
potential of design at work. These 
educators understand that thinking 
about and "doing" design motivates 
young people; helps them place what 
they are learning in a larger context; 
teaches them how to be both reflective, 
self-directed learners and collaborative 
team members; and, best of all, reveals 
to them that they have both the innate 
creative capacity and the civic responsi- 
bility to manage change in the "built," 
or designed, environment. 

As with any multiyear, multitask 
project, profound and sincere thanks are 
due to many people who contributed to 
and influenced this book: 

To Jane Alexander, Chairman of the 
National Endowment for the Arts, and 
to the National Council on the Arts for 
approving the funds for this research 
project, which was launched in late 1992. 

To Mina Berryman, former director 
of the National Endowment for the Art's 
Design Program, for first suggesting 
design in K-12 education as a topic for 
exploration, and to Samina Quraeshi, 
her successor, who supported the project 
to its conclusion. 

To the exemplary individuals who 
generously gave their time and talent 
to serve on our national advisory com- 

mittee for this project. Drawn from the 
worlds of education and design, they 
challenged, encouraged, and blessed 
this effort with confident patience 
during its many twists and turns. 
They are: 

- Doug Herbert, Director, Arts in Education, 
National Endowment for the Arts 

- Meredith Davis, Head, Graphic Design, 
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, 
North Carolina 

- Gioia Caiola Forman, former principal 
of Dranesville Elementary School in 
Herndon, Virginia, and now director, 
Security and Risk Management, Fairfax 
County Schools 

- David Kennedy, Director of Educational 
Technology, Office of the Superintendent 
of Public Instruction, Washington State, 

- Gary Marx, Senior Associate Executive 
Director, American Association of School 
Administrators, Arlington, Virginia 

- Hazel Robbins, teacher, Shawmont 
School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

- Alan R. Sandler, Senior Director, 
Education Programs, American 
Architectural Foundation, Washington, D.C. 

- Julia Shahid, Academic Coordinator, 
McKinney Independent School District, 
McKinney, Texas 

To Gertrude (Gerri) Spilka and her 
colleagues at the OMG Center for 
Collaborative Learning in Philadelphia, 
who undertook the initial research for 
the Design Program, cast the net for 

teachers, explored the literature, and 
placed the testimony of teachers in the 
broader context of educational theory 
and practice. The research team she 
assembled included, at various times, 
Bernard McMullan, Lisa Nutter, and 
Mark Fraga. 

To Meredith Davis, one of our 
advisors with experience in both the 
professional design world and the K-12 
classroom, for accepting the challenge 
of revising the manuscript to elucidate 
the design methodologies that lie 
below the surface of the stories told. 

And to Ron Brandt, Assistant 
Executive Director of the Association 
for Supervision and Curriculum 
Development, for first seeing the 
potential of this subject to address the 
needs of teachers and curriculum spe- 
cialists in all discipline areas, and to 
Nancy Modrak, Gary Bloom, Kathie 
Felix, and Rene Bahrenfuss at ASCD 
for shepherding the manuscript 
through to publication. 

Beyond this team, we have been 
aided by a far-flung network of advo- 
cates and practitioners of design-based 
learning. Hundreds of them nominated 
teachers for our initial survey. Dozens 
assisted in identifying sites, resources, 
and illustrations. Among them I would 
like to acknowledge the enthusiastic, 
unstinting support of the following 
individuals in particular: 

Ken Baynes, Professor of Design 
Education, University of 
Loughborough, England 

Charles Burnette, Chair, Industrial 
Design Department, University of the 
Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Pamela Carunchio, Director of 
Education, Foundation for 
Architecture, Philadelphia, 

Dorothy Dunn, Director of Education, 
Cooper Hewitt National Design 
Museum, New York City, New York 

Ginny Graves, Director, Center for 
Understanding the Built Environment, 
Prairie Village, Kansas 

Richard Kimbell, Head, Design Studies 
Department, and Director, Technology 
Education Research Unit, Goldsmith's 
College, University of London, England 

Laura London, Manager, K-12 
Education, Autodesk, Inc., Sausalito, 

Peter Lowe, Executive Director, 
Worldesign Foundation, Inc., 
New York 

Doreen Nelson, Professor, School of 
Education and Integrative Studies, 
California State Polytechnic 
University, Pomona, California, and 
Director, Center for City Building 
Education, Los Angeles, California 

Kendall Starkweather, Executive 
Director, International Technology 
Education Association, Reston, 

- Ronald R. Todd and Patricia Hutchinson, 
TIES Magazine, College of New Jersey, 
Trenton, New Jersey 

- Anna Sanko, Architecture Resource 
Center, Connecticut Architecture 
Foundation, New Haven, Connecticut 

- Anna Slafer, former Curator of Education, 
National Building Museum, and now 
Executive Director, Renew America, 
Washington, D.C. 

- Anne Taylor, Director, Institute for 
Environmental Education, School of 
Architecture and Planning, University of 
New Mexico, and Director, School Zone 
Institute, Albuquerque, New Mexico 

- Adele Weiler, President, Building 
Connections, Murray, Utah 

Closer to home, I would like to 
thank several interns and fellows at the 
National Endowment for the Arts who 
assisted with various administrative 
aspects of the project, including Jean 
Horstman, Rachael Smith, and Sarah 

Ultimarely my deepest thanks goes 
out to all the teachers who responded 
to our call for information and to their 
many colleagues who take up each day 
the challenge and excitement of the 
most noble profession, that of nurtur- 
ing and educating the next generation 
of citizens. For as David Perkins has 
said in Knowledge as Design: "A teacher 
ideally conceived is a designer who 
helps learners to design themselves." 

It is the hope of all those who have 
contributed to this book that you will 
find inspiration in its pages for your 
own work with young people and that 
this introductory report will also be a 
catalyst for further research, curriculum 
development, innovative teacher prepa- 
ration, and professional development. 

— Peter Hawley, Project Director 

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In Seattle, Washington, 4th grade 
students explore relationships 
between culture and habitat as they 
design and build Native American 
housing. Social and environmental 
studies come alive for them through 
activities that pose real-life problems, 
similar to those encountered by resi- 
dents of the earliest North American 

A kindergarten student in West 
Linn, Oregon, struggles with making 
a moveable hinge for a puppet she is 
designing. She knows the performance 
she wants and works backward through 
a myriad of possible mechanical 

solutions that might achieve the gestures 
she sees in her mind. 

In Lowell, Massachusetts, 7th and 8th 
grade students apply their knowledge 
in math, science, and environmental 
studies to critiques of "environmentally 
unsound packaging." They work in 
teams to create more effective solutions. 
As astute consumers of popular culture, 
they find writing brochures and 
designing advertising for these products 
equally engaging. 

A high school physics teacher in 
Aurora, Colorado, reports the success of 
his "Rube Goldberg Project" in moti- 
vating students who normally show no 

interest in physics. In designing, build- 
ing, and operating their extraordinary 
machines, students demonstrate their 
understanding of physics principles 
with an enthusiasm their teacher rarely 
finds in traditional exercises. 

And in Canyon Country, California, 
6th grade students design and con- 
struct a city of the future, acting out 
the roles of the planning and trans- 
portation boards and city council. In 
addition to learning how civic groups 
reach decisions, students confront the 
difficulties of planning urban systems 
while preserving the quality of com- 
munity life. 

Increasingly, innovative teachers 
explore with their students the modes 
of inquiry used by graphic designers, 
product designers, interior designers, 
urban planners, landscape architects, 

These students and their teachers 
employ an approach to learning in which 
design is an integral part of curriculum 
and pedagogy. Increasingly, innovative 
teachers explore with their students the 
modes of inquiry used by graphic 
designers, product designers, interior 
designers, urban planners, landscape 
architects, and architects. They also 
examine content related to the everyday 
artifacts and environments of various 
cultures, along with processes for making 
decisions about visual communication, 
consumer products, and the built 
(manmade) environment. Finally, these 
teachers employ active learning experi- 
ences that model the cognitive and social 
problem-solving demands of adult life. 
Design-based learning offers genuine 
promise for preparing students to be 
thinking, informed citizens who can 
shape progress in the next century. And, 
for children, design experiences are 

intriguing puzzles through which 
learning comes alive. 

The National Endowment for the 
Arts has long supported the inclusion of 
design in the K-12 curriculum. 1 In' 
response to growing evidence that design 
is a powerful tool for transforming cur- 
riculum and accommodating the variety 
of ways in which students learn, the 
Endowment's Design Program created a 
special funding category for Design in 
Education in 1991- Impressed by reports 
from those who received grants and by 
anecdotes from classroom teachers and 
administrators around the country, the 
Program commissioned a study in 1993 
to gain further understanding of how 
design in the curriculum helps students 
and teachers achieve national educa- 
tional objectives and to explore oppor- 
tunities for expanding the role design 
can play in students' academic lives. 
To conduct this research, the Endow- 
ment engaged The OMG Center for 
Collaborative Learning, a public policy 
research and consulting group based in 
Philadelphia and Los Angeles. A national 
advisory panel of K-12 educators, admin- 
istrators, and design educators guided 
OMG in its work during 1993 and 1994. 

This book presents findings of that 
research and reveals how the use of 
design experiences in classrooms 
provides teachers and students with a 
learning construct for the next century. 

How the Research 
Was Conducted 

the goal of OMG's research was to 
show a range of what teachers and 
students do in design and the promise 
that design-based teaching and learning 
hold for education reform, not to 
identify the best examples of the use of 
design in U.S. classrooms. Instead of 
reviewing programs advocating design 
in schools, OMG's research explored the 
benefits teachers say design brings to 
their practice and to their students. 
Thus, this book summarizes descriptive 
research that makes qualitative state- 
ments regarding current practice and 
identifies effective models for using 
design in classrooms. The research team 
selected an exploratory, hypothesis- 
generating approach since the practice 
is in the early stages of adoption and the 
overall number of educators using design 
in the classroom is small. 

OMG's researchers tapped three 
primary sources of data: 

- a review of literature 

on the use of design in classrooms, 

- a national qualitative survey of teachers 
currently using design with their 
students, and 

- site visits to 10 schools representing a 
range in uses of design. 

Researchers piloted a survey ques- 
tionnaire and sent it to 900 teachers 
nominated by their peers in a Call for 
Information, which was distributed to 

How the Book 
Is Organized 

educators and design professionals 
through mailings to schools, professional 
publications, and electronic networks. 
The questionnaire probed the way 
teachers use design: as subject matter 
in the curriculum, as an experimental 
means of integrating content across 
disciplines, and as a thinking process 
for learning subject matter in many 
disciplines. It also asked how teachers 
learn about design and requested sam- 
ples of their classroom lessons. 

More than 160 teachers responded to 
the questionnaire. 2 The research team 
analyzed their responses for content and 
scrutinized lessons for possible case 
study development. A promising group 
of responses showed the following: 

- a range of ways in which teachers used 

- varying degrees of integration of design 
into curriculum, and 

- diversity in teachers' understanding of 
the design process and its use as a 
learning strategy. 

With consideration of these factors 
and additional attention to diversity in 
geographic region, grade level, school 
subject area, and scale of design prob- 
lems (e.g., graphic, product, architec- 
ture, environment), the research team 
and advisors selected 10 sites to visit. 

For each one- to two-day site visit, 
the research team collected data to 
supplement the teacher questionnaires 
and lessons. The team members used 
two methods. 

Direct Observation. The 

researchers observed classroom and 
school activities — including design 
activities and other relevant subject- 
related work — and the school environ- 
ment, seeking evidence of the way 
design-based learning affects or is 
affected by school culture and physical 

Qualitative Interviews. The 

researchers conducted qualitative 
interviews with principals, curriculum 
coordinators, other school or district 
administrators, teachers, teachers' aides, 
students, and parents to gather anec- 
dotal evidence on the role of design 
in fostering excellent education. The 
objective was to elicit viewpoints from 
people with different perspectives on 

During the observations and 
interviews, the research team used a 
template for inquiry to focus the visit 
and provide consistency from site to 
site. Researchers asked questions con- 
cerning program profile, curriculum, 
assessment methods, teacher profiles 
and training, pedagogical strategies, 
administrative support, facilities, and 
limitations on the use of design in the 

Following the field work, the 
research team interviewed college pro- 
fessors of education, state and district 
curriculum specialists, and educators 
with experience in other design-based 
programs for additional information 
and perspectives. 

Due CO Congressional funding cues in 1996, separate discipline-based, grant-giving programs at the National Endowment for the 
Arts were eliminated and reorganized into fout btoad divisions. One of these, Education and Access, still provides support for 
pre-K to 12 projects, including those involving design. 

Unless otherwise noted, comments and project descriptions attributed to individual teachers and students wete obtained through 
questionnaire responses or followup interviews. 

CHAPTER 1 presents a 
description of the design process, 
a brief history of the use of design 
in classrooms in the United States, 
and a summary of international 

CHAPTER 2 discusses the 
learning experiences and outcomes 
for students who attend design-based 

CHAPTER 3 focuses on what the 
use of design in the classroom means 
for teachers. 

CHAPTER 4 summarizes the 
relationship between design-based 
approaches and mastery of content 
in various disciplines. 

CHAPTER 5 poses challenges 
to schools and districts. 

CHAPTER 6 discusses conclusions 
of the research and makes recommen- 
dations about teacher education, 
changes to the support system in 
schools, and resources to further the 
understanding of design education 
and strengthen its use in classrooms 
across the United States. 

APPENDIX A carries information 
about the consistency of design- 
based approaches to teaching with 
goals stated in national reform 

APPENDIX B lists resource 
information for teachers and 

APPENDIX C providesa 
comprehensive listing of the schools 
that participated in this study. 


Through Design 

The future is not some place 
we are going to, it is one we 
are creating. The paths to it 
are not found, but made, and 
the making of these pathways 
changes both the maker and 
the destination. 

UNESCO, "Qualities Required 
of Education Today to Meet 
Foreseeable Demands in 
the Twenty-first Century," 
1989, p. 9. 

this book addresses the study of 
design as a subject of investigation 
and a mode of inquiry that engages 
a variety of student learning styles and 
makes direct connections between 
school subjects and problem solving in 
daily life. The use of design that is 
illustrated here applies to children at 
many grade levels and in a full range of 
disciplines, not just students involved 
in precollege design, technical, or art 

Where design itself is the subject 
of investigation, students focus on the 
"goodness of fit" among the products 
of designers' work (visual communica- 
tion, products, and environments); 

the people for whom such products are 
intended; and the larger physical, social, 
and cultural contexts of which they are 
a part. Such design experiences may be 
active (making something as a solution 
to a design problem) or reflective 
(thinking about or commenting on 
designed objects or environments and 
their contexts). In cases where designerly 
modes of inquiry dominate, students 
may apply design problem-solving 
strategies to learning about something 
other than design. In some instances, 
teachers even may assess what students 
know about disciplines other than 
design by asking them to solve a 
design problem. 

Young people 

comprise 20 percent 

of the population, 

but 100 percent of 

the future. 

RICHARD RILEY, Secretary, 
U.S. Department of Education 

The Design Process 

ONE premise OF this book is that 
there is great congruency between the 
thinking and making processes in 
which design professionals engage and 
the demands today's students will • 
likely face as adults. This congruency 
argues for expanding the application 
of design methods and the pedagogy 
of design education to the teaching of 
many subjects in K-12 classrooms. 

It is clear that, to solve the great 
challenges of the future, the United 
States needs creative workers and citizens 
who can overcome the limitations of 
traditional ways of solving problems, 
who can invent new strategies that are 
appropriate to a given situation, and who 
can adapt to change. To be successful, 
employees must acquire and comprehend 
new information and skills at rates pre- 
viously unimagined. They also must 
recognize that they are individuals within 
broader systems and their actions have 
consequences beyond the immediate 
time and place. As citizens, they must 
strengthen the fabric of communities 
that are more culturally and socially 
diverse than in previous times. When 
participating in community decision 
making, they must honor their own 
values while respecting the values of 
others through a well-considered 
process of choice. 

While such demands are likely to 
characterize the lives of all citizens in the 

future, they also define the environment 
for which today's design professionals 
trained. What serves designers well 
in a climate of rapid change is their 
problem-solving process. It is a creative 
counterpart to the scientific method, 
and it presumes there is more than one 
right solution to any problem and many 
paths to each alternative. Designerly 
modes of inquiry place no hierarchy 
among various physical and cognitive 
skills. For designers, doing is a way of 
knowing. They are as likely to analyze 
a problem through models, diagrams, 
walks through an environment, or 
sketches as they are through statistics 
or writing. Designers are fluent in 
several vehicles of thought (images, 
words, numbers) and methods of com- 
munication, storing and recombining 
experiences for future use. Their process 
is iterative, always alerting them to 
new problems and opportunities. 

Nigel Cross, designer and educa- 
tional researcher in the United 
Kingdom, states, "The sciences value 
objectivity, rationality, neutrality, and 

a concern for the 'truth' [T]he 

humanities value subjectivity, imagi- 
nation, commitment, and a concern 

for 'justice' {The designerly way 

of knowing] involves a combination 
of knowledge and skills from both the 
sciences and the humanities" (Cross 
1983, pp. 221-222). 

A 1976 research report from the 
Royal College of Art in London for the 
British Secretary of State for Education 
and Science, titled Design in General 
Education, identifies design as "a third 
area of education" (Royal College of 
Art 1976, p. 44). Bruce Archer, former 
Director of Design Research and the 
Design Education Unit at the Royal 
College of Art, cites education in the 
sciences and in the arts as dominating 
our social, cultural, and educational 
systems. In summarizing Archer's 
report, Cross draws the following con- 
clusions about the natute of design: 

- The central concern of design is "the 
conception and realization of new things." 

- It encompasses the appreciation of "the 
material culture" and the application of 
"the arts of planning, inventing, making 
and doing." 

- At its core is the language of modeling. It 
is possible to develop students' aptitudes 
in this language, equivalent to aptitudes 
in the language of the sciences (numeracy) 
and the language of the humanities 

- Design has its own distinct "things to 
know, ways of knowing them, and ways 
of finding out about them" (Cross 1983, 
pp. 221-222). 

While basic sciences rely primarily 
on the scientific method and the arts on 
intuition, design is somewhere in 
between; design activity is based on an 
approach to acquiring knowledge, skills, 

and attitudes that responds to the inter- 
disciplinary complexity of life. Science 
experiments succeed in labs and art 
responds to personal, subjective criteria, 
but design products must perform for 
people. Those engaged in the design 
process must understand and account 
for a wide variety of audience and user 
behaviors in an array of physical, social, 
and cultural contexts. 

There is growing attention to the 
notion that a design education produces 
problem solvers whose thinking skills 
are in marked contrast to students 
schooled in other disciplines. In How 
Designers Think (Lawson 1990), Bryan 
Lawson recounts his study of advanced 
students majoring in science and archi- 
tecture. Each group tackled the same 
problem requiring the arrangement of 
colored blocks in order to satisfy certain 
known and unknown rules. Lawson 
found contrasts in the problem-solving 
strategies of the two groups. The scien- 
tists tried to discern the rules from a 
systematic exploration of all possible 
combinations, while the architects 
proposed possible rules and eliminated 
them through experimentation with 
various combinations. In other words, 
scientists were problem oriented, while 
architects were solution oriented; scien- 
tists favored analysis, while architects 
tended to synthesize. Lawson repeated 
the study with younger students at the 

beginning of their science and design 
educations. The two groups showed no 
significant differences in their problem- 
solving strategies. He concluded that the 
differences exhibited by more advanced 
students must be the result of their 
education (Lawson 1979)- 

If society values the thinking and 
problem-solving behaviors exhibited 
by designers, there must be greater 
investment in developing these skills in 
all students across all subject areas. One 
way to accomplish this is to involve 
students directly in the design process. 
The design process, although often 
modified to fit specific circumstances 
and individuals, generally includes 
these aspects: 

- identifying and defining problems, 

- gathering and analyzing information, 

- determining performance criteria for 
successful solutions, 

- generating alternative solutions and 
building prototypes, 

- evaluating and selecting appropriate 

- implementing choices, and 

- evaluating outcomes. 

Although practice is shifting, most 
classroom procedures favor teacher- 
driven assignments, criteria for 
excellence, and assessments. Design 
experiences, on the other hand, 

Two additional common uses of 
the term "design" appear in dis- 
cussions of design-based teaching 
and learning. 

The first encompasses precollege 
or technical education intended to 
prepare students for either profes- 
sional practice or employment as 
technical support in fields such as 
graphic design, illustration, product 
design, fashion design, interior 
design, or architecture. In this 
instance, design is used in the 
classroom to give college-bound 
students a jump-start on career 
education or to provide students 
who are not going to college with 
experiences that qualify them for 
future employment in technical 
service industries. 

The second covers experiences in the 
aesthetic arrangement of abstract 
two- and three-dimensional form, 
commonly referred to as study of 
the "elements and principles of 
design." Such activities and dis- 
cussions usually form the basis of 
introductory art classes and focus 
on self-expression or technique 
through painting, sculpture, print- 
making, and other fine arts media. 
While design disciplines share 
with the fine arts a concern for 
aesthetic principles, the design 
disciplines focus primarily on 
shaping communication, objects, 
and environments as responses to 
human problems. 

Figure 1.1 

Figure 1.2 



ID y . "" = ^~T-^=— 

Design Process 

EXPLORING | T^^ 1 ""!-^— ==». 







The Interaction of Mind and Hand 

encourage students to think critically 
and weigh options through participa- 
tion in problem solving. In generating 
alternative solutions to problems, the 
design process urges iterative work in 
which students test and refine multiple 
solutions. Modeling and diagramming 
share equal respect with quantitative 
means of communication and evalua- 
tion, often better revealing the true 
relationships among ideas and allowing 
students with differing learning prefer- 
ences to work within their individual 
strengths. While analysis has a role to 
play in this process, the ultimate goal is 
synthesis and determining a solution 
that addresses the breadth of perfor- 
mance criteria set forth by the problem. 
Any discussion of the design process 
runs the risk of failing to capture its 
active nature. Investigating as an activity 

is typically assessed through a passive 
research report; the process is measured 
through the product. Schools have a 
tendency to convert active processes into 
linear series of passive products. British 
education professor and expert on edu- 
cational assessment Richard Kimbell 
sought an appropriate diagram to 
express the dynamic aspects of the 
design process to his Assessment 
Performance Unit, a group charged 
with evaluating the national design and 
technology curriculum in the United 
Kingdom (Kimbell, Stables, Wheeler, 
Wosniak, and Kelly 1991). Kimbell's 
interacting design loop in Figure 1.1 
captures the divergent and cyclical 
nature of the design process. 

Kimbell goes one step further in 
describing the design process by model- 
ing the interaction between mind and 

hand (Figure 1.2) to show why and how 
students using the design process choose 
to do things, rather than what they do. 
Figure 1.2 also illustrates how design 
activities develop fluency of thought 
operations (i.e., thinking in both images 
and words) in ways that solely reflective 
activities do not. Kimbell describes stu- 
dent involvement in the design process 
as "thought in action," which challenges 
the traditional schism between think- 
ing and doing found in many school 
curricula (Kimbell et al. 1991, p. 20). 
The work of Dennie Palmer Wolf 
reinforces the value of the design process 
as a model for teaching and learning. 
Wolf talks of the need to teach and 
assess "enterprise" rather than "school 
subjects"; to engage students in learning 
activities that model the integrated, 
synthetic problem solving demanded 

of adults in their work; and to build 
meaningful connections among skills 
and knowledge that too often remain the 
purview of discrete academic disciplines 
(Wolf 1994). 

Nigel Cross explains the unique 
role design experiences play in helping 
children make connections across 
disciplines and to life: "Designing is a 
process of pattern synthesis, rather than 
pattern recognition. The solution is not 
simply lying there among the data, like 
the dog among the spots in the well 
known perceptual puzzle; it has to be 
actively constructed by the designer's 
own efforts" (Cross 1983, p. 224). 

Designers recognize that their 
cognitive skills and use of nonlinear 
processes are highly relevant to the 
complex nature of contemporary work 
and life. Many of these design profes- 
sionals, as well as researchers who 
recognize the relevance of design to 
learning, have a fervent interest in 
contributing to new teaching practices 
that respond to natural differences in the 
ways students learn best and promote 
students' mastery of a full repertoire 
of problem-solving skills. For the first 
time in recent history, these interests 
align with the common goals of 
educational reform. (For further 
discussion of design and education 
reform, see Appendix A.) 

Three Decades of Design 
in U.S. Classrooms 

teachers USING design in today's 
K-12 classrooms build on a 30-year 
legacy established by designers and 
design educators. Past programs brought 
designers into classrooms, trained 
teachers to develop and conduct their 
own design activities, established 
professional networks that supported 
teacher interest in design, and pub- 
lished innovative curricula and learning 
materials that broadened the influence 
of design on teaching practices. 

Developed in the 1960s to support 
greater coherence between education and 
changes in industry, early design pro- 
grams were generally at the secondary 
school level and encouraged practice in 
the technical skills necessary for work 
in design professions that served an 
expanding economy. These programs 
were largely preprofessional and tech- 
nical, as defined in the margin note 
on page 3 . 

Other programs in the 1960s and 
early 1970s professed a more activist 
agenda, however, helping students 
understand and participate in decisions 
about the built (or manmade) environ- 
ment. Designers of these programs 
aimed at developing informed citizens 
who demand and respect well-designed 
products and buildings, who make 
discriminating judgments about visual 
communication, and who function as 
full participants in the design of their 

Designing and building a 
prototype observation deck. 

Design is too fundamental 

to education as a process to 

be separated out and then 

engaged in occasionally... 

Designing is what humans do. 

WILLIAM PERRY, 8th grade art 
teacher, Pittsburgh, PA 

e si 

communities. Some piggy-backed on 
the growth in environmental education 
programs that followed major environ- 
mental legislation in the 1970s. 

For example, architects Richard 
Saul Wurman and Alan Levy, under 
the title Group for Environmental 
Education (GEE), developed a curricu- 
lum for Philadelphia middle schools 
that involved students in activities about 
the city and its design. A curriculum 
from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, 
Problem Solving in the Man-Made 
Environment, targeted 7th grade social 
studies students in Michigan middle 
schools with information that encour- 
aged intelligent consumer choices about 
the design of communication, products, 
and places. Like many programs, these 
efforts were short-lived and their publi- 
cations are out of print. 

Other programs that emerged during 
this period continue, gaining national 
attention and outreach. Among them 
are Ginny Graves' Center for Under- 
standing the Built Environment, 
Doreen Nelson's Center for City Building 
Education, the Salvadori Education 
Center on the Built Environment, Anne 

I Taylor's School; Zone Institute;, and 
Sharon Sutton's Urban Network. While 
these programs focus primarily on 
architecture and community planning 
issues, they have a broader purpose to 
I educate young citizens who exercise 

greater social and political control 
over decisions throughout their every- 
day lives. 

Heritage education is another estab- 
lished point of entry to the study of 
design. Concern over the destruction 
of important architectural landmarks 
resulted in school programs aimed at 
instilling in children a respect for the 
past and their built legacy. Heritage 
education programs focus "primarily on 
older and historic manmade structures 
and environments, promoting their use 
in the curriculum as visual resources 
for teaching knowledge and skills, as 
artifacts for the study of a continuum 
of cultures, and as real and actual places 
that students of all ages can experience, 
study, and evaluate firsthand" (National 
Council for Preservation Education 
1987). While experiences in which 
students actually construct buildings 
and environments enrich their under- 
standing of their built legacy, heritage 
education more often includes repli- 
cation of historic designs than new 
problem solving. 

More recently, the availability of 
low-cost computers and a shift in the 
nation's workforce from product-based 
to service-based activity has provided 
the impetus for transforming tradi- 
tional "industrial arts" instruction 
into "technology education." Software 
companies see opportunities to create 

Scare young citizens wno exercise companies see opportumti 


new, long-term users for their products 
and provide resources to schools at low 
cost. This sponsorship expands schools' 
potential to integrate technology at all 
levels of the curriculum and in a variety 
of disciplines. Subjects that traditionally 
had little visual content gain a design 
dimension through software that 
produces charts and graphs, models 
structures, and opens up opportunities 
for typographic experimentation. 
Another stream of technology 
education finds its roots in engineering 
and design. While the emphasis in 
these programs is on designing tech- 
nology itself, rather than on the use of 
computer software, proponents of this 
approach still find confusion among 
educators. The International Technology 
Education Association (ITEA) defines 
technology education as "the study of 
the application of knowledge, creativity, 
and resources to solve problems and 
extend human potential" (Bottrill, 
1995, p. 41). Yet there persists a lack 
of recognition by many educators that 
a special kind of thinking is required to 
invent technology that solves a human 
problem — and that this thinking is 
quite different from the cognitive skills 
necessary to use technology designed by 
someone else or to design machines that 
don't address the social context of their 
use. Adequately preparing students to 
exjJore and invent new relationships 



between man and machine remains a 
challenge. Among the program devel- 
opers wrestling with this problem are 
Project UPDATE and TIES Magazine, 
based at the College of New Jersey in 

Continuing unrest with schools 
whose teaching practices frequently 
do not reflect current research about 
how children learn also spawns interest 
among K-12 educators in using 
design-based activities to teach other 
subjects and to connect curricula with 
students' lives outside school. In these 
schools, teachers employ more open- 
ended, active learning experiences that 
foster creativity and expand the role for 
design from object of inquiry to include 
method of inquiry. 

Two programs that use active learning 
and the design process to help students 
understand content in a variety of disci- 
plines are the Design-Based Education 
Program, developed by industrial 
design educator Charles Burnette and 
offered through the Art and Museum 
Education Department at the Univer- 
sity of the Arts in Philadelphia, and the 
Education through Design Program, 
developed by Meredith Davis and 
Robin Moore at the School of Design 
at North Carolina State University. In 
both programs, as in Doreen Nelson's 
City Building Education, the focus is 
on educating teachers in design and 

creativity rather than relying on 
designers-in-residence or prepackaged 
curricula. In some cases, these pro- 
grams represent collaboration between 
colleges of design and education. 

Professional design associations and 
institutions support this development 
in K-12 design-based education. The 
largest initiative is the Learning by 
Design Program developed by the 
American Architectural Foundation of 
the American Institute of Architects. 

In addition to publishing design lesson 
plans in teacher magazines, multimedia 
classroom kits on the White House 
and U.S. Capitol, and a Sourcebook 
of exemplary learning activities, this 
program also has stimulated grass-roots 
collaborations between teachers and 
designers through small grants to 
chapters of the American Institute for 
Architects. Some local efforts, such as 
the Foundation for Architecture in 
Philadelphia and the Chicago Architec- 

Experimenting with 
linear design elements, 
students construct a 
toothpick tower. 



[Through design projects,] 
my students gain a sense of 
control over their lives 
because they believe they can 
solve any problem that con- 
fronts them throughout their 
lives. The students also have 
more confidence in making 
decisions and in presenting 
their ideas to others. The 
presentation and critique 
process helps the students to 
practice and gain confidence 
in these skills. 

PAUL DEVINE, 9-12 technology 
teacher, Wilmington, DE 


ture Foundation, also have developed 
extensive school programs involving 
workshops, team teaching, curriculum 
materials, and student competitions. 

The American Planning Association 
encourages its members to work with 
teachers, publishes a quarterly news- 
letter devoted to K-12 education, and 
highlights design-related curriculum 
materials in its publications catalogs. 
The Worldesign Foundation, an out- 
growth of the Industrial Designers 
Society of America, recently adopted 
K-12 education in design as one of 
three priorities for its national and 
international efforts, along with advo- 
cating greater awareness of the critical 
links between design, environmental 
quality, and job creation. 

Design-related museums have been 
particularly active in supporting both 
formal and informal design education 
programs for young people. The National 
Building Museum in Washington, D.C., 
established its DesignWise program in 
the 1980s to provide workshops for 
teachers and students and to develop 
curriculum materials. Similarly, the 
education department of the Cooper- 
Hewitt National Design Museum in 
New York City serves as a resource 
for teachers nationwide, sponsors 
summer institutes for teachers, and 
offers a wide array of museum- and 
neighborhood-based design education 

programs for students in the metro- 
politan area. 

The National Endowment for the 
Arts also supported design education 
through its Architecture-in-the-Schools 
initiative in the 1980s and seed grants 
for curriculum development projects. 
Some state arts councils continue to 
support designer residencies and the 
Endowment provides matching grants 
for K-12 projects through its Education 
and Access Division. 

Despite this level of innovation 
during the last 30 years, the use of 
design activities in U.S. schools remains 
an isolated practice that has its strongest 
support at the level of the individual 
teacher. Documentation of teacher work 
is spotty and many educators labor with 
little more than moral support for their 
efforts at district and state levels. The 
individual initiative required to estab- 
lish and sustain these programs within 
a somewhat indifferent administrative 
culture leaves little time and few 
resources for the systematic and rigorous 
assessment that would present convinc- 
ing evidence for broader adoption. 

Many of the programs mentioned 
above focus study around the interests of 
their initial developers and supporters. 
For example, architecture and heritage 
education focus on issues in the built 
environment and are typically the 
lenses through which many programs 

The International Context 

develop. Technology education, sup- 
ported by software developers, frequently 
focuses on the acquisition of technical 
skills and the use of computers. Graphic 
and industrial design programs are less 
common and are often geographically 
centered near their developers. This 
focus on special interests results in a 
rather fragmented effort to promote the 
use of design in U.S. classrooms and 
little collaboration among program 
developers. Many successful programs in 
schools disappear when their curriculum 
developers or teachers move on to other 
venues because school administrators 
make no provisions for systemwide 
teacher training and institutional 
adoption of practices. 

During the past few decades there 
has been a lively exchange of infor- 
mation between many proponents of 
design education in the United States 
and their counterparts abroad. This 
includes sharing journals, studies, and 
curriculum materials; attending inter- 
national conferences; and visiting one 
another's schools. 

DESIGN APPEARS in educational 
policy and practice around the globe. 
Sometimes an explicit component of a 
national curriculum, design more often 
is implicit in the emphasis placed on 
problem solving and the use of refer- 
ences from the designed world. 

While the use of design in education 
is not the focus of any comprehensive 
documentation, studies of international 
trends in science, technology, and envi- 
ronmental education reveal growing 
acknowledgment by educators of the 
need to change instruction in ways 

ways that integrate design 

problem solving as a X\ 3 t U X 3 L 

Component of learning 

Perhaps the greatest influences 
on design-based teaching in the 
United States come from the 
United Kingdom, where design 
and technology are subjects in 
the national curriculum. Many 
examinations in British schools 
require students to design and 
make objects. To the right is a 
motorbike design created by a 
15-year-old student who then 
made a model of the bike (below). 

that integrate design problem solving 
as a natural component of learning. 

A variety of economic, environmental, 
and social imperatives fuel the inter- 
national adoption of design-based 
strategies. In industrial and developing 
nations alike, public and private sector 
leaders recognize that young people 
must graduate from compulsory educa- 
tion systems with strong, flexible skills 
if they are to compete successfully for 
jobs in the global marketplace. The 
answer seems to lie in giving priority to 
activities that build up students' prac- 
tical capability in tackling realistically 
complex problems with social and 

( ' 


f. ^i^™ 




human dimensions. Burgeoning popu- 
lations, finite natural resources, and 
unsustainable patterns of consumption, 
manufacturing, building, and transpor- 
tation are wake-up calls to educators to 
revisit the underlying assumptions of 
school curricula (Black and Atkin 
1996, p. 90). 

Within the context of these pressures, 
certain principles of pedagogical reform 
gain widespread support. Emerging 
educational practices show remarkable 
similarity with the tenets of design- 
based teaching and learning: student- 
centered classrooms, self-directed 
learning, teacher collaboration and 

reflection that result in curricular inno- 
vation, student teamwork, increased 
connection among disciplines, applica- 
tion of learning to contexts outside of 
school, and teacher modeling of the 
behaviors they seek to instill in students. 

Learning from the 
United Kingdom 

Perhaps the greatest influences on 
design-based teaching in the United 
States come from the United Kingdom, 
where design and technology are subjects 
in the national curriculum. Building on 
a long history of training in the crafts 
and increased interest in science, math, 
and technology spawned during the 
post-Sputnik era, the United Kingdom 
began efforts to introduce technology 
in schools as early as the 1970s. Funded 
by the central government's Schools 
Council, Project Technology made a 
strong case for a national technology 
curriculum, while the Design and 
Craft Education Project sought 
to revise existing 
subjects with a 
new emphasis on 


design and technology. At the same 
time, the government's Department of 
Education and Science funded research 
on Design in General Education at the 
Royal College of Art in London. Led by 
Bruce Archer and Ken Baynes, this 
project analyzed the characteristics of 
designing in an attempt to describe a 
category of human endeavor analogous 
to the sciences and the humanities. 

By the late 1970s, design and 
technology was a recognized part of 
the curriculum in the United Kingdom 
and in 1981 the Department of 
Education initiated a series of studies 
to develop and evaluate techniques for 
assessing student performance in the 
subject. The most comprehensive of 
these was developed under the direction 
of Richard Kimbell at the University 
of London from 1985 to 1991. 

In 1988, Parliament passed the 
Education Reform Act, calling for a 
national curriculum of required subjects 
for all students ages five to 16. Informed 
by the advocacy of the Design Council 
(a quasi-governmental body established 
to promote better design in British 
industry, raise public awareness of 
design's value, and promote design 
education in schools), the National 
Curriculum Council recommended 
technology as one of 10 foundation 
subjects in the compulsory national 
curriculum, encompassing both Design 

and Technology and Information 
Technology. Parliament accepted 
this recommendation and adopted the 
curriculum for England and Wales 
in 1990. A 1995 revision made 
Information Technology a 
separate subject and 
modified some of the 
content and assessment 
requirements in 
design (Eggleston 
1996, p. 43). 

Passage of the national 
curriculum stimulated an 
impressive array of curriculum 
materials, teacher training, 
demonstration programs, 
and research, much of 
which informs the work 
of design education 
proponents in 
the United 
States. At all 
grade levels, the 

British national curriculum calls for 
students to design and make objects, 
systems, and environments in response 
to the needs and opportunities they 
identify. Teachers encourage pupils 
to look for problems to solve through 
design in five broad contexts: home, 
school, recreation, community, and 
business and industry, progressing 
from familiar to unfamiliar settings 
in successive grades. 

educators have 
maintained a lively 
dialogue with British 
educators, attended their 
conferences, and subscribed to their 
publications. Leading British theorists 
and practitioners also consult in this 
country. Ken Baynes of Loughborough 
University; Eileen Adams, at Southbank 
University; Richard Kimbell at 
Goldsmith's College, University of 
London; and Peter Sellwood at 
Westminster College, Oxford, have all 
had a hand in shaping the thinking of 
American curriculum innovators. 

British teachers encourage 
pupils to look for problems 
to solve through design 
in five broad contexts: 
home, school, recreation, 
community, and business 
and industry. Here, 
an 8-year-old student 
has created a design 
for protective clothing. 

designing making and appraising at 

very grade Level 

nd in every content a rea 

Students evaluate the integrity 
of their design by adding 
weights to a bridge spanning 
two tables. 

Design and Technology 
for All Students 

The United Kingdom is not alone in 
its concern for all students' command 
of design and technology. In its 1996 
study of science, mathematics, and tech- 
nology, the Organization for Economic 
Cooperation and Development (OECD) 
notes that many countries that once 
separated students into vocational- 
technical tracks at a relatively young 
age now see the need to provide all 
students with a grounding in techno- 
logical competency (Black and Atkin 
1996, p. 54). Examples from around the 
world show that progress is being made 
in achieving this goal. 

In 1993, the Australian Education 
Council, with the support of education 
authorities at the state, territorial, and 
Commonwealth levels, recom- 
mended national curriculum 
frameworks and achievement 
targets in eight "key learning 
areas," including technology and 

In technology, the Council emphasized 
that students should learn through 
"designing, making, and appraising" at 
every grade level and in every content 
area, including information, materials, 
and systems. The Council expects 
students to "investigate issues and 
needs, devise proposals and alternatives, 
produce products and processes, and 
evaluate consequences and outcomes." 
Students should "take responsibility for 
designs, decisions, actions and assess- 
ments; trial their proposals and plans; 
take risks when exploring new ideas 
and practices; and be open-minded and 
show respect for individual differences 
when responding to technological- 
challenges" (Cowley and Williamson 
1995, pp. 2-4). 

This ambitious agenda for Australian 
children was tested at the 
Lauderdale Primary School in the 
seaside community of Hobart, 
Tasmania, in 1994-1995. Projects 

ranged from the design of shelter to 

studies of the environment and society. studies of the movement of snails on 



various surfaces. The OECD observed 
hands-on student-centered learning, 
collegial interaction among faculty, and 
strong modeling by teachers of the same 
behaviors they expect from students. 
Teachers at every grade level made fre- 
quent use of design briefs that "involved 
the students in reflective processes; 
whether they were being asked to 
write a story or design a room, they 
have to consider the purpose of the 
work and the materials available, and 
design, make, and continually appraise 
the match between their product and 
the required outcome" (Cowley and 
Williamson 1995, p. 28). 

Also in 
1993, both the 
Netherlands and Scotland 
adopted technology as a required sub- 
ject for students, ages 12-15 and 5-14 
respectively. Dutch teachers emphasize 
"functional knowledge" and research and 
communication skills (Franssen et al. 
1995, p. 5). In Scotland, where technol- 
ogy is part of Environmental Studies, 
OECD researchers observed that 
"opportunities were made for students 
to work on tasks which were practical, 
which involved creativity, which 
encouraged children to think within 
the framework of the design process 
and which were sustained by genuine 
interest" (Kormylo and Frame 1995, 
p. 12). In particular, they found that 

design perspectives and 
activities helped children 
understand the relationship 
between economic forces, the 
ways in which people make 
their living, and the resulting 
changes to the surrounding 

Responding to 
Environmental Concerns 

While environmental education in 
many parts of the world is little more 
than nature appreciation, the United 
Nations' International Environmental 
Education Program (IEEP) believes 
that the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio 
de Janeiro brought about a "major shift 
in international thinking" with its 
emphasis on teaching for sustainable 
development. Recognition that such 
instruction must integrate issues of 
environment, population, and social/ 
economic development is apparent in a 
number of programs around the world. 
Content in these programs addresses 
not only the degradation of ecosystems 
but the ways in which products, pack- 
aging, buildings, and cities can be 
made more "earth-friendly." (United 
Nations Educational, Cultural, and 
Scientific Organization, June 1995, p. 2). 
A 1994 study undertaken for the U.S. 
Agency for International Development 
finds that redefinitions of environmental 


...emphasis on developing students' problem-solving 

skills and ability to respond actively 


social change 

programs in Latin America and the 
Caribbean emphasize reciprocal rela- 
tionships between individuals, society, 
and the natural world. In Costa Rica, 
7th through 9th grade students learn 
how to protect watersheds through more 
sustainable forms of human settlement, 
while in Jamaica, 9th grade social 
studies students weigh the impact of 
industry and other human activity on 
the environment (Arias-LaForgia 1994, 
pp. 36, 53). 

Similarly, a study of 13 nations in 
Asia and the Pacific by the Tokyo-based 
National Institute for Educational 
Research (NIER) identifies a trend in 
which nature study and the management 
of natural resources are no longer seen 
as the only issues of concern in envi- 
ronmental education. Instead, topics 
related to the quality of life (such as 
housing, sanitation, transportation, and 
recreation) appear as important compo- 
nents of curriculum (National Institute 
for Educational Research {NIER] 

1993, p. 3). In Malaysia, Singapore, 
and Thailand, environmental problem 
solving permeates a variety of school 
subjects. In the Philippines, where the 
national curriculum emphasizes "totality 
of coverage" including "natural, man- 
made, technological, and social aspects 
of the environment," teacher training 
prepares educators to tackle these issues 
(NIER 1993, p. 90). 

Rapid industrialization in Korea and 
Japan prompted increased curricular 
emphasis on environmental issues. 
Korean students at all levels investigate 
the human, social, and natural dimen- 
sions of the environment and develop 
their own solutions to creating "a 
pleasant way to live." In Japan, the 
national curriculum calls for comprehen- 
sive attention to environmental topics 
in primary and secondary schools, with 
particular emphasis on developing stu- 
dents' problem-solving skills and ability 
to respond actively to social change. 
Environmental issues and hands-on 

experiences span the full range of 
school disciplines (NIER 1993, p. 68). 

In Europe, many countries are 
revamping curricula to emphasize links 
between the built and natural environ- 
ments. The OECD documents changing 
national policies and innovative school 
projects include two reports: Environment, 
Schools, and Active Learning (Organization 
for Economic Cooperation and Develop- 
ment [OECD] 1991) and Environmental 
Learning for the 21st Century (OECD 1995). 

Belgium recently revised its cur- 
riculum to encourage project-based 
environmental education, emphasizing 
problem solving, action-oriented forms 
of learning, and a focus on the local 
community. Interdisciplinary activities 
range from the analysis of city housing 
and traffic problems to comprehensive 
environmental studies of entire regions. 
Students present their findings in 
public presentations, newspaper and 
radio reports, postcards, and videos. 

In Austrian schools, students 
designed and established two parks, 
developed more environmentally 
friendly means for packaging products, 
and crafted a development plan for a 
small wine-growing village. German 
students converted an abandoned 
school into a nature center, while on 
the coast of Italy, 12-year-olds engaged 
in a one year study of the economic and 
ecological impact of a new port facility. 


OECD reports that these initiatives 
demonstrate benefits of using the 
community beyond the school as a 
textbook in which the nature of 
problems demands interdisciplinary 
understanding: "... experience shows 
that students can work with surprising 
success in the local community, using 
it both as a source of local knowledge 
of their environment, as well as a field 
for developing their skills in problem 
solving, entrepreneurship . . . and 
informing adults about local environ- 
mental issues" (OECD 1995, p. 99). 

At the same time, OECD sees "a 
serious deficiency everywhere {in] the 
lack of integration of economics, politics, 
sociology, and other social sciences in 
understanding environmental issues . . . 
In order for a new 'environmental 
education paradigm' to develop, there 
is the need for the creation of a fresh 
knowledge base that can master the 
complexity of the interdisciplinary 
nature of environmental issues" (OECD 
1995, p. 88). The authors point to the 
holistic design-based problem-solving 
approaches of highlighted schools as 
guideposts to the future. 

Children in Sendai, Japan, 
explore tension and compression 
in structures using chopsticks, 
rubber bands, and paper. 

U.S. educators have responded 
to overtures for exchange from 
Japanese educators. Here, 
Doreen Nelson from California 
State Polytechnic University 
leads a city building education 
workshop for students, teachers, 
and government officials at 
Tohoku Koka Joho College in 
Sendai, Japan. 

Americans Reach Out 

Since 1987, when a traveling exhibit 
called the One Hundred Languages of 
Children first introduced Americans to 
Reggio Emilia's innovative early child- 
hood education programs, numerous 
educators from the U.S. have traveled 
to Italy to visit the design-rich infant- 
toddler centers and preprimary schools 
established by Loris Malaguzzi. Count- 
less more have discovered these schools 
through the book of the same name and 
subsequent conferences. 

At the heart of the schools' success 
is the creative, collaborative, project- 
oriented work that children and 
teachers undertake together. Unique 

features introduced by Malaguzzi are 
the atelier or studio and the full-time 
position of atelierista. Placed in a 
prominent, visible location in each 
school, the studio is a workshop filled 
with all types of tools, construction 
materials, and art supplies. Though 
trained in the visual arts, the atelierista 
does not "teach" art, but instead serves 
as a helpful guide to children and 
teachers alike in the proper and possible 
uses of materials. He or she also helps 
teachers document and understand the 
children's creative and cognitive 
processes (Edwards, Gandini, and 
Forman 1993). 

Recently, U.S. educators have 
responded to overtures for exchange 
from Japanese educators. Anne Taylor, 
Director of the School Zone Institute 
and professor of architecture at the 
University of New Mexico, invited 
Japanese educators to attend the 1992 
International Summit on Children and 
Architecture held at the university. 
Through exchanges organized by Taylor, 
U.S. advocates and practitioners of 
design-based education have lectured 
at major Japanese universities and pro- 
vided teacher training in Tokyo, Sendai, 
Nigata, and other cities. Contingents of 
Japanese teachers also observed design- 
based practices in this country. 

Japan's Ministry of Education 
recently initiated research on the 

benefits of a design approach to general 
education at the University of Tokyo 
School of Education. Responding to a 
ministry call for more environmental 
education at all levels, the Japanese 
translated Taylor's Architecture and 
Children curriculum into their language 
and now use regional and vernacular 
curriculum supplements to it. Under 
the sponsorship of the Architectural 
Institute of Japan, the American 
Institute of Architects, and the City 
of Matsubase, Doreen Nelson and her 
colleagues in the Departments of 
Education, Environmental Design, and 
Instructional Technology at California 
State Polytechnic University (Pomona) 
are developing a Web site that will 
enable children and their teachers in 
both countries to engage in joint city 
building projects on the Internet. 

Formal acknowledgment of design 
as important content, context, and 
methodology for learning varies 
greatly from one country to the next. 
Yet, is clear that at both individual 
and institutional levels, curiosity and 
support for its use are increasing. As 
the world moves into the 21st century, 
it remains to be seen whether 
educators in the United States and 
other countries can overcome the 
disciplinary, institutional, and cultural 
hurdles to greater use of design in the 



Arias-La Forgia, A. (1994). Environmental 
Education in the School Systems of Latin 
America and the Caribbean, Working 
Papers, No. 4. Washington, D.C.: 
Academy for Educational Develop- 
ment for the Education and Human 
Resources Division, Bureau for Latin 
America and the Caribbean, U.S. 
Agency for International Development. 

Black, P. and Atkin, J.M., eds. (1996). 
Changing the Subject: Innovations in 
Science, Mathematics, and Technology 
Education. New York: Routledge, 
with the Organization for Economic 
Cooperation and Development 
(OECD), Paris, France. 

Bottrill, P. (1995). Designing and Learning 
in the Elementary School. Reston, 
Virginia: International Technology 
Education Association. 

Cowley, T. and Williamson, J. (1995). 
OECD Report on Science, Mathematics 
and Technology in Education (SMTE) 
Project. Launceston, Tasmania: 
University of Tasmania, School of 

Cross, N. (October 1983). "Designerly 
Ways of Knowing." Design Studies 3, 
4: 221-224. 

Edwards, C, Gandini, L., and Forman, 
G., eds. (1993). The Hundred 
Languages of Children: The Reggio 
Emilia Approach to Early Childhood 
Education. Norwood, New Jersey: 
Ablex Publishing Corporation. 

Eggleston, J. (1996). Teaching Design and 
Technology, 2nd edition. Philadelphia, 
Pennsylvania: Open University Press. 

Franssen, H.A.M., Eijkelhof, H.M.C., 
Houtveen, A. A.M., Duijmelinck, 
H.AJ.P. (1995). Technology as a 
School Subject in Junior Secondary 
School in the Netherlands . Utrecht, 
the Netherlands: University of 
Utrecht, Department of Education. 

Kimbell, R., Stables, K., Wheeler, T, 
Wosniak, A., Kelly, V. (1991). 
The Assessment of Performance in 
Design and Technology. London, 
England: School Examinations and 
Assessment Council. 

Kormylo, P. and Frame, J. (1995). A 
Report on Technology in Case Study 
Primary Schools in Scotland. 
Edinburgh, Scotland: Scottish 
Office Education Department. 

Lawson, B. (1979). "Cognitive Strategies 
in Architectural Design." Ergonomics 
22, 1: 59-68. 

Lawson, B. (1990). How Designers Think: 
The Design Process Demystified, 2nd 
edition. Oxford, England: 
Butterworth- Architecture. 

National Council for Preservation 

Education. (1987). A Heritage at 
Risk: A Report on Heritage Education 
K-12. Burlington, Vermont: 
University of Vermont Historic 
Preservation Program. 

National Institute for Educational 
Research. (1993). Environmental 
Education and Teacher Education in 
Asia and the Pacific. Tokyo, Japan: 

Organization for Economic Cooperation 
and Development. (1991). 
Environment, Schools, and Active 
Learning. Paris, France: OECD. 

Organization for Economic Cooperation 
and Development. (1995). 
Environmental Learning for the 21st 
Century. Paris, France: OECD. 

Royal College of Art. (1976). Design in 
General Education, Part One, Summary 
of Findings and Recommendations. 
London, England: Royal College 
of Art. 

United Nations Educational, Cultural, 
and Scientific Organization. (June 
1995). Connect, the UNESCO-UNEP 
Environmental Education Newsletter, 
p. 2. Pans, France: UNESCO. 

Wolf, D. (July 1994). Presentation at 

Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, 
New York. 

The design 


although often 


to fit specific 


and individuals, 


includes these 


- identifying and defining 

- gathering and analyzing 

- determining performance 
criteria for successful 

- generating alternative 
solutions and building 

- evaluating and selecting 
appropriate solutions, 

- implementing choices, and 

- evaluating outcomes. 








| p 




Using design concepts 
in my classroom has 
increased the students' 
capabilities. It 
encourages synectic think- 
ing, which permits 
students to see 
similarities between 
dissimilar things. 

WENDY CONNOR, 6-8 art, 
Jackson Hole Middle School, 
Jackson, WY 

U.S. leaders generally agree that 
adults who are successful have 
flexible thinking skills and 
the facility to acquire and apply new 
knowledge and skills to unfamiliar tasks 
and settings. In a time of rapid change, 
it is this ability to adapt learning and 
develop new problem-solving strategies 
that determines success. 

Most K-12 curricula reflect a time 
when it was possible to learn a well- 
defined body of knowledge that society 
agreed was critical to adult life and 
work. But today, given our rapidly 
changing world, learning strategies 
that emphasize storing facts in memory 
are inadequate. When faced with this 
sort of education, students' motivation 
to learn understandably wanes because 

they see no immediate relevance to their 
own lives of either the facts or the learn- 
ing methods they are taught. Unless 
changes are made, we are in danger of 
producing a generation of adults who 
lack the basic thinking skills for survival 
in the next century. 

Schools that do teach thinking 
processes frequently emphasize linear 
"recipes" that may or may not match 
the divergent nature of contemporary 
problems and students' own preferences 
for learning. In many cases, the process 
becomes another fact to learn, a proce- 
dure without context or applied value 
in the student's world. The task for 
educators is to reinvigorate learning 
and to model the integrated, dynamic 
processes we expect students to use as 

responsible, successful adults. 

The research for this book suggests 
that using design experiences in the 
classroom accomplishes that task. 
Teachers report that their primary 
motivation for using design is to help 
students acquire the necessary compe- 
tencies to meet new challenges 
throughout their lives. At the top of 
teachers' reasons for making design a 
critical part of their curriculum and 
teaching strategies are: 

- enhancing flexible thinking skills, 

- promoting self-directed learning and 

- developing students' interpersonal and 
communication skills, and 

- cultivating responsible citizens. 


Enhancing Flexible Thinking Skills 


skills, educators must instill in students 
a process for creative problem solving 
that transcends individual assignments, 
illustrates how learning applies to 
students' everyday lives, builds relation- 
ships across traditional school subjects, 
and increases students' comfort with 
the uncertainty that characterizes many 
problems. In addition, assessment must 
become a matter of students' internal 
accountability for the achievement of 
high standards. 

Strengthening Creative 
Problem Solving 

Developing and strengthening creative 
problem-solving skills is a more difficult 
challenge than it appears. Education 
researchers define maintenance learning 
as the acquisition of fixed outlooks, 
methods, and rules for dealing with 
known and recurring situations. Innova- 
tive learning, on the other hand, 
questions assumptions, seeks new per- 
spectives, and facilitates transfer to new 
problems and settings. While curriculum 
can easily challenge students to solve 
problems, it must work very hard to 
teach processes and ways of thinking that 
transcend assigned tasks (Nickerson, 
Perkins, and Smith 1985). 

Research evidence suggests that the 
design process is an innovative model 
for strengthening students' creative 


problem-solving skills. Because the 
design process concerns itself with "that 
which does not yet exist," it encourages 
learning behaviors that prepare students 
for an environment of change. 

Willamette Primary School in West 
Linn, Oregon, is 
explicit in its use 
of the design 
process. Teachers *- 

employ design in 
curriculum develop- 
ment and their own 
study of education; 
students discuss the 
process and use it to solve 
a variety of problems across 
disciplines. Classes always document 
their process in notebooks, on bulletin 
boards, or in classroom and hall displays. 
For Willamette, the design process 
consists of these iterative problem- 
solving steps and questions: 

- Define the context and the problem. 
What do you want to know, and what do 
you already know about the problem? 

- Plan and conduct research. How will you 
conduct the research? Will you observe, 
read, interview, sketch, or build models? 

- Generate criteria for a successful problem 
solution. What is the rubric or set of 
criteria against which you will measure 

- Generate solutions. What are the 
alternative solutions? 

- Implement. How can you realize and test 
the best solutions? 

- Evaluate. What were the criteria addressed 
by the solutions? What needs modification 
to better meet the performance criteria? 

- Reflect on the process. What was done 
throughout the process? What was 
effective? What could have been 

Scott Wavra, a 4th and 5 th grade 
teacher at Willamette, illustrates this 
process as he describes the efforts of his 
students in designing a home for their 
pet snake. 

My class needed to design 
and construct a cage for 
an eight-foot 
python, who 
• could 

only stay 
in the class- 
room if the class 
was able to house 
him. The children 
asked questions about the 
needs of snakes and then 
studied reference books and 
collected information about 
large snakes. Cage criteria were 
listed by the group. Children 
sketched at least three designs 
{for the cage}, each incorporating 
the learning from their research. 
Then the class pooled the different 
ideas and developed a rubric of 
critical design elements. 



Teams of children discussed options and 
created a group plan. They were taught how 
to draw their plans to scale orthographically, 
and then they brainstormed the types of 
materials construction would require. The 
teams made a corresponding list of prototype 
materials (for testing their ideas). They 
calculated the viewing area (area) and the 
room the snake would need to move (volume). 
Each team developed a budget, constructed 
scale prototypes, and tested them with a 
smaller garden snake. Each group prepared 
and gave a persuasive speech about the most 
effective elements of their design. 

The whole class used that information to 
develop the best cage with all of the best ele- 
ments of each presentation, and put together 
one last blueprint to request construction funds 
from the school administration. Once those 
plans passed inspection, the children built the 
cage, complete with heating and lighting. 

This is powerful learning that repli- 
cates what society demands of successful 
adults. It begins with a highly motivat- 
ing problem: keeping the live snake in 
the classroom. Students analyze this 
problem and set the appropriate criteria 
against which their solutions will be 
judged. The assignment drives their 
search for facts; they acquire knowledge 
within a context and make active use 
of it. Resources and their uses are self- 
determined and, therefore, highly 

In addition, the problem demands 
that they move back and forth through 
visual/spatial, linguistic, and mathe- 
matical thought and communication. 
Students link concepts from science, 
mathematics, construction technology, 
economics, and art. They weigh each 
choice against a preferred outcome, and 

they act as contributing members 
of a team in making decisions. 
This design-based learning 
experience teaches students a 
problem-solving process they can 
adapt to many situations. They 
learn about reptiles, building, and 
habitat in ways that dramatically 
increase the likelihood of retention. 
Best of all, they leave the classroom 
feeling successful about learning and 
anticipating the next day's events. 

The research team noted numerous 
instances in which teachers and students 
reflected on their problem-solving 
processes. At such times, teachers made 
conscious attempts to comment on the 
process and remind students of other 
circumstances in which the process 
might be helpful. As at Willamette, 
many schools use journals in which 
students record their thoughts about 
design experiences. Dolores Patton, a 
3rd and 4th grade teacher using Doreen 
Nelson's City 

I want students to see the 
connections between school 
and the world. This is 
something I try to do with 
non-design strategies. 
However, the connections 
seem clearer and more 
natural to students when 
using design. 

ALISON CLARK, 6th grade, 
Louis Armstrong Middle 
School, East Elmhurst, NY 

Documenting and sharing 
the design process can 
begin at an early age. 




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Education at Open Charter Magnet 
School in Los Angeles, California, asks 
students to write about their methods, 
diagram or illustrate them, and post 
their drawings on the class "history 
wall." This serves as an enlarged journal 
record of the problem-solving process. 
The wall constantly changes with each 
addition, modeling the dynamic 
process of creative thought. 

As David Perkins notes, "Design in 
education with reflection [on process] 
offers opportunity for students to take 
the learning from one problem and 
extend it further. It creates the chance 
for teachers to move students from 
the immediate concrete problem to 
general processes of problem solving 
that can be applied elsewhere" 
(Brandt 1986). 

At Locust Valley Intermediate 
School in Locust Valley, New York, 
teacher Wendy Fein confirms Perkins' 
view of the design process through her 
work with students: "The design 
process promotes organizational skills 
and creativity — two seemingly oppo- 
site concepts that must coexist in a 
truly effective learning environment. 
Creativity without some form of orga- 
nization can result in chaos Rapid 

advances in technology and information 
demand that students acquire the 
organized, step-by-step design process 
that will permit {them] to grow into 
productive and effecrive adults, able 
to succeed in a rapidly changing 

world [The design process] is 

easily transferred to problem solving 
in any discipline." 


Applying Learning to 
Students' Everyday Lives 

As John Dewey noted in 1910, a critical 
failing of school is that it was conceived 
as a separate place where lessons were 
learned and certain habits formed 
(Dewey 1910). Today, this remains true 
for many children. Many educators 
assert that students leave school before 
graduation in part because they cannot 
see how education benefits them in 
life. Abstract concepts and principles 
learned in school frequently exhibit 
little relevance to the environment in 
which children live, play, and work. The 
problems teachers ask students to solve 
share little with the problems they f 
ace in daily life and over which they 
exercise some control. 

Whether focusing on everyday prob- 
lems in immediately observable settings 
or projecting problems into the future, 
using design in the classroom builds 
bridges between school and life. Rather 
than beginning with abstractions, 
design activities demand that students 
derive concepts and principles from 
real encounters with their world. They 
learn the unfamiliar by finding it in 
or comparing it to what they already 
know. As William Perry, an 8th grade 
art teacher at Banksville Gifted Center 
in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, observes, 
"Any time I can demonstrate for my 
students the necessity for, and applica- 

tion of, learning, thinking, and doing, 
I gain credibility. Recognizing the 
importance of design [in this process] 
moves the classroom from the hypo- 
thetical to the real world — and to 
their worlds." 

The research team identified numer- 
ous examples of students engaged in 
exploration of their own environment. 
Ruth Hiebert, a 5th and 6th grade 
teacher at Soledad Canyon Elementary 
School in Canyon Country, California, 
builds her 5th grade curriculum around 
City Building Education and a set of 
personal questions that allow students 
to make connections among concepts at 
scales starting with the individual: 
Who am I? Who am I in the classroom? 
Who am I in the small group? Who 
am I in the community? Who am I 
in the United States? Who am I on 
planet earth? 

Students work 
in small groups 
to draw floor 
plans and build 
models of the 
classroom. They 
explore the impor- 
tance of furniture arrangement and 
lighting to create the type of human 
interactions they expect in the class- 
room. Later in the year, the class takes 
field trips to study different systems in 
the city: sewer and power plants, parks, 
and bus depots. Discussion centers on 
how these systems are necessary to 
maintain life in the city and how each 
is related to the next in a web of inter- 
dependency. Students then design and 
build their own mini-cities. 

At Locust Valley Intermediate 
School, Wendy Fein uses a project on 
urban planning to teach students how . 
their community works. 

Students use census information to construct 
a town that complies with the needs of the 
population and their view of a better way 
of life. ... Students must reach consensus on 
what the town will be zoned for, where the 
zones will be located, what physical fea- 
tures exist and must be built around, what 

variances are acceptable Sixth graders, 

as part of this project, construct maps that 
include nodes, landmarks, and major and 
minor paths from their homes to school. 



Because the products of design 
problem solving are everywhere, there 
is enormous opportunity to engage the 
full range of children's interests with 
problems that relate directly to their own 
lives while simultaneously supporting 
the teaching of required curricula. 
William Suess, a technology education 
teacher at Cape Henlopen High School 
in Lewes, Delaware, asks students to 
design a simple way of preventing 
inebriated teenagers from starting their 
cars on prom night. The task meets the 
teacher's objectives for having students 
understand technology and drafting 
while encouraging them to examine 
their own attitudes and behavior. 

At the same time, design activities 
make it possible to explore ideas through 
another person's eyes. In Barbara Van 
Wicklin's 3rd and 4th grade classes in 
rural Allegany County, New York, stu- 

dents grapple with the difficulties that 
poor design sometimes creates for people 
with disabilities. As an exercise, they 
redesign the lunchroom ketchup packet 
to make it usable by a wide range of 
people. In doing so, they learn how deci- 
sions about the physical environment 
sometimes impede people's ability to 
perform simple activities. These students 
also realize that they too might one day 
experience difficulty with products and 
the designed environment, if only 
through the natural processes of aging. 

As Martin and Jacqueline Brooks 
observe, a constructivist approach 
builds from students' own questions and 
knowledge and contrasts to learning 
approaches that assume knowledge is 
gained by copying it directly from the 
external world and a fixed curriculum 
(1993, pp. 15-20). In a design approach 
to learning, issues and concepts motivate 
questions and transcend the arbitrary 
divisions of content in textbooks and 
among school subjects. 

Building Relationships Across 
Traditional School Subjects 

Current reform initiatives and standards 
in the various school subjects share 
concern for students' ability to think in 
terms of systems and across disciplines. 
An understanding of "connectedness" 
is critical to work and responsible deci- 
sion making in the future. 

Design author and methodologist 
J. Christopher Jones describes a hierarchy 
of problems in society (see Figure 2.1). 
At the lower end of the hierarchy are 
problems at the component and product 
levels. These are usually the preoccu- 
pation of less developed societies (Jones 
1970, p. 30). 

Many of our contemporary challenges 
in postindustrial society, however, reside 
at the systems and community levels 
of Jones's hierarchy. For example, the 
decay of American cities, environmental 

Figure 2.1 

J. Christopher Jones' 
Hierarchy of Problems 



(formed by interrelated 

systems, such as transportation, 

communication, housing, 

natural environment, etc.) 



(formed by interrelated 

products, such as cars, roads, 

airplanes, and maps in the 

transportation system) 





Source: 3. Christopher Oones, Design Methods, p. 30 
(New York: John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 1970). 


pollution, and inadequate nutrition for 
all children result from complex webs of 
interrelated problems. Current curricula 
and teaching practices, however, usually 
foster skills and center knowledge 
around the component and product 
problem-solving levels. By focusing 
tasks that are discipline-specific or that 
do not situate the study of objects and 
ideas within larger contexts, schools 
educate a workforce and citizens who 
cannot meet challenges at the upper 
levels of Jones's problem hierarchy. 
Design activities and the use of 
the design process in teaching subject 
matter other than design force students 
to confront how their subject of study 
is part of a larger system. For example, 
a student design for a city park must 

take into account the environmental 
impact of its location, the political 
system by which the community makes 
decisions, the species of plant life that 
will thrive within its boundaries, the 
range of physical capabilities and inter- 
ests of its users, and so on. Even a simple 
poster design is part of a communication 
system that connects to cultural, social, 
and physical contexts through its use. 

Interest in interdisciplinary and 
cross-disciplinary learning intensifies as 
educators help students to transfer basic 
problem-solving strategies to diverse and 
complex situations. To do this, schools 
must teach basic competencies in core 
subject areas as well as show relationships 
among these disciplines, thus heighten- 
ing their relevancy (Jacobs 1989). Many 

educators also argue that interdisciplinary 
studies have as their primary objective 
the development of higher-order critical 
thinking skills: comparing, contrasting, 
synthesizing, structuring, and innovating. 
Design is inherently interdisciplinary 
and encourages systems thinking. It 
combines concepts and thinking skills 
found in both art and science, and it 
concerns itself with social, cultural, 
and physical contexts. Likewise, the 
most successful uses of design in the 
classroom are interdisciplinary. While 
there is a tendency to think of design 
activities as the purview of the art or 
industrial arts class — due largely to 
definitions of design education that 
focus on visual aesthetics or preprofes- 
sional training — design has relevance 

With Nelson, the 
teaching team 
generates alterna- 
tive activities to 
teach students 
about the concept 
of "changing size." 

Find four ways to make 
an equation bigger. 

Find examples of 
"bigger" in science 
fiction movies. 

- Make a sound bigger. 

- Make an object bigger. 

- Make a composition 

- Study the parallels and 
contrasts between local, 
state, and federal 

across the curriculum. As the python 
cage example illustrates, richly defined 
design problems force students to make 
connections among seemingly disparate 
facts and subject areas. Integration 
among subjects is seamless in design 
projects, unlike some learning activities 
where teachers force connections to 
meet curriculum mandates for inter- 
disciplinary instruction. 

The research for this book revealed 
many examples in which the design 
process helped children articulate rela- 
tionships and concepts across one or 
several disciplines. As Dolores Patton 
and Leslie Barclay demonstrate in their 
work with City Building Education 
at Los Angeles Open Charter Magnet 
School, students move freely across dis- 
ciplines when given the opportunity. 
A project on "change" asks students 
to compare a drawing, sentence, and 
sound event that use the same concept 
of change. For example, a child makes 
his drawing "split" by dividing it into 
two pieces. He then makes sound "split" 
by putting silence in the middle. 

Patton describes her work across 
disciplines and how it contributes to 
• her effectiveness as a teacher. 

Design gives me a means to connect my 
teaching and build more meaningful path- 
ways from one topic to another I find 

that it is much easier to connect seemingly 

incongruous topics. {The use of design} is 
even more powerful than thematic instruc- 
tion because it weaves one theme to another. 
When we {study} everyday objects, we can 
discuss how a teapot is organized so it can 
pour effectively. When we discuss organiza- 
tion, we can compare city water systems to 
the teapot. The children follow this simile 
readily, excitedly adding modifications to 
clarify the example. 

The research revealed another exam- 
ple of helping students develop skills 
across disciplines at Willis Intermediate 
School in Delaware, Ohio. Science 
teacher Teresa Bettac uses design 
activities to link science and 
business in a unit she calls "To 
Be a Scientist." Students research 
the work and times of a famous scien 
tist. They review scientific literature 
and interpret the scientist's discoveries 
through different media. Students then 
write and design a logo and brochure 
for a science-related company. They also 
must apply for a job at one of the "new" 
firms, using their scientist's credentials 
and persona. They complete a resume 
and job application and interview for 
the job. Through this project, students 
frame what they know about science in 
a business portfolio. Communication to 
others about what they learn about sci- 
entists and their work plays a primary 
role in the activity. 

At Tippecanoe Elementary School 
for the Humanities in Milwaukee, 
Wisconsin, design serves as a thematic 
unit for the whole school. Teachers 
integrate subjects to contrast, compare, 
and develop students' understanding 
of how disciplinary boundaries overlap. 
Each year the school sets a different 
theme for activities in all grades. A 
program implementer assists classroom 
teachers and the art teacher with pro- 
ject-based activities. One theme was 
"Experiences and Places: More than 
Meets the Eye." As program imple- 
menter Steven Shaw says, "We are 
interested in helping students 
develop an understanding of how 
the built environment is affected 
by different times in history, 
people, science and technology, and 
the constraints of structures and math- 
ematical relationships." Students create 
alphabet books based on shapes in the 
built environment, visit the Milwaukee 
Public Museum to examine scale models 
of buildings, work on maps in a study 
of abstract symbols that represent the 
environment, and compare how different 
rooms in a house have changed over time. 

While the design process is inherently 
interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary in 
nature, classroom design activities do 
not necessarily dictate shared instruction 
among teachers of different disciplines. 
There are many examples in the research 


study in which teachers find design 
activities effective in placing discipline- 
specific subject matter in broader contexts 
that children understand. Chapter 4 
illustrates how design activities support 
the work of specific disciplines. 

Increasing Student Comfort 
with Uncertainty 

The problems of today's world are messy 
and ill-defined. A primary challenge to 
tomorrow's leaders will be managing the 
uncertainties that characterize contem- 
porary life. Design deals with these 
forces through methods of both divergent 
and convergent thinking and through 
attitudes that tolerate ambiguity and 
suspend judgment in the early stages of 
problem solving. 

Through design problems, children 
learn to think laterally, generating many 
alternatives rather than progressing 
through a linear process to one right 
answer. They experiment through trial 
and error in an effort to truly understand 
the dimensions of the problem, as well 
as the range of potential solutions. In 
doing so, students explore alternatives 
that attempt to reconcile competing val- 
ues by weighing the different outcomes 
that result from ranking some aspects 
of the problem above others. Because 
design focuses on moving conditions 
from the "existing to the preferred" 
(Simon 1969), students learn to imagine 

the consequences of possible choices. 
This type of activity is in contrast to 
most school assignments that require 
students to execute a linear sequence of 
tasks in response to a problem for which 
the outcome is usually known. 

"Making sense" of the problem 
appears in the work of a 5th grade 
student at Epiphany School in Seattle, 
Washington, who has the task of con- 
structing a "yurt," a portable domed 
tent used by nomadic Mongols. The 
project is teacher Deirdre McCrary's 
effort to illustrate the physical proper- 
ties and limitations of materials within 
the context of another environment and 
another culture's housing needs, as well 
as the value of trial and error in deter- 
mining what a problem is really about. 



to imagine 

the consequences of 

possible choices 


Promoting Self-Directed Learning 
and Assessment 

v^ / V^iLii ■ j, »<J^»% 

The student is to determine its 
actual appearance, its size, 
and the materials of which 
it is made in building a 
model. After failing at 
several attempts to create 
a form with toothpicks, 
dowels, tree branches, glue, 
and paper, {one} child walks away from 
his work. Several minutes later, he returns 
and announces, "The branches told me how 
to do it!" He realizes the limits of the 
toothpicks and the potential of the tree 
branches in achieving the size and form of 
something he imagines as a yurt: "The 
toothpicks could only bend so far without 
breaking, but I could get the tree sticks to 
bend much further. I realized the only way 
I could get the effect I wanted was with the 
branches. " 

Students who are comfortable with 
uncertainties in the early stages of 
problem solving are more likely to take 
calculated risks and to view failure as a 
way to learn rather than as defeat. They 
also learn to suspend judgment until 
they view facts and circumstances from 
many vantage points. While this is a 
useful strategy for solving individual 
problems, it is also a strategy for life. 
As adults, these students will have to 
accept challenges for which there are no 
prescribed methodologies, invent new 
paradigms, and sustain interest in their 
work despite intermittent setbacks. 

if interest and skill in lifelong 
learning are key objectives of education, 
it is imperative that schools help stu- 
dents take responsibility for their own 
learning. Child-centered, constructivist 
approaches to learning provide practice 
in posing questions as well as solving 
problems. Students learn to challenge 
assumptions and the ranking of priorities 
intrinsic to problem definitions. They 
ask themselves what values are implicit 
in the structure of the problem and how 
broad a context they must address. 

In an exercise to design clothing for 
people with physical disabilities, high 
school students meet and observe their 
"clients." The students ask questions 

regarding movement and how people 
dress. Through this process they set 
performance criteria against which they 
and their users will measure the success 
of solutions. In doing so, students real- 
ize they cannot accommodate all needs 
equally well; they must assign higher 
value to some criteria and, where possi- 
ble, reconcile conflicting demands. 
Students also learn a new perspective in 
thinking about people with disabilities. 
They see that the environment and 
everyday objects "handicap" people, 
not their disabilities. 

This example contrasts with more 
traditional curricular structures in 
which the problem statements students 


receive from teachers are more prescrip- 
tive in their procedural expectations and 
criteria for success. As David Perkins 
asserts, typical math problems faced by 
most children today are proofs of 
knowledge already known: "Although 
you can calculate the height from 
which you have to drop an ice cube to 
vaporize it, or the leverage required to 
budge the Empire State Building, who 
cares?" (Perkins 1986, p. 97). The 
teacher frames the question and knows 
the answer; the student's task is to find 
out what the teacher already knows and 
values. There is no self-determination, 
no active context in these types of 
problems and, as researchers testify, low 
student motivation to solve them. 

Good design problems share common 
characteristics in what they ask of chil- 
dren. Although they may be tightly 
defined, often by the teacher, their solu- 
tions are not predictable; each student 
ranks the importance of individual 
variables differently, resulting in 
different problem-solving methods and 
solutions to the same problem state- 
ment. Problems that require students 
to reconcile conflicting priorities (e.g., 
cup designs that are elegant but dispos- 
able, chair designs that are sturdy but 
portable) open opportunities for rich 
discussion about why certain criteria 

are more important than others. When 
the solution to the problem has no 
observable precedent, such as a paper 
bridge that can support a brick, moti- 
vation is high and students stretch their 
understanding of basic principles in an 
attempt to discover a solution. 

Design problems also engage students 
in what design author and methodolo- 
gist J. Christopher Jones calls "glass 
box" thinking: stepping outside of the 
process to watch oneself solve a problem 
(Jones 1970, pp. 49-50). Because no 
future design problem will be exactly 
the same as the one they are now solv- 
ing, students learn to focus on their 
process as the true content of activities. 
This self-reflection and self-evaluation 
helps students learn from their failures 
and build on their successes. Karen 
Miller, a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher at 
Willamette Primary School, reinforces 
the value of self-reflection. 


developed for 

the national assessment 
in the arts, four cups are 


to identify design priorities 
(stability, heat retention, 

dispOSability, etc.) and a fifth 
cup is designed that combines apparently 
competing priorities (stable and stack- 
able, elegant and disposable, etc.). 


I meet individually with the children to 
discuss their reflections on learning, and 
check for understanding across a broad 

range of skills The class and 1 create a 

rubric that acts as a standard that guides 
our work. We consider the purpose and 
characteristics of work we admire. The 
children evaluate themselves at the 
conclusion of a project, not only on the 
product, but in what areas they have 
grown and what they have learned that 
might help them in a future project. We 
have a working journal in which we 
record thinking and progress throughout 
the project. 

Sharing Responsibility 
for Assessment 

As educators across the country develop 
more effective, large-scale strategies for 
determining what students know and 
are able to do, the issue of authentic 
assessment at the levels of classrooms 
and individual students remains a high 
priority for teachers, students, and 
their parents. Dennie Palmer Wolf's 
Performance Assessment Collaboratives 
with Education (PACE) at Harvard 
pioneers the effort to develop assessment 
strategies that authentically model the 
performances expected of children in 
their adult lives. Wolf believes concern 
for measuring and reporting achieve- 
ment data to external audiences drives 

most traditional assessments, and that 
these approaches do not help students 
develop their own internal systems of 
accountability. Nor does traditional 
testing nurture the student's desire to 
achieve high standards or provide the 
means to establish a personal sense of 
excellence. Instead, such assessment 
encourages a temporary acquisition of 
facts as proof of mastery against criteria 
the student does not necessarily value 
(Wolf 1992). 

New assessments, such as those 
endorsed by Wolf, value "formative 
reflection," ongoing feedback through- 
out a project that reshapes the processes 
and final products of learning. Formative 
reflection allows teachers to engage 
students and their peers in interactive 
assessment and mirrors the tradition of 
"progress critiques" found in college- 
level design classes. Assessment of this 
sort supports powerful learning and 
builds a school culture of high standards. 

The fit between design and these 
new assessment strategies is strong. 
Design problems present opportunities 
for project-based situated learning in 
which products are the focus of periodic 
critiques of student process. Embedded 
within the design process is iterative 
work through which students evaluate, 
adjust, and redirect behavior in response 
to feedback on emerging products or 
design solutions. Performance criteria, 

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stated at the ft ont end of the 
design process, provide 
students with the rubrics 
against which they will 
measure success. Because 
students often participate 
in the development and 
articulation of these criteria, they value 
their achievement over what appear to 
be the arbitrarily set rubrics in tradi- 
tional testing. Because there are many 
appropriate solutions to the same 
design problem, design-based learning 
and assessment strategies tolerate a 

range of excellent performances. Unlike 
traditional testing, design projects 
accommodate the variety of learning 
styles in any classroom by allowing 
students to demonstrate mastery and 
thinking processes in the manner most 
comfortable to them. 

This match between the design 
process and authentic assessment also 
signals that a design activity itself may 
be an appropriate way to evaluate what 
students know and are able to do in 
subject areas other than design. For 
example, modeling the human digestive 

system from parts found in the hard- 
ware store can tell a teacher much about 
students' understanding of the human 
body. In this instance, the design task 
requires that students know how the 
relevant parts of the human body work 
and match the digestive operation to 
the apparent function of hardware. The 
design task is simply a way to determine 
to what degree students' knowledge of 
physiology is operational. 

Site visits and teacher questionnaires 
for this study suggest that, where design 
strategies are part of a well-considered 
comprehensive program, students tend 
to develop internal accountability and 
take responsibility for achieving high 
standards of performance. In these 
schools, assessment is an ongoing shared 
responsibility among teachers and 
students, a natural part of the commu- 
nication climate in the classroom. 

Even very young children can set 
the standard for and assess excellence 
in their work. Susan Dunn and Rob 
Larson, authors of Design Technology: 
Children's Engineering, maintain "chil- 
dren may also generate rubrics, or 
open sets of criteria through extracting 
successful qualities of models. Children 
use examples of work and talk about 
features which are 'good'. Using the 
children's language, the teacher lists 

[their] ideas In developing such a 

list, a rubric is not artificially imposed; 


Making animal marionettes 
sparks students' creativity and 
questions. The Research Web 
helps them get started. 

Is*. *f 

Always design a thing 
by considering it in its 
next largest context: a 
chair in a room, a room 
in a house, a house in 
an environment, an 
environment in a city 



it comes from the children's experiences 
and perceptions. Children can use the 
rubric to develop, reflect on, and 
modify their designs" (Dunn and 
Larson 1990, p. 71). 

The research team observed student 
accountability for powerful learning 
at Willamette Primary School, where 
several teachers commented on assess- 
ment. Kim Turner, a 2nd and 3rd 
grade teacher, notes, "The children 
and I set the standard for quality work 
for each project by creating a rubric. 
The work is regularly assessed by the 
children and myself together, and 
parents are invited to offer comments 
too. In this way, children learn to view 

evaluation as integral to learning and 
something that should continue at home. 
It is not just a reporting exercise." 
Turner's colleague, Janice Leonetti, 
adds, "I notice a rising spiral of quality 
in the work the children have produced 
over time. As a group we talk about 
good solutions and good approaches 
as part of the learning process. The 
best work from one project raises the 
standard for all in the next project." 

Scott Wavra, who teaches 4th and 
5th grade students at Willamette 
Primary School, talks about the use of 
portfolios in assessment, "We gather 
student portfolios over the six years 
children are with us. The portfolios 

are evidence of the children's growth 
over time and their best thinking at 
any particular time. I look for qualities 
in the way a child works: asking 
questions, gathering information, 
organizing and presenting information, 
as well as developing an understanding 
of the social and scientific concepts that 
provide the framework for a particular 
study. I am always concerned that upon 
completing a study, a child has the will 
to continue learning to take on new 
and greater challenges." 

Teresa Bettac, science teacher at 
Willis Intermediate School in Delaware, 
Ohio, also uses portfolios as one means 
of assessment. "All of my students keep 
a portfolio of work for the three years I 
have them in advanced science class. 
They have an opportunity to add to 
their portfolio at any time. They are 
also able to see the variety of designs 
they have created in three years. Plus 
they are able to see development and 
improvement in their [understanding 
of] design and science concepts." 

There is also evidence that tradi- 
tional testing practices keep certain 
students from demonstrating compe- 
tency in core disciplinary content and 
skills. At Smoky Hill High School in 
Aurora, Colorado, physics teacher 
David Pinkerton notes that the use of 
design in the classroom lets "students 
traditionally shut out from higher 


Developing Students' Interpersonal 
and Communication Skills 

grades in science" demonstrate under- 
standing through projects rather than 
written tests. Pinkerton indicates, 
however, that student performance on 
standardized tests did not change when 
he adopted a design approach to teach- 
ing. In addition to tests and design 
projects, he now conducts interviews 
with students as a form of assessment. 
Through these interviews he learns 
that the use of design in his classroom 
results in "an increase in process skills, 
creativity, intuition, design skills, 
troubleshooting, physical manipula- 
tion, and thinking on your feet. In 
other words, content has not been 
sacrificed for process, yet more process 

is being learned My techniques 

foster long-term memory of ideas and 
concepts. I have had enough returning 
college students tell me this that I 
know it's true." 

The research team witnessed students' 
shared and self-evaluation as one of the 
strongest characteristics of site-visit 
schools. By involving students in the 
development of meaningful performance 
criteria, the design process embeds 
assessment in the normal activity of 
solving problems. By providing 
opportunities for reflection and self- 
direction of effort, design activities 
help students learn to trust their own 
ability to master concepts and skills. 

interpersonal skills are critical to 
success at all ages and in all endeavors. 
These skills are important in the work- 
place, but they are no less important in 
the civic realm. Likewise, the ability to 
construct or interpret meaning in all 
types of communication is critical to 
success in today's environment of infor- 
mation overload. The research revealed 
numerous examples in which design 
activities fostered competency in 
collaborative team work and a variety 
of communication skills. 

Fostering Collaborative 

When educators noted the disparity 
between the fact that most adults work 
with teams of people while students 
often work alone, they began experi- 
ments with student learning groups and 
teams. A decade of research at the Johns 
Hopkins Team Learning Project suggests 
that team learning consistently results 
in accelerated achievement and better 
retention for all students (Slavin 1986). 
Collaborative learning also develops 
interpersonal skills. In other research, 
Johnson, Johnson, and Holubec (1994) 
describe the elements of cooperative 
learning as: 

- clearly perceived interdependence 
among students; 

- considerable face-to-face interaction; 

- clearly perceived individual accountability 
and personal responsibility to achieve 
group goals; 

- frequent use of relevant interpersonal 
and small-group skills; and 

- frequent and regular group processing of 
current functioning to improve future 

The cross-disciplinary and multi- 
phase nature of many design problems 
provides rich opportunity to nurture 
students' collaborative skills across all 
these dimensions. Many teachers report 
that the complexity of design problems 
allows children with different skills 
and different "ways of knowing" to 
contribute at different moments in the 
process and to present a variety of 
viewpoints throughout the process. 


For example, at Willamette Primary 
School, Merilee Bales' 4th and 5th 
grade children worked together on a 
class-designed coral reef as they studied 

The goal is to create a life-size coral reef 
in the classroom. The class divides into 
subgroups to tackle various aspects of the 
problem. In each subgroup students assign 
roles, such as recorder, resource person, and 
process observer. Later, the same children 
divide reef-design tasks according to their 
interests and expertise. All of the children 
gather information in writing about the 
elements of the coral reef. When it comes 
to the actual construction of the reef, with 
sharks, starfish, blowfish, and coral, 
several students are fast learners of wire 
and papier mache techniques. They teach 
their classmates, and with these students 
as experts, skills spread quickly 
through the class. Many children act 
as assistants when the groups need an 
extra pair of hands. 

While Bales 
reports that 

begins by 
helping the chil- 
dren divide tasks, they soon assume this 
responsibility themselves. Similarly, 
she notes that early in the year students 

need her help in resolving group con- 
flicts, but as the year and involvement 
in design activities progress, children 
become negotiators and resolve their 
own disagreements. 

Smoky Hill High School physics 
teacher David Pinkerton also has 
students form their own design teams, 
but he makes suggestions about 
recruiting others with skills that 
complement those of the people already 
on the team. Manette Gampel, a science 
teacher at Dyker Heights Intermediate 
School in Brooklyn, New York, com- 
ments on her students' understanding 
of group design work: "I may have 
an excellent idea for a bridge, but I 
am not a skilled artist. My friend, on 
the other hand, is a skilled artist who 
can take my idea and translate it into 
an actual design on paper. The final 
product is a reflection of both our 

Throughout our study, we saw 
evidence that participation in design 
activities helps to build student confi- 
dence and a sense of control over their 
own learning. Students are "learning 
partners" with their teachers, as well as 
with their classmates. Dolores Patton 
reports that the use of design in her 
classroom transforms her students. 

Some of the most important changes in the 
students are their increased independence, poise, 
and confidence. The children approach new 
situations more confidently, looking for 
similarities with other projects. They ask 
questions more readily, often startling adults 
with their insights during field trips and 
presentations. I also notice more camaraderie 
with my students. Since design is a topic that 
can readily be observed by all, we enjoy 
sharing observations concerning designs we 
encounter. My comments about chair design 
are compared to the observations of children, 
who are entirely different "chair clients. " 
There is a warmth and freedom in the class- 
room when comments by student and teacher 
are valued more equally. 

Teachers also recount that design 
activities enable students to provide 
constructive feedback to their classmates. 

Teachers remark that many students 
develop critical language skills and 
learn to be thoughtful in giving and 
receiving criticism. One 2nd grade 
student said, "You learn that someone's 
tough opinion about your project has 
nothing to do with you; even though 
what they say may hurt at first, it's 
really only about your work. It's not 
about you as a person." 

At Willamette Primary School, 
teachers encourage students to think 
about and articulate the processes 
they use while engaged in design and 
technology activities. Students record 
their own problem-solving steps in 
journals and portfolios, describe them 
in conversations with the teacher and 
peer-group teams, and learn to evaluate 
their own work and that of others. As 
important, students learn how to 
document and describe their design 
process for those beyond the classroom: 
other school children, teachers, parents, 
and visitors. 

Whether placed in the classroom, 
in the hallway, or in another public 
space at the school, student project 
displays do not just show the final 
products achieved, but carefully 
delineate the steps in the process, the 
questions raised along the way, and the 
alternatives considered. The children 
also capture work-in-progress in still 
photographs or on video, enabling 

them to produce narrated slide-tapes 
and videos summarizing their learning 
process for parents or community 

The school's founding principal, 
Jane Stickney, encouraged such analysis 
and documentation inside and outside 
the classroom as a means of reinforcing 
student ability and ease in reflection, 
providing "teaching opportunities" 
throughout the school building, and 
communicating the values and outcomes 
of design-based pedagogy to parents and 
other community supporters. Evidence 
of the children's comfort with such 
reflection proved both personally grati- 
fying and professionally validating: 
"In the school's second year, when I 
began to see older students gathered 
together in the hallway — even during 
their free time — examining the project 
displays of younger students and dis- 
cussing among themselves the processes 
used, I knew the school was going to 
be a success." 

Stickney is not alone in her obser- 
vations about student interest in the 
work of other children. As part of the 
LEGO City project at Dranesville 
Elementary School in Herndon, 
Virginia, in which each class constructs 
different components of an ideal city 
from LEGO pieces, a student "com- 
munity planning team" builds skills 
in working with multi-age teams of 

One result [of education] 
is that students graduate 
without knowing how to 
think in whole systems, 
how to find connections, 
how to ask big questions, 
and how to separate the 
trivial from the important. 
Now more than ever, 
however, we need people 
who think broadly and 
understand systems, 
connections, patterns, 
and root causes. 

DAVID ORR, Earth in Mind, 



W U I l\ is not always the 

result of one person's 
ef f o rts . 

children. Representatives from all 
grade levels consider the whole town 
and review proposals from each student 
construction team (e.g., housing, roads, 
parks) before giving approval for work 
to begin. The planning team prepares 
and distributes weekly advisories and 
decisions to each class as they refine the 
overall community plan. This example 
mirrors the complexity of adult tasks 
in organizations of various kinds. 

Clearly, design activities make the 
point for children that the best work 
is not always the result of one person's 
efforts. Through the design process, 
students gain insight into the value of 
teamwork and how to organize them- 
selves for effective problem solving. 

Developing a Variety of 
Communication Skills 

The ability to communicate to others in 
a variety of appropriate ways becomes 
increasingly important in an era of 
rapidly changing technology. A culture 
that shifted from predominantly oral 
communication to the use of printed 
texts now often chooses the image 
(preferably a moving image) over the 
word. We process increasing amounts 
of information visually, via television, 

illustrations, and diagrams in news- 
papers, textbooks, reports, computer 
multimedia, and photography. In 
previous eras, illustrations elaborated 
on text. Today, text explains what we 
cannot surmise from the illustration. 
It is not uncommon for magazine 
readers to go no deeper than perusal 
of headlines, captions, and photographs 
to determine the content of an article. 

Just as some traditional curricula 
discourage the use of multiple intelli- 
gences, they also handicap students' 
development of fluency in various forms 
of communication and interpretation. 
By relying primarily on verbal and 
mathematical forms of communication 
for serious study in today's classrooms, 
schools fail to develop students as 
discriminating readers of visual form 
and as communicators in the languages 
of their times. Ironically, as budget 
cuts threaten art education — one of the 
few disciplines that encourages visual 
thinking and communication — the 
demand to be critical authors and 
readers of visual forms is expanding 
at an alarming rate. 

The design process encourages 
liberal use of many forms of communi- 
cation. Well-developed communication 
cultures exist in all of the site visit 
schools and their descriptions recur in 
teacher surveys. At Willis Intermediate 
School, a 7th grade science class makes 

three-dimensional models to demon- 
strate how water can power vehicles. 
Teacher Teresa Bettac also encourages 
students to diagram as a way of under- 
standing science concepts: "Trying to 
teach science today without using the 
many elements of design would be 
boring, but also would make an already 
complex subject even much harder to 
understand. Design strategies help 
students, understand difficult concepts. 
For example, a student who has 
diagrammed the external and internal 
parts of a grasshopper has a much 
better understanding of where to 
locate and find the organs when they 
complete a dissection." 

The research team also found 
examples in which computers enhance 
students' visualization and presentation 
skills. At Dranesville Elementary 
School and San Jose Middle School in 
Novato, California, students work with 
a variety of Autodesk graphics software 
programs to present research findings. 
Dranesville students studying insects 
design and animate an imaginary bug 
in an appropriate habitat. Will Fowler's 
San Jose students create multimedia 
presentations that reference David 
Macaulay's Castle video in their story- 
boards and computer animations about 
life in the Middle Ages. Some students 
create "fly-throughs" of their three- 
dimensional computer models. In other 


lessons, Fowler uses Macaulay's 
Roman City video as the basis for a 
social studies lesson. 

Equally important in today's world 
is the ability to make coherent, 
persuasive oral presentations. Design 
activities require students to summa- 
rize findings, pose questions, articulate 
rationales, and critique solutions 
publicly at various stages of the design 
process. Numerous teachers responding 
to the research survey commented on 
the degree to which design activities 
make children active "presenters" in 
their classrooms and confident in 
explaining their activities to adults. 

Learning to be discriminating 
"readers" of form is also possible through 
design-based strategies. Rubie Blount, 
a 9th grade English teacher at Hillside 
High School in Durham, North 
Carolina, asks her students to make a 
"behavior map" of the room, noting 
the room's good points and where it 
does not support the work of the class. 
They then talk about the changes in 
their own behavior that might result 
from several alternate arrangements. 

Blount says, "After analyzing the 
messages conveyed by the simple 
arrangement of chairs in a room in our 
discussion of 'the rhetoric of rooms,' I 
vowed to test the contention that my 
classroom design sets me up as an 
unreachable monarch." After the class 

rearranges the room according to one of 
their proposed designs, Blount remarks, 
"They love sitting in the semicircle!... 
I can easily make eye contact with each 
student in the class. Mutiny ensued 
when I tried to get them to move their 
desks back in the neat little rows [at 
the end of the day]" (Davis and Moore 
1992, p. 23). 

Another example of "reading the 
environment" is evident in architecture 
professor Paul Tesar's visit to Kathy 
Allen's 7th grade social studies class in 
Warren County, North Carolina. Tesar's 
project is an adaptation of an activity 
designed by educator Juan Pablo Bonta 
that asks student teams to design well- 
known building types (e.g., house, 
church, bank, city hall) using simple 
geometric blocks. Students then guess 
the building type expressed by each 
team's design. The activity follows with 
a discussion of the language of built 
form and an analysis of the physical 
elements that lead to right and wrong 
readings of building type. The class also 
discusses the cultural origins of certain 
structural arrangements and offers ideas 
about how another culture might 
express the same function through 
different forms and materials (Davis 
and Moore 1992, pp. 51-52). 

Dolores Patton also describes 
activities in which children "read" 
the environment. On a visit to the 

Los Angeles City Hall to watch the 
proceedings of a city council meeting, 
Patton asks students to study the 
design of the building. "How does its 
design connote power and security? 
What is the importance of the rotunda 
as an intersection? How is symbolism 
used to honor the history of the city?" 
Patton's students return to the class- 
room to design a new city hall for their 
model city of the future with a better 
understanding of the language of built 
form and its role in projecting the 
values of the city. 

Some teachers ask their students to explore alternate room arrangements to 
show that the room plan can affect behavior and communication. Above, an 
illustration titled "The Rhetoric of Rooms" from Education Through Design 
by Meredith Davis and Robin Moore. 


Cultivating Responsible Citizens 

At Willamette Primary School, 
design activities helped 
students learn that they can 
affect decisions about the 
school environment. After 
working to design and build 
a school green space, one 
student commissioner wrote 
about environmental needs. 

THE research study revealed many 
examples in which design activities 
help students at all levels learn about 
the processes that control local decision- 
making and how to play active roles 
in their own communities. 

In some schools, students actively 
experience the political and social 
processes of their communities. For 
example, in a suburb of metropolitan 
Kansas City, Kansas, 3rd grade students 
at the Stilwell Elementary School toured 
their neighborhood while studying the 
history of their town. On their tour, 
they admired a round barn constructed 
in 1912. When these students later 
learned of a demolition plan to make 

Environmental Commission 

Tiffany Yoshikawa 

I think the important 
thing in Environmental 
Commission is planting 
trees for the city on the 
landsite because we need 
trees to help the 
environment. I think 
another important thing is 
to take out the recycling, 
clean the sink and find out 
what you can do about the 
water bottles because those 
are important jobs. 

room for new development, they orga- 
nized to save the barn. The students 
made persuasive t-shirts, conducted 
walking tours for town residents, and 
produced a slide show on the barn, 
which they presented to the City 
Council. As a result of their efforts, 
their Kansas City suburb still has a 
round barn (Graves 1997, p. 117). 

At Willamette Primary School, 
students learned that they can affect 
decisions about the school environment. 
Working with technical assistants from 
the community, students designed and 
built a green space within the school. 
Former principal Jane Stickney 
describes the experience: "The idea for 
the green space came from children 
who wanted to create a garden on the 
school site. The children established 
processes for finding answers to their 
questions. They worked in teams with 
community mentors [environmental 
specialists, engineers, and educators] to 
collect information {about the site], and 

to design and build the green space 

They built a sense of belonging and 
purpose. And most of all, they made 
something for the community that 
started off as only an idea." 

While these examples illustrate the 
empowering nature of active design, 
other teachers report similar outcomes 
from role playing the type of decision 
making that takes place in our society. 

One of the more successful examples 
is the student simulation of city 
government in Doreen Nelson's City 
Building Education program. Students 
study terrain, demographics, and 
land-use decisions. They evaluate 
transportation and circulation systems 
within their city, as well as structures 
for commerce, government, housing, 
and recreation. As a decisionmaking 
body for the planning of a future city, 
the student-formed government 
coordinates development and oversees 
the daily activities of production. 
Students assume the roles of mayor, 
council members, and commissioners 
for departments such as education, 
parks, libraries, housing, utilities, and 
transportation. Nelson (1984) says: 

As it begins to function, the class experi- 
ences its own authority or lack of it; the 
obligations of the group, the nature and 
function of leadership; and the conflicts 
arising between the needs of the community 
and the freedom of the individual, failures 
in the first organization lead to more 
research and reorganization ... . Because 
organizational structures cannot function 
without procedures, lessons are required in 
the basics of conducting meetings, following 
an agenda, delegating work to committees 
and other skills that are essential for a 
group to function. 



Design activities also encoutage 
contact with people in the community 
and provide insight into how groups 
make design decisions. At Beaver Acres 
School in Beaverton, Oregon, 2nd, 3rd, 
and 4th graders working with teacher 
Pete Ellenzweig prepare for their 
building and city design projects in a 
variety of ways. They conduct book 
research and, when feasible, site visits 
and interviews with elected officials, 
residents, and other adults. They study 
the immediate neighborhood and 
nearby Portland, taking walking tours, 
sketching buildings, and examining 
various aspects of the urban environ- 
ment. Reading, listening, and direct 
observation inform their own city 
planning projects, including the 
layout of residential and commercial 
areas and the design of individual 
facilities such as the zoo, train station, 
and football stadium. 

It is evident from these examples 
that design activities empower 
students to make decisions, modeling 
the responsibilities of adult citizens. 
Through design, students learn the 
consequences of such decisions and 
prepare to be active participants in 
shaping their physical, social, and 
cultural environments. 

Brandt, R. (May 1986). "On Creativity 
and Thinking Skills: A Conversation 
with David Perkins." Educational 
Leadership A3, 8: 13-18. 

Brooks, J.G. and Brooks, M.G. (1993). In 
Search of U nderstanding: The Case for 
Constructivist Classrooms. Alexandria, 
Virginia: Association for Supervision 
and Curriculum Development. 

Davis, M. and Moore, R. (1992). 

Education Through Design: The Middle 
School Curriculum. Raleigh, North 
Carolina: North Carolina State 

Dewey, J. (1910). My Pedagogic Creed. 
Chicago, Illinois: A. Flanagan Company. 

Dunn, S. and Larson, R. (1990). Design 
Technology: Children's Engineering. Bristol, 
Pennsylvania: The Falmer Press. 

Graves, G. (1997). Walk around the Block. 
Prairie Village, Kansas: Center for 
Understanding the Built Environment. 

Jacobs, H.H. (1989). Interdisciplinary 
Curriculum: Design and Implementation. 
Alexandria, Virginia: Association for 
Supervision and Curriculum 

Johnson, D., Johnson, R., and Holubec, 
E.J. (1994). The New Circles of 
Learning: Cooperation in the Classroom 
and School. Alexandria, Virginia: 
Association for Supervision and 
Curriculum Development. 

Jones, J. C. (1970). Design Methods. 
New York: John Wiley and Sons. 

Nelson, D. (1984). Transformations: 
Process and Theory. Los Angeles, 
California: City Building Education. 

Nickerson, R., Perkins, D., and Smith, E. 
(1985). The Teaching of Thinking. 
Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum 

Perkins, D. (1986). Design as Knowledge. 
Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum 

Simon, H. (1969). The Sciences of the 
Artificial. Cambridge, Massachusetts: 
MIT Press. 

Slavin, R.E. (1986). Using Student Team 
Learning. Baltimore, Maryland: 
The Johns Hopkins Team Learning 
Project, Center for Research on 
Elementary and Middle Schools. 

Wolf, D. P. (1992). "Opening Up 

Assessment." In Performance Assessment, 
Brandt, R., ed. Alexandria, Virginia: 
Association for Supervision and 
Curriculum Development. 



Excellent Teaching 

the best teachers bring learning to 
life with techniques and strategies 
that promote excellent student 
work and high teaching standards. For 
the innovative teachers who are the 
subject of this research, design-based 
curricula provide frameworks for 
achieving such excellence and high 
standards. While these teachers approach 
design on their own terms, they share 
a common concern for instruction that 
adapts to individual learning styles and 
an array of subjects. 

The research for this book found 
considerable variation in how design is 
used in the classroom. Some teachers 

and students explore the modes of 
inquiry used by graphic designers, 
product designers, interior designers, 
and architects as strategies for learning 
new content and skills. They also may 
study the performances of everyday 
objects and places and the process for 
making decisions about visual commu- 
nication, consumer products, and the 
built environment. Others use design 
as an active, hands-on approach to 
teaching and learning that motivates 
both teachers and students. In some 
cases, design is the subject of investi- 
gation; in other cases, it is the means 
of investigation. 

It is clear from the classroom obser- 
vations that design experiences 
invigorate teachers and students, trans- 
form the nature of teaching, and foster 
success for all types of learners. From 
the teacher's viewpoint, the use of 
design in K-12 classrooms achieves two 
important goals: 

- Design-based teaching strategies support 
a broad range of student achievement by 
transforming the teacher from authority 
to facilitator, reaching all learner types, 
making learning active, and using tech- 
nology in the service of ideas. 

- Design-based teaching strategies build 
connections among teachers, subject 
areas, and the community. 


Supporting A Range of Student Achievement 

Design experiences invigorate 
teachers and students, 
transform the nature of 
teaching, and foster success 
for all types of learners. 
Here, students at IS 246 in 
Brooklyn, New York, work 
together to build a chipboard 
model of the Bank of China 
in Hong Kong. 

AS teaching objectives shift from 
instilling facts to improving students' 
thinking skills, educators find their 
roles in the classroom also change. 
Increasingly, teachers must prepare 
for instruction that guides rather than 
directs, that poses questions rather 
than provides answers. Through 
design-based pedagogy, teachers 
rediscover the art of teaching. 

Transforming the 
Teacher's Role 

The use of design has significant impli- 
cations for the teacher, who moves from 
the role of omniscient authority to 
facilitator. In shedding the mantle of 

an expert who knows the answers to all 
problems, the teacher becomes a learner 
who shares with students an open mind 
about solutions to problems. While the 
overall achievement of learning out- 
comes are certain, there are no single 
"right" answers to design problems. 

As Kim Turner, a 2nd grade teacher 
at Willamette Primary School in West 
Linn, Oregon, explains, "It's easier to 
be the expert, but the results are more 
powerful when I'm not. Rather than 
focusing on where I have to go next, I 
am able to hear children explaining 
their own thinking {about their design 
solutions] in ways that allow me 
glimpses into their development. These 

give me insight into my next moves to 
help them develop further." 

Patricia Kadlec, a 4th and 5 th grade 
teacher at Willamette, adds, "I am 
increasingly convinced I do my best 
teaching when I am on the edge of my 
own understanding." 

Gail Aldridge, a 2nd and 3rd grade 
teacher at Willamette, reinforces the 
views of her colleagues. She remarks: 

When 1 provide a framework for the 
children in my class and then step out of 
the way, I am amazed at what they can 
do! I can follow their progress in conver- 
sations and journals, and move in to assist 
in developing understanding or {to help 
with} a momentary frustration when the 
opportunity arises. In that way, I don't 
teach "beyond" them. There is a sense of 
relevancy. I am able to guide with questions, 
gestures, musings, and modeling, without 
the stultifying demands of direct telling. 
The {children} emerge on the other side of 
their questions with real answers of {their} 
own, with their self-esteem increased, and a 
belief they can tackle almost anything. 

As facilitators, teachers urge students 
to evaluate the appropriateness of 
solutions they propose. In this role, 
teachers involve students in the process 
of "valuing," without imparting specific 
values themselves. They encourage and 
reward a variety of student approaches 


the teacher 

becomes a Learner 

to problems rather than the single 
teacher-centered or textbook path. 
Teachers who use the design process 
as a map for classroom activity hold 
students accountable to student- 
authored performance criteria. 

Barbara Van Wicklin, a gifted and 
talented teacher at Fillmore Central 
School in Allegany County, New York, 
affirms this view of design-based 
teachers as facilitators: "Design adds to 
my effectiveness because I become a 
facilitator rather than a knowledge giver. 
I allow for learning to take place rather 

than be the information giver I set 

judgment aside and join [students] in 
their quest. I am open to change and 
failure — and so are they." 

A kindergarten teacher at Willamette 
Primary School recounts her transforma- 
tion to a design-based facilitator: "My 
students were attempting to build tall 
buildings with newspapers when a little 
boy who did not know how to begin 
stopped his work in frustration. My 
first reaction was to tell him exactly 
how to roll the newspapers into tubes. 
However, I stopped for a moment and 
asked him what he was trying to do, 
and then we looked at columns and tall 
cans as possible models {for creating the 
form]. Although he still had difficulty 
with the mechanics of rolling, he knew 
what he wanted to do and asked a 
friend to assist him." 

who shares with students 311 Opefl mind about 

solutions to problems. 

Teachers also report that design- 
based strategies energize their teaching. 
They find themselves creating new 
learning experiences that are appropriate 
for a particular group of children, rather 
than relying on tired exercises or lec- 
tures from a textbook. Even when 
repeating similar design assignments 
from year to year, teachers find that 
students ask different questions and 
invent new solutions. Mark Ceconi, a 
teacher at Daniel Webster Magnet 
School in New Rochelle, New York, 
says, "Using design also satisfies my 
personal creative needs, helping me to 
grow as an instructor by perpetuating 
my interest in the subjects I teach and 
confirming my ability to present them 
in ways I best know how." 

Several teachers who use design 
activities in the classroom report that 
they avoid problems in student motiva- 
tion that often occupy so much of 
teachers' attention. Van Wicklin talks 
about the joy of teaching motivated 
students: "I have found myself having 
to constrain enthusiasm rather than 
encourage it. My classroom always has 

students working in it. They eat lunch 
there, spend free periods there, and 
many nights I have turned off the lights 
[and sent children home] because the 
janitors have to go home. Discipline 
problems are virtually nonexistent 
because of the high interest, hands-on 
experience the student is having." 

Steve Brady, a technology education 
teacher at Eagle Ridge Junior High 
School in Savage, Minnesota, agrees: 
"During a design activity I find that the 
number of children 'on task' is greater 
than on nondesign activities." These 
teachers are among those who say that 
design-based teaching strategies allow 
them to focus on individual student 
achievement, rather than on group 
motivation and discipline. 

Just as designers modify their 
practices based on the outcome of a 
design solution, teachers redesign 
learning experiences based on student 
performance. Because design problems 
can be multidimensional in the intelli- 
gences they tap and the skills they 
build, the teacher need not repeat 
assignments until students master 

Using design does add to my 
effectiveness as a teacher. 
Compared to non-design 
activities, it allows my stu- 
dents to take part in decision 
making, which empowers 
them and gives them a feel- 
ing of ownership. This 
creates an excited, motivated, 
participating student who is 
easier to teach and discipline 
problems decrease. 

Middle School, Madison, WS 


Design helps me be more 
effective because not 
everyone learns the same 
way . . . I have been able 
to design many different 
ways of teaching an idea 
or method . . . If I didn 't 
use "design" I would 
not reach many of the 
students in my class. 

9-12th grade art teacher, 
Simsbury, CT 

content or skills. Instead, the teacher 
simply uses a new and interesting design 
task to develop the desired competency. 
Mark Ceconi offers an example from 
Daniel Webster Magnet School. 

One child, in particular, comes to mind. 
She was a very quiet, introspective student 
with large gaps in language skills. She 
experienced a great deal of difficulty 
expressing her ideas in written or verbal 
form. Her drawings, however, were 
wonderfully embellished with rich detail 
and a sophisticated spatial awareness. In 
the writing process, she began using story- 
board techniques to develop her ideas 
sequentially, first through drawing, and 
then by explaining each drawing using 
written detail. By the end of the year, she 
had developed a newfound self-confidence 
in her own abilities, and had grown 
immeasurably as a writer in her ability 
to express her ideas and views. 

It is clear that Ceconi and other 
teachers who responded to the research 
survey maintain their interest in 
teaching largely because they see the 
profession as a creative challenge. Their 
roles as facilitators reduce redundancy 
in their daily practice and allow them 
to focus on the issues that attracted 
them to teaching in the first place. 

Reaching All Learner Types 

Students exhibit varied capacities in 
different intelligences and individual 
preferences for learning in certain ways. 
Design-based experiences appear to 
reach a wider variety of learners than 
traditional methods of instruction, 
which favor the student who perceives 
information abstractly and processes 
it reflectively. 

Howard Gardner argues that teachers 
should approach any topic worth teach- 
ing in at least five ways that reflect 
different intelligences. These include: 

- narrational, presenting a story or narra- 
tive about the concept in question; 

- logical-quantitative, invoking numerical 
considerations or deductive reasoning 

- foundational, approaching the concept 
from a philosophical and terminological 

- aesthetic, emphasizing the sensory 
responses to surface features that 
capture the attention of students 
who favor an artistic stance to the 
experiences of living; and 

- experiential, dealing directly with 
relevant materials that embody or convey 
the concept in a hands-on approach 
(Gardner 1991, pp. 244-246). 

Gardner suggests that, taken 
together, these intelligences comprise 
the information and inquiry necessary 
to contribute to students' full under- 

standing of any topic. He maintains 
that "full understanding of any concept 
of any complexity cannot be restricted 
to a single mode of knowing or way of 
representation" (Gardner 1991, p. 247). 
He also believes studying a topic 
through multiple intelligences decreases 
the likelihood of misconceptions and 

Mary Ann Chamberlain, a 5th grade 
teacher at Meadowthorpe Elementary 
School in Lexington, Kentucky, views 
design strategies as a way to engage 
students who excel in different intelli- 
gences: "Design allows me to build on 
each student's strengths as they are 
revealed through the process of design." 

For example, when studying the way 
societies shape the built environment 
in response to cultural, social, and eco- 
nomic factors, Chamberlain incorporates 
the following activities to provide 
different points of entry to the subject 
and to encourage development of more 
than one type of intelligence: 

- The examination of the past and present 
through book research on the structure 
and function of buildings. Students must 
present their findings visually, requiring 
deductive reasoning (diagrams showing 
how buildings stand up) and aesthetic 
understanding (records of visual and 
spatial properties such as massing, 
proportion, materials, scale, color, and 

- The design and building of columns for 
use in buildings of a particular geo- 
graphic region and time period. The 
column must sustain specified weight, 
but it also must be meaningful to people 
in the region. This activity provides both 
logical-quantitative and foundational 
points of entry to the study of built 
form. In building the model of the 
column, students deal directly with 
materials in an experiential mode. 

- A five-day scavenger hunt for parents and 
students in which they must locate and 
identify specific architectural elements on 
a tour of homes in Lexington, Kentucky, 
built in the 1700s to the 1920s. This 
activity enters the discussion of the 
built environment through aesthetic 

Simsbury, Connecticut, high school 
teacher Patricia DiCosimo agrees that 
design helps her do her job well: 

"Design helps me be a more effective 
teacher, because not everyone learns in 

the same way I have to be able to 

design many different ways of teaching 

an idea or method If I didn't use 

design, I would not reach many of the 
students in my class." 

Several teachers note that the use of 
design in the classroom results in greater 
student success and increases the stature 
of students who do not excel in verbal 
or logical-mathematical skills. Julie 
Olsen, a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher at 
Hawthorne Elementary School in 
Madison, Wisconsin, makes this point: 
"Students who might otherwise get 
buried in a more traditional school. . . 
gain a lot of equity among their peers 

and confidence to learn in other areas 

The design problems we have studied 
are self-defined and require a lot of dif- 
ferent approaches; there is no one 'right' 
answer. In many ways, all of the stu- 
dents are starting at the same point." 

Tara Williams, a 7th grade social 
studies teacher in Warren County, North 
Carolina, notes that some of her students 
often have trouble demonstrating the 
depth of their understanding through 
words. She remarks that when her class 
uses newspaper to "model" various forms 
of government, "[I can] actually see what 
they [know]." Student models use torn 
and wadded paper to show the relative 
size and hierarchy among branches of 

government, centers of power, and the 
relationship of citizens to their govern- 
ment. The crudeness of the newspaper 
as a modeling material keeps student 
attention focused on the core issues, 
not on replicating irrelevant details or 
physical objects they associate with 
government. Unlike more traditional 
modeling or diorama projects, students 
need not have fine motor skills to succeed. 

Teachers report that by providing 
multiple points of entry into subject 
matter, they deal effectively with 
student and teacher misconceptions, 
biases, and stereotypes. A study initiated 
by technology teacher Phil Nobile, 
English teacher Carol Ramsey, and 
physics teacher Tony Nicholson of 
Greenwich High School in Greenwich, 
Connecticut, looked for gender issues 
that might reinforce stereotypical notions 
that science and technology courses are 
not encouraged for young women. The 
Teachers of Problem Solving (TOPS) 
project was a collaboration between 


teachers who use design 

create greater 

for special 

students to have SUCCeSSflil 



Greenwich Public Schools and Massa- 
chusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

Nicholson sought greater participa- 
tion in his design-based physics courses 
and arranged for teachers, students, and 
administrators to attend a day of study 
at MIT on strategies for encouraging 
female enrollment in technology classes. 
Returning to Greenwich, the teachers 
developed a course modeled on MIT's 
2.70 Design/Build course, in which stu- 
dents work in teams to build a variety 
of products and structures. The faculty 
extended this approach by working with 
nearby elementary schools, having the 
high school students mentor the younger 
children on similar design projects. 
Nobile reports that TOPS boosted overall 
enrollment in technology at Greenwich 
High by 110 percent and female enroll- 
ment by 20 percent (Nobile 1994). 

The Middle School Mathematics 
through Applications Project at the 
Institute for Research on Learning based 
in Menlo Park, California, also reports 
that their computer-oriented, design- 
based approach to the teaching of 
mathematics increases the participation 
of students who previously showed little 
interest in mathematics. They report 
that results are particularly striking 
among girls and students who speak 
English as a second language. 

Because design activities accommo- 
date students with different learning 

abilities, teachers who use design create 
greater opportunity for special students 
to have successful learning experiences. 
Along with teams of students from more 
than 30 schools in the greater Hartford 
area, students at the Special Education 
Learning Center participated in the 
Call to the Visionary Artist project, 
sponsored by the Architecture Resource 
Center of the Connecticut Architecture 
Foundation. The challenge was to design 
a building for a downtown riverfront 
site through coordinated disciplinary 
investigations. Art teacher June 
Bisantz-Evans and mathematics and 
science teacher George Macaruso 
work with students who have learning 
disabilities and behavioral problems, 
are at the 6th to 8th grade level, but 
whose performance is generally appro- 
priate for the early primary years. 

Bisantz-Evans and Macaruso report 
that subject matter that is usually a 
challenge for special students under 
traditional teaching strategies 
becomes easier when design is 
the focus of activity. 

To meet social studies objectives, students 
explore the historical and social aspects of 
the project, such as the role of the river in 
the formation of the city, changes in city 
form as shown on maps, personal and 
family histories, shifting needs of the city 
across time, and physical changes in the 


buildings and city plan found through a 
walking tour with map and camera. In 
mathematics, class discussions lead to 
diagrams and measured models of columns 
and bridges. Students build small trusses 
that support weight based on their cal- 
culations. To meet art objectives, students 
brainstorm possible building designs and 
visualize their concepts through drawings 
and models, addressing practical concerns 
such as parking and safety, as well as 
aesthetic features of the building. To meet 
science objectives, students explore solar 
heating and the environmental need for 
plants in an indoor I outdoor park. Finally, 
in language arts, students write about 
why their building serves a purpose and in 
what way it successfully communicates its 
relationship with the river. 

Bisantz-Evans and Macaruso also 
report, "The last phase of the project 
was the exhibition of all the city wide 
projects in a central location. When 
our students saw their model in the 
exhibit, they were truly proud. Self- 
esteem is an extremely important issue 
for these young people. Following this 
project to its conclusion and seeing with 
their own eyes that their work could 
hold its own with that of any other 
child was a real reward for all their 
effort. For us teachers, it was an equally 
powerful experience. We had not seen 

the skills of some of these children prior 
to this project. One child who had poor 
reading and writing skills was recast 
after he and his friends realized that he 
had wonderful building skills." 

Regardless of ability, students show 
preferences for ways to learn. Unfor- 
tunately, traditional lecture- and 
textbook-based classrooms favor one 
type of learner: the student who does 
well in reflective, abstract learning 
experiences. The use of design activities 
broadens the type of acceptable learn- 
ing behavior in classrooms, allowing 
teachers to reach students in ways that 
correspond to their natural preferences. 

Making Learning Active 

Not all active learning is project based. 
Traditional laboratory experiments, 
technical drafting assignments, and some 
crafts lessons, for example, involve 
students in physical activity but are 
usually exercises in which the method 
is tightly defined and the outcome is 
known before students begin. While 
students' performance on exercises 
varies in quality, their solutions to the 
problem generally are the same. 

In project-based learning experiences, 
on the other hand, the learner poses a 
problem for which there are many good 
answers. Projects usually stretch over a 
long period of time and require sus- 
tained concentration on various aspects 

of the assignment. Students are active 
participants in devising a method for 
solving the problem and engage in 
distinctly different kinds of work across 
the span of the activity. Projects tend 
to require information and skills from 
a number of disciplines, encouraging 
students to move seamlessly across sub- 
ject areas and to work in teams. Students 
frequently go through trial and error, 
testing solutions and making adjustments 
in their work based upon findings. 

Design activities accommodate 
students with different learning 
abilities. These no-nonsense 
designers from the Hartford, 
Connecticut, Special Education 
Center pose with their carefully 
planned solution for a downtown 
development site. 


Students at Bret Harte 
Elementary School in 
San Francisco designed 
and built this "magic 
suspension bridge." 
They wrote about the 
bridge, its qualities, 
and where in the world 
it could take them. 

Rarely do two students arrive at the 
same solution to the problem. 

Many educators consider project-based 
learning a particularly appropriate 
vehicle for education reform. David 
Perkins notes, "It is through doing that 
students best demonstrate that they can 
go reasonably beyond the information 
given, and that they can generalize, 
analyze, and invent" (1991, pp. 5-8). 
Dennie Palmer Wolf asserts, "Projects 

that have their foundations in the real 
world provide a model for young people 
of true enterprise that is likely to be 
encountered as they grow up. Through 
involvement in projects, students 
acquire skills in important areas such 
as research, evaluation, and production, 
and in the basic curriculum areas. They 
also obtain knowledge of what it means 
to carry out a significant undertaking 
with appropriate support and guidance" 

(Wolf 1992). Gardner calls this "situ- 
ated learning," or learning that allows 
students to encounter the various forms 
of knowing operating together within 
the context of particular situations and 
to see how accomplished adult masters 
move back and forth spontaneously 
among ways of knowing and learning 
(Gardner 1990, p. 31). 

Katherine Holtgraves, at Willamette 
Primary School, comments on situated 
learning: "I create opportunities for the 
children to engage in the real work of an 
artist, an engineer, architect or drafts- 
man. Not only are they fascinated with 
these challenges, but it is through this 
kind of challenge that children relate 
learning to their own experience and 
realize the value of pursuing knowledge." 

With very few exceptions, the 
research examples in this study are 
project-based and achieve learning out- 
comes that are consistent with the best 
project-based practices. The examples 
build on a long tradition of instruction 
in college-level design education and 
situate learning within the context of 
everyday problems. They demand inte- 
grated performance that draws from a 
variety of subjects and teaches students 
to observe, analyze, model, and test 
principles in action. The design process 
demands constant evaluation through 
prototype testing, group consensus- 
building, and personal reflection. It is 


clear from the study that teachers find 
design activities a natural process for 
introducing project-based learning into 
their classrooms.. 

Technology in the 
Service of Ideas 

In all the schools visited, the research 
team observed the use of technology as 
an integral part of design activity. For 
many teachers, "technology" means 
computer hardware and software; for 
others it refers to tools as varied as 
hammers, cameras, and calculators. In 
the best circumstances, students learn 
to select and use technology in the 
service of ideas, in ways that transcend 
specific equipment and their application 
in particular assignments. 

While many teachers report the use 
of close-ended computer software, such 
as SimCity, to teach design concepts, it 
is evident that computer technology in 
most design-based classrooms is simply 
a means to solving problems and not 
an end in itself. Many teachers cite the 
use of computers for modeling three- 
dimensional relationships, diagramming 
concepts, and animating dynamic 
principles. Open-ended programs that 
allow students to create their own text 
and illustrations help children of all 
ages explore and present their ideas. 

Through arrangements with 
Autodesk, a manufacturer of graphics 

software used in K-12 settings as well as 
professional architecture and engineer- 
ing firms, San Jose Middle School in 
Novato, California, and Dranesville 
Elementary School in Herndon, Virginia, 
expand students' repertoire of design 
media. Students at San Jose Middle 
School draw alternative arrangements of 
their classroom that better support 
their learning activities. At 
Dranesville, students use Autodesk 
software to write and illustrate 
reports and short stories. 
Students in both 
schools create sto 
ryboards and 
animations to 
what and how 
they learn in 
various sub- 
jects. In Los 
Angeles at 
Open Charter 
Magnet School, 
students regularly 
develop stories and 
reports with elaborate 
diagrams and illustrations 
on Apple computers installed at 
their desks. 

In Simsbury, Connecticut, art 
teacher Patricia DiCosimo teaches high 
school students graphic design through 
both traditional hand methods and 

professional design software programs. 
Students in Leslie Porges' 8th grade 
geography and civics classes in 
Chandler, Arizona, use the latest geo- 
graphic information systems (GIS) 
software in their city planning and 
resource mapping activities. Across the 
country, numerous design and technol- 
ogy students also use Computer-Assisted 
Design (CAD) software to produce 
professional quality two- and three- 
dimensional representations of 
their design solutions. 
Teachers also 
report that the 
use of technology 
in classroom 
design activities 
expands their 
own knowl- 
edge. In many 
cases, teachers 
become learners 
with their stu- 
dents, acquiring 
skills within the 
context of assign- 
ments. Teacher 
submissions for this study also 
indicate that teachers are 
frequently self-publishers who create 
learning materials that support design 
activities in their classrooms. 


i m 

Teachers use both traditional 

hands-on methods and design 

software programs to teach 

their students. Stud 

work with mate - " 

drawbridge design and 

construction (above) or use 

research and computer skills 

to create three-dimensional 

signs of the Golden Hinde 


A Strategy for Making Connections 

Figure 3.1 

CURRENT reform initiatives signal 
fundamental changes in how teachers 
work. The creation and support of team 
approaches to instruction are hallmarks 
of reform efforts, diminishing the 
isolation of teachers from one another 
and building the individual classroom 
teacher's sense of belonging to a com- 
munity of professionals. While team 
teaching is one approach, a coordinated 
group of individual classroom teachers 
who share common sets of 
students is more likely. 

The development of design projects 
led by instructional teams within schools 
provides teachers with opportunities to 
coordinate their work across disciplines. 
One of the most common strategies is 
to use themes that unify several teachers' 
work with students through broadly- 
defined topical frameworks. Teachers 

select readings, illustrative examples, 
and assignments on the basis of the 
theme, encouraging students to make 
connections across traditional discipli- 
nary boundaries. These teachers may 
still teach alone in their classrooms, 
maintaining students' focus on the way 
their discipline contributes to broader 
understanding of the issues at hand, 
but coordinate content and instruc- 
tional planning with other teachers. 

In some schools the goal is to inte- 
grate subjects; teachers ask students 
to draw from several subject areas in 
their investigation of problems that 
are not seated in a single discipline 
and that require integrated problem 
solving skills. In certain cases, teachers 
ask students to pose the problems or 
themes themselves. 

Figure 3.1, adapted by Wake County, 

North Carolina, curriculum specialist 
Linda Isely from the work of Heidi 
Hayes Jacobs, shows current curricular 
profiles arranged according to the 
degree to which teachers of different 
disciplines collaborate. 

While some teachers set the agenda 
for what students will learn, others ask 
students to play key roles in determin- 
ing the timing, content, and approach 
to instruction. Despite the freedom in 
these classrooms, students are held 
accountable for achieving high stan- 
dards of excellence and powerful 
learning. In other cases, students exer- 
cise their power to choose only within 
narrowly-defined options for subject 
matter and approach. The principles 
behind these approaches are to engage 
students in self-directed choices that 
connect content to their own lives and 


of Options for Curricu 

lum Design 

Discipline Based 

Parallel Disciplines 



Integrated (Integrative) 

Focus is on strict inter- 

Teachers sequence their 

Related disciplines are 


The curriculum is focused on 

pretation of disciplines 

lessons to correspond to 

brought together in a 

Units or courses bring 

themes and problems that 

with knowledge presented 

lessons in the same area in 

formal unit or course 

together the full range of 

emerge from the child's world. 

in separate fields. Separate 

other disciplines. Content 

to investigate a theme, 

disciplines in the school's 

The child poses questions 

blocks of time during the 

does not change, only the 

issue topic, or problem. 

curriculum for a period of 

around which the curriculum 

school day. 

order of teaching changes. 

Linkages are made for 

time. Content and modes 

is built. In the extreme, the 

The theory is that, with 

the student by fusing 

of inquiry are linked across 

curriculum has no state or 

simultaneous teaching, 

the curriculum. 

the disciplines. 

local bounds. 

students will make linkages 


Design as a different 
approach to geometry. 
Mathematics can be 
understood visually, as 
well as computationally. 

allow instructional strategies to arise 
naturally out of the complexity of 
meaningful problems. 

Interdisciplinary and 
Cross-Disciplinary Teaching 

While some teaching approaches make 
design a topic for investigation, others 
employ designerly modes of inquiry to 
explore traditional core subjects. The 

first approach may make design a 
discrete unit of study, but the latter 
strategy adds no additional discipline 
areas to the curriculum and helps 
teachers better achieve interdisciplinary 
and cross-disciplinary learning objec- 
tives within their respective teaching 

Heidi Hayes Jacobs articulates the 
importance of creating curricula to 

offer a range of experiences that reflect 
both discipline-field and interdiscipli- 
nary orientations. Jacobs says, "By 3rd 
grade, children view subjects as changes 
in behavior, teacher attitude, areas of the 
room, and times of the day. Rarely does 
anyone explain to them the nature and 
power of the disciplines or how the sub- 
jects relate to one another This dual 

emphasis [singular focus on one disci- 


At Dyker Heights Middle 
School, students demonstrate 
mastery of relevant disciplinary 
concepts through their 
participation in the school's 
Architecture and Design 
Program. These students dis- 
play their model skyscrapers. 

pline and interdisciplinary curricula] is 
different from past attempts at curric- 
ulum integration that viewed the two 
approaches as opposing points of view — 
through this century, there has been an 
unfortunate tendency for schools to go 
to extremes of either rigid subject iso- 
lation or strained, whimsical thematic 
instruction" (Jacobs 1991, p. 22). 

Jacobs also attributes the high prior- 
ity schools place on interdisciplinary 
curricula to an expansion of informa- 
tion: "While the school day has stayed 
about the same, knowledge has grown. 
The traditional confines of the school 

day are literally bulging, and much of 
the newest, most valuable knowledge 
falls between the cracks of conventional 
subject areas." She also describes mis- 
conceptions about how well schools are 
doing at discipline-based teaching, say- 
ing, "If you go to your local high school 
science teacher and ask him to describe 
— not necessarily in great detail — the 
science that starts in the middle school, 
let alone the elementary school, he won't 
know" (Brandt 1991, p. 24). 

David Ackerman and David Perkins 
wrestle with how to think about curricu- 
lum. They conceptualize curriculum on 

two levels, curriculum and metacurricu- 
lum: "The curriculum is composed of 
substantive concepts and content of 
discipline-based fields. The metacurricu- 
lum is the thematic-based set of skills 
and strategies selected to help children 
acquire the curriculum content, and to 
develop the capacity to think and learn 
independently" (Ackerman and Perkins 
1989, pp. 80-81). Perkins (1989, pp. 
70-71) notes that a worthy integrative 
theme has "broad and pervasive applica- 
tion. . .reveals similarities and contrasts. . . 
and fascinates." 

Perhaps the most striking character- 
istic of the use of design activities in 
schools is the ability to integrate knowl- 
edge across the boundaries of traditional 
school subjects. Design is inherently 
interdisciplinary. It draws upon content 
and skills in a variety of disciplines in 
the process of solving problems that 
usually reside within multifaceted con- 
texts. These contexts involve physical, 
social, cultural, and temporal factors. 
While design problem statements define 
just how broad or narrow a context 
students will address, the criteria for 
evaluation usually reflect that design 
problems are situated within complex 
systems and require a variety of skills 
in their solution. 

This study identified many cases 
in which teachers use design activities 
to build integration skills and content 


connections among disciplines. In 
numerous instances, teachers achieve 
mandatory curriculum objectives for 
their disciplines while unifying study 
across diverse subject areas. 

Among the many examples of inter- 
disciplinary and cross-disciplinary 
learning discovered through this 
research, the following example from 
Seattle teacher Deirdre McCrary is typi- 
cal. McCrary uses the 5 th grade social 
studies curriculum Man: A Course of 
Study (ALACOS) to guide her year's work 
with 5th grade students. Integrating 
concepts from cultural and physical 
anthropology with biology, geography, 
math, and physics, McCrary emphasizes 
the designed world of habi- 
tats, tools, and shelter. 
Her assignment encour- 
ages students to build 
analogies among sub- 
jects that appear to be 
unrelated on the surface. 

First, students look closely at 
five mammals of increasing 
{biological} complexity: the Pacific Coast 
salmon, herring gull, baboon, and chim- 
panzee, and finally they study a human 
population very different from their oum — 
the Netsilik Eskimo. In following the concept 
of structure and function, {students} look at 
the design of these various animals and the 

work each must do. They compare the struc- 
ture and function oflnuit clothing in their 
special environment, to the structure and 
function of a bird's feathers, to the needs 
served by the students' own clothing. Students 
also study the relationship between the need 
for shelter and the use of available materials. 
They might build birds' nests using sticks, 
leaves, moss, and mud, or construct model 
igloos from sugar cubes or marshmallows. In 
another design exercise, they take five materi- 
als — fish, caribou antler, tent thong, moss, 
and caribou bone — and design a sled that 
can carry all their belongings and yet be 
fully recyclable in the spring thaw. 

While this example has an instruc- 
tional richness derived from its use 
of information from many disciplines, 
many teachers also report using design 
activities to explore just a few subject 
areas. For example, at Gaithersburg 
Intermediate School in Gaithersburg, 
Maryland, art teacher Patrick OMalley's 
class explores the form-structure rela- 
tionships in the biological world 
through drawings and models. When 
building models and drawing maps 
of communities, Tim Valdez and Julie 
Olsen at Hawthorne Elementary School 
in Madison, Wisconsin, teach 2nd and 
3rd grade students the mathematical 
concepts of scale, measurement, and 

design problems are 
situated within 

co m p Lex system s 

and require a variety 

of S kl LIS in 

their solution. 


The research team also found 
instances in which teachers from differ- 
ent disciplines share instructional 
responsibility for a single thematic 
unit. At Dyker Heights Middle School, 
6th, 7th, and 8th grade teachers in 
mathematics, English, science, social 
studies, and technology collaborate on 
thematic instruction under the school's 
Architecture and Design Program, coor- 
dinated by 6th grade science teacher 
Manette Gampel. Design related to 
bridge construction, architecture, 
habitat, and public space are vehicles 
through which students demonstrate 
mastery of relevant disciplinary concepts. 

In a multi-grade project to design 
a "Subterranean City," for example, stu- 
dents work in teams on sections of the 
city. The science component of the pro- 
ject explores why buildings stand up, 
strength of materials, principles of engi- 
neering, and the biological needs of 
inhabitants. In math, the students calcu- 
late live and dead loads, measure and 
construct I-columns from paper, and 
make scale drawings. In social studies, 
students research past architectural styles 
and modern transportation systems. The 
teachers jointly evaluate students on 
the basis of models, diagrams, and a 
research report describing the purpose 

of each structure, the mathematical and 
scientific principles used, background 
information, and a bibliography. The 
project spans the year with different sub- 
ject and grade level teachers devoting 
varying amounts of time to it each week. 

Because of the scheduling complex- 
ities required to coordinate thematic 
instruction among teachers, this appro- 
ach is most often used in self-contained 
classrooms where one teacher instructs 
a single group of students in all subjects, 
as in most elementary schools. Thematic 
units of study or projects are more 
common at the elementary levels. The 
strategy of using thematic units of study 
or projects becomes more challenging 
at higher grades, where emphasis on 
discipline-based instruction is also 
stronger. Yet, the continuing success of 
teachers and students in Dyker Heights' 
Architecture and Design Program shows 
that it can be done. 

The next chapter provides specific 
examples of discipline-based curricular 
experiences in response to national 
standards. While the text describes 
many of these classroom projects under 
the headings of traditional disciplines, 
it is easy to find instances where other 
disciplines contribute to the success of 
the students' learning experiences. In 
some instances, teachers expand their 
disciplinary scope by enlisting teaching 
support from experts in the commu- 


Herman Miller Furniture 

nity, building connections to content 
that may not be accessible through the 
school's own resources. 

Connecting with 
the Community 

One way to encourage children to be 
lifelong learners is to frame their learn- 
ing experiences within the context of 
their own lives. As might be expected, 
traditional classrooms emphasize the 
acquisition of library reference infor- 
mation and often ignore important 
learning from other sources. Teachers 
who use design-based strategies, on the 
other hand, tend to have a more gener- 
ous notion of "information." Visiting a 
landfill may better inform students' 
decisions about packaging design than 
watching a film about manufacturing. 
Interviewing a wheelchair user may 
elucidate issues of sociology, trans- 
portation, and community design more 
than any civics text. Design activities 
encourage students to draw from richer 
sources of information and value more 
than conventional sources of data. 

The research team noted a variety of 
strong community connections among 
those schools and classrooms immersed 
in design activities. Design-based 
teachers frequently arrange interactions 
among their students and people from 
the community who provide materials, 
offer critiques, and serve as role models 

and instructors. Teachers in the study 
encourage use of a broad range of infor- 
mation sources, relying on students' 
own experiences, interviews, and arti- 
facts as frequently as textbooks for 
reference during design-based projects. 

Many of the innovative teachers in 
this study take advantage of the profes- 
sional resources in their communities, 
encouraging visits to the classroom. 
In Philadelphia, the Architecture in 
Education Program of the Foundation for 
Architecture uses graduate students and 
professional designers in architecture, 
landscape architecture, and planning 
to help teachers develop and carry out 
design-based units of study. The pro- 
gram also invites design professionals, 
city officials, and parents to view and 
critique student projects. 

Gary Dewey, a 7 th grade science 
teacher at Holland Christian Middle 
School in Holland, Michigan, brings 
designers from local firms, such as 
Herman Miller Furniture and Gentex, 
to his class to share their strategies for 
solving design problems and working 
in teams. 

Two out of the 10 schools visited 
during the research study are adoptees of 
the national engineering firm CH2M 
Hill. Willamette Primary School has 
CH2M Hill engineers on its advisory 
board to provide ongoing consultation 
with staff on a range of issues and to 


. . .the presence of the 
engineer provides a link 
between the work students 
do and life outside of 
school and encourages 
young people to practice 
roles they may assume 
as adults. 

Aurora, Colorado 

K P E 

interact directly with students. At 
Dranesville Elementary, CH2M Hill 
engineers also make frequent visits to 
the classrooms to work with children. 

David Pinkerton in Aurora, Colorado, 
invites a retired engineer to judge his 
students' Rube Goldberg machines. The 
engineer reviews the models, listens to 
students' explanation of the physics 
principles employed in their designs, 
and queries students about the possible 
applications of their work to problems 
of everyday life. Pinkerton reports that 
the presence of the engineer provides a 
link between the work students do and 
life outside of school and encourages 
young people to practice roles they may 
assume as adults. 

Other teachers report that their 
classes visit places where design profes- 
sionals work and observe their problem 
solving in action. These visits reinforce 
for students the notion that their pur- 
suits are consistent with those of adults. 
As one 8th grade student noted, "I was 
shocked but really happy to see that 
Mr. Holt got as frustrated as I get when 
he was trying to figure out where to put 

a stairway in his office building. He 
told me that these kinds of challenges 
never go away because each building 
is different." 

In Peter Barricelli's 5th and 6th grade 
classes at several schools in Messalonskee 
School District in Oakland, Maine, stu- 
dents contact professionals inside and 
outside the classroom. Students interact 
with local professionals on an assignment 
that moves from the construction of 
a cube, to a room, to a building, to a 
whole city. With a surveyor, the children 
survey the school playground using 
professional equipment. An engineer 
shows them how to draw one of their 
house designs on the computer. Local 
architects and engineers critique their 
initial city plans, and the city planner 
provides useful information on town 
codes governing roads, sidewalks, and 
parking. A real estate lawyer from the 
community shows students how to 
register deeds and titles. Children 
responsible for building the town's hos- 
pital, fire station, and other buildings 
visit those facilities, analyze spaces and 
functions, interview users, and then 
return to school to develop their own 
designs. Students transfer deeds for the 
buildings and lots to the next year's 
class, which assumes responsibility for 
further modification of the model. 

One of the strongest examples of 
teachers engaging students in their 

community is the story of Hidden 
Hollow in Salt Lake City, Utah. Today, 
thanks to the inventiveness of teacher 
Sherri Sohm and the persistent awareness- 
raising efforts of KOPE (Kids Protecting 
Our Environment), the city consults 
4th, 5 th, and 6th grade students on 
decisions about the publicly owned land 
on the south side of Parley's Creek. 

KOPE had its origins in the problem- 
solving lessons of Sohm's classroom at 
Hawthorne Elementary School. Twice 
a week Sohm works with accelerated stu- 
dents in the 4th through 6th grades, 
developing their critical thinking skills 
by challenging them to investigate envi- 
ronmental problems in their community. 
In 1990, when the school children dis- 
covered the paltry remnant of Parley's 
Creek struggling beneath construction 
debris, they proposed to rescue it. 

Sohm structured research activities so 
that her students learned the history of 
the community and the creek, one of the 
terminal segments of the old Mormon 
Trail. Moreover, the site, now almost 
entirely ringed with buildings, had been 
one of the first settlements in the valley 
— Sugar, Utah — until Salt Lake City 
absorbed it early in the 20th century. 

At the county records office, the 
students discovered that the strip of 
land surrounding the creek was a city 
park until 1957 and that there were now 
proposals to build a shopping mall, 


KOPE students from Salt 
Lake City, Utah, display 
their 8-foot plan of 
Hidden Hollow and the 
surrounding business 

which would bury the creek in a culvert 
and pave over the middle of the block 
for a parking lot. 

Envisioning the miniature rift valley 
as a verdant respite from the surround- 
ing business district, as a potential 
outdoor classroom for environmental 
studies, and simply as a great place to 
have fun, the students renamed it 
"Hidden Hollow." Sohm encouraged 
them to marshal information and allies 
from the community. First, the children 
organized KOPE and invited other ele- 

mentary schools to lend their support 
and creative ideas. Then they assembled 
information about the site's resources and 
invited numerous experts including 
geologists, soil scientists, botanists, 
wildlife specialists, and the city's urban 
forester to the site to explore its hidden 
assets. With the help of landscape 
architects, the students also sketched and 
discussed design options for restoring 
the natural environment while making 
it accessible with trails, benches, and 

In the spring, developers met with 
the KOPE kids in the Hawthorne 
Elementary School Library and dis- 
missed their dreams as too little too 
late. Undaunted, the students rallied 
public support for down-zoning the 
city-owned portion of land so that it 
could not be used for commercial 
development. Armed with research on 
city policies and a landscape architect's 
drawing of their design ideas, the stu- 
dents appeared before the City Council. 
Before an audience of several hundred 


Landscape artist Jan 
Striefel created this site 
plan for Hidden Hollow, 
using student ideas. The 
plan helped the children 
obtain grants for work on 
the park. 

adults and elementary school children, 
the Council approved KOPE's petition 
for the down-zoning. 

Over the years, Sohm's classes have 
continued to use Hidden Hollow as a 
focus of their community-oriented prob- 
lem solving. One group of students 
hosted a design workshop in Hidden 
Hollow, drawing together a variety of 
design professionals, parents, neigh- 
borhood residents, and local business 
people. Using maps of the city and their 
model of the 12-acre block, the children 
described their vision of the Hollow and 
invited public comment. 

Under Sohm's guidance, the students 
developed an action plan for phased 
improvement of the Hollow, presented 
it to the city's departments of planning 
and public services, and won approval 
for their concept. Then the children 
learned how to write proposals for 
"i grants and in-kind donations. Their 
■ ■■ first proposal secured Community 
Development Block Grant 
x funds to pay for the removal 
J of 17,000 tons of construc- 
' tion debris and the 
installation of a gate to pre- 
vent further illegal dumping. 
Gradually, with the help of volunteers 
and their own "sweat equity," the stu- 
dents brought about the transformation 
they envisioned. The Utah National 
Guard and many others graded the ter- 

2 100 Soutn 

future bike path connection 

Parleys Creek 

existing riparian vegetation 
enhancement area 

informal trails 

existing vehicular acce 

native grass 
wildflower meadow 

f- future urban trail connection 

Wilmington St. 


rain, planted trees, and laid out 
hiking/biking paths. Upcoming phases 
include the installation of security 
lights, an irrigation system, plants, 
benches, and interpretive kiosks. 

With Hidden Hollow officially 
designated as open space and included 
in the city's Master Plan, the students 
turned their attention to the appearance 
of existing buildings, the proposals of 
various developers, and the opinions 
of business and home owners in the 
surrounding blocks. 

Working with the Sugar House 
Chamber of Commerce, the students 
surveyed 269 businesses in the area and 
achieved an 80 percent response rate. 
The survey revealed strong support for 

completing Hidden Hollow and wide- 
spread recognition of the value added 
to the business district by this amenity. 
Students made models to illustrate how 
attention to building size, scale, materi- 
als, and placement of windows and doors 
helps new construction fit into the block 
and increases tenants' and customers' 
physical and visual access to the open 
space. These more recent explorations of 
development and design options are part 
of a larger study called "Sugar House 
Dilemmas," through which students 
at Hawthorne Elementary and their 
peers at Beacon Heights Elementary 
examine larger economic and social 
issues in the neighborhood, including 
crime and housing. 



From a tiny stream to the complexi- 
ties of urban development, the KOPE 
kids broadened their understanding of 
the interplay between natural and built 
environments and enlarged the context 
for their learning and community service. 
In the process, they educated and ener- 
gized fellow students, teachers, parents, 
and a host of public and private sectors 
in Salt Lake City. The ripple effect of 
their work led to the KOPE Kronkal. a 
bimonthly newspaper written by kids 
for kids. The paper chronicles not only 
the progress with Hidden Hollow but 
also the wide array of projects of envi- 
ronmental clubs established at other 
elementary and junior high schools in 
the area. Today the Kronkal is distrib- 
uted to 24,000 students in grades K-8 
each school year. KOPE also initiated an 
annual series of Student Conferences on 
Sustainability at which children present 
projects that protect the area's natural 
and cultural resources. 

Clearly, the use of design within and 
among disciplines presents new chal- 
lenges for teachers and fundamentally 
alters their role in the classroom. Design 
also causes teachers to rethink the nature 
of assessment and the community con- 
text in which they teach. In accepting 
these challenges, however, teachers find 
renewed interest in teaching, view 
themselves as part of a community of 
creative professionals, and experience 
success in helping children reach their 
maximum potential. 

Ackerman, D. and Perkins, D.N. (1989). 
"Integrating Thinking and Learning 
Skills Across the Curriculum." In 
Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Design 
and Implementation, Jacobs, H.H., ed. 
Alexandria, Virginia: Association 
for Supervision and Curriculum 

Brandt, R. (October 199D- "On 
Interdisciplinary Curriculum: A 
Conversation with Heidi Hayes 
Jacobs." Educational Leadership 49, 2: 

Gardner, H. (1990). Art Education and 
Human Development. Los Angeles, 
California: Getty Center for Education 
in the Arts. 

Gardner, H. (1991). The Unschooled Mind: 
How Children Think and How Schools 
Should Teach. New York: Basic Books. 

Jacobs, H.H. (September 1991). 
"The Integrated Curriculum." 
Instructor 101, 2: 22. 

Nobile, P. (Summer 1994). Description of 
TOPS Project provided to NEA. 

Perkins, D.N. (1989). "Selecting Fertile 
Themes for Integrated Learning." 
In Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Design 
and Implementation. Jacobs, H.H., ed. 
Alexandria, Virginia: Association 
for Supervision and Curriculum 

Perkins, D. (October 1991). "Educating 
for Insight." Educational Leadership. 49, 
2: 5-8. 

Wolf, D.P (1992). "Opening Up 

Assessment." In Performance Assessment, 
Brandt, R., ed. Alexandria, Virginia: 
Association for Supervision and 
Curriculum Development. 




While a design approach to teach- 
ing is congruent with the 
objectives of interdisciplinary 
curricula, it also facilitates learning 
and the achievement of high standards 
within disciplines. The following 
sections describe learning expectations 
witbin disciplines and examples that 
support the notion that design experi- 
ences improve student performance in 
various subjects. 

History and Social 
Studies Education 

OPPORTUNITIES to study design 
topics and use activities in social studies, 
geography, and civics abound, as 
suggested by the content and teaching 
scenarios in the voluntary national 
standards for these subjects. Topics 
may be drawn from the myriad of ways 
people use design to shape their envi- 
ronment and communicate their values: 
the design of graphic communications 
(print or electronic), product and pack- 
aging design, architecture, interior 
design, landscape architecture, historic 
preservation, town and city planning, 
natural resource conservation, and 
new development. The social studies 

standards are replete with examples of 
students analyzing the ways in which 
people, past or present, encode meaning 
in their communications, make prod- 
ucts, design buildings, build bridges, 
and transform the landscape with cities 
and towns. 

Engaging students actively in the 
design process, on the other hand, 
prompts them to consider how they 
would address various human needs, 
whether of their own or another time. 
They consider how the economy, 
culture, and technology of the time 
shapes the design response. They can 
build models of cities, plan for the mass 
production of products, and design 
posters to carry political messages. 
Such activities challenge students to 
articulate their own vision of how to 

The most fundamental 
requirement for a democracy 
is an educated citizenry 
capable of informed judgment 
on public issues. Participation 
in self-governance will 
require a higher standard of 
scientific literacy, a deeper 
understanding of history, 
and a greater capacity to 
think critically. 

Who Will Teach Our Children? A 
Strategy for Improving California's 
Schools, The Report of the 
California Commission on the 
Teaching Profession, 1985 





Students should 

to express 


understanding of content 

through visual form. 

preserve the best of what generations 
have left as a cultural legacy while 
creating a new, sustainable future. In 
response to the social studies standards' 
interest in analyzing group and indi- 
vidual needs, design activities can 
address how products and environments 
accommodate a variety of users who 
differ in their physical, economic, and 
social characteristics. 

Throughout, the social studies and 
geography standards challenge teachers 
to develop student proficiency in the 
use of graphic communication techniques. 
Students should learn to express their 
understanding of content through 
visual form and to derive and analyze 
information from maps, charts, tables, 
and other graphic information. Both 
sets of standards encourage the use of 
technology, including CD-ROMs and 
the World Wide Web, in gathering 
and interpreting data. Regrettably, the 
standards stop short of asking teachers 
and students to study the principles 
of graphic design and to extend their 
abilities beyond mere mimicry of existing 
newspapers and Internet displays. 

The geography standards are also 
replete with opportunities for teachers 
and students to explore the designed 
world and to exercise their own design 
talents. Among other things, "the geo- 
graphically informed person knows and 
understands . . . the spatial organization 

of people, places and environments... 
the processes, patterns, and functions 
of human settlements . . . how human 
actions modify the physical environment" 
(Geography Education Standards 
Project 1994). 

The geography standards further 
depict students progressing through 
increasingly demanding explorations of 
the built and natural worlds, paying 
particular attention to the ways in 
which their interdependence is discernible 
in spatial dimensions. Thus, from their 
earliest years, students use mental maps 
to organize information about people, 
places, and environments. They can 
make physical maps and scale models 
of their community, showing different 
land uses. By 4th grade, they should 
show ways in which humans adapt to 
environmental conditions through the 
design of clothing and shelter, under- 
stand the effect of natural resources and 
transportation technologies on the 
location of communities, and compare 
areas within their own community 
in terms of different facilities and 

In subsequent years, the standards 
expect students to understand the 
demographic and economic determinants 
of business location, the relationship of 
transportation types to urban and 
suburban growth, and the impact of 
that growth on agriculture, watersheds, 

and specific ecosystems. In 5th through 
8th grade, they should be able to identify 
cultural elements in the landscape, 
from local landmarks to architectural 
styles to patterns of farming and settle- 
ment; assess the environmental impact 
of using wetlands for recreation or 
building; and solicit and examine people's 
differing opinions about the use or 
misuse of resources. 

By high school, students should be 
able to analyze the structure and shape 
of cities and predict the impact of 
changes in population, transportation, 
and economic activity. Ultimately, they 
should develop policies on resource 
management, design alternative systems, 
and carry their debate about sustainable 
development into the public arena. 

National Standards for Civics and 
Government, from the Center for Civic 
Education, asserts that preparing 
students for a life of civic and political 
participation is a critical mission for 
education. While articulating the 
knowledge students should master and 
the intellectual skills they should 
develop, the Center also encourages 
teachers to use a variety of dynamic 
models to cultivate and strengthen the 
participatory skills essential to civic 
life. The standards call for students to 
conduct research in the community; 
take and defend positions; meet with 
different stakeholders; and try their 

hands at coalition building, conflict 
resolution, and governance (Center for 
Civic Education 1994, p. 5). 

The research for this book uncovered 
many examples of teachers using 
design activities to achieve history and 
social studies objectives. Epiphany 
School in Seattle, Washington, uses 
a graphic design problem to teach 
elementary school students about ideo- 
logical positions in World War II and 
about the power of visual persuasion. 
Deirdre McCrary's students study Life 
and Time magazines from the 1930s 
and 1940s and then describe the 
connections advertisers made between 
their products and the war. They study 
the visual vocabulary of the period and 
make notes about images and type 
styles. Students then create propa- 
ganda posters for either an 
Axis or Allied power. The 
posters are intended to recruit 
soldiers or volunteers, persuade 
citizens to buy war bonds, urge 
greater industrial production, 
incite emotions over the war, 
inform people of substitutes for 
rationed food and fuel, or convince 
people to conserve resources. 
"Through this activity," McCrary 
states, "students also become 
more discriminating viewers of 
contemporary commercial and 
political advertising." 

Barbara Clark, a social studies 
teacher at Sequoyah Middle School in 
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, requires 
students to select an explorer for 
the focus of their study. After 
researching the explorer's life 
and travels, students have the 
option to design and write a 
travel brochure encouraging 
others to join his expedi- 
tion; write and videotape 
a news broadcast about the 
explorer's discovery, as it might be 
heard in the period under study; or 
design a mural that records the 
explorer's adventures. These activities 
require students to reframe textbook 
research in terms of audience and the 
method of reporting. Unlike typical 
research reports, the design products 

In making this model of 
a Greek Revival house, 
students at Hawthorne 
Elementary School in 
Madison, Wisconsin, 
learned why this style 
of architecture appealed 
to citizens of the early 
United States 


demand active student attention to 
how others perceive information and 
the impact of the reporting format on 
content structure. 

Teachers in this study report that 
reading a book about another culture 
does not have the same impact on 
students as does studying actual arti- 
facts or creating objects of that culture. 
To produce design artifacts, students 
must understand the culture's world 
view, its essential beliefs and customs, 
its physical setting, and available mate- 
rials and technologies. Appropriately 
structured, these are not simply exer- 
cises in which students physically 
replicate cultural objects, but activities 
that reveal deep social structures and 
beliefs. They illustrate how cultures 
encode artifacts with strongly held 
ideas and aspirations. 

At Union Grove High 
School in Union Grove, 
Wisconsin, Terry and 
Karen Crown use design to 
integrate art and global 
studies. Students conduct «S 
traditional library research 
on geographic regions of the 
world, compare cultural charac 
teristics through analysis of indigenous 
design, and create artifacts for each 
region they study. For example, students 
examine different hats from around the 
world; understanding comes through an 

analysis of materials, environment, the 
hat's shape and methods of construction, 
and pupose. 

Other teachers report that concerns 
such as the design of shelter and cities 
are points of entry into studies of 
culture and settings other than 
their own. At Hawthorne 
Elementary School in 
Madison, Wisconsin, Julie 
Olson's 2nd and 3rd grade 
students study the neighbor- 
hoods in which they live, but 
focus on common needs that 
people throughout the world have 
for shelter. They find they can use 
design to understand and appreciate 
differences in culture by comparing 
needs people share in common. 
Alison Clark's 6th grade class at 
Louis Armstrong Middle School in 
East Elmhurst, New York, draws 
plans and builds models of 
Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, 
and Roman cities; discusses 
the influences of environ- 
ment and available materials 
on the design of the city; and 
writes city planning regula- 
tions. They then compare these 
ancient cities to their own neighborhoods. 

Donna Banning, an art teacher at 
El Modena High School in Orange, 
California, uses a social studies context 
to structure her art history lessons. 

While much of art history instruction 
in high school classrooms focuses on the 
visual characteristics of an art movement, 
as exemplified by the work of a few 
individuals, Banning places designed 
objects and environments in 

broader social, cultural, and 
historical contexts. In 
describing a typical 
project, she says, "Art 
history students study 
the changing attitudes 
toward worship over 
time by researching the 
variety of spaces used for 
that purpose. From early 
Paleolithic cultures to contemporary 
communities, there have been many 
different places of worship designed and 
constructed to meet the particular needs, 
available space, philosophy, economy, 
and materials of a given people." 
Banning uses designed objects and 
environments to invert the traditional 
hierarchy of high school art history, 
making the social, cultural, and historical 
context the center of discussion and the 
objects or environments simply evidence 
of change. She moves across time in 
exploration of the changing attitudes 
toward a social-cultural issue, rather 
than through a tightly defined, artist- 
centered chronology of objects that 
may have few social or cultural concerns 
in common. 


Social, cultural, and 
technological history 
come together for 
students participating 
in the annual "Create 
a Landmark Contest" 
sponsored by the Historic 
Landmarks Foundation 
of Indiana. 

Contemporary environments also 
serve as rich resources of information 
about the students' own culture, as well 
as opportunities to practice research 
and decision making skills. The social 
studies curriculum at Public School 
145M in New York City requires that 
teacher Felice Piggort cover the topics 
of neighborhood and community with 
her 2nd grade students. Piggott interprets 
this curriculum requiremenr rhrough a 
mapping activity in which her srudents 
first analyze the content of their com- 
munity (residences, services, landmarks) 
on individual tally sheets compiled 
during a walk through the neighborhood. 
On maps drawn after studying how 

architects depict space from aerial 
viewpoints, the students record symbols 
that stand for their tallies. Finally, they 
go back out into the neighborhood to 
check the accuracy of their maps and 
compare different analyses by students 
in their class. This Translation of a 
walking experience into a two-dimen- 
sional representation of the journey 
focuses student attention during and 
after the tour. They learn important 
skills in encoding and decoding symbolic 
form and the two-dimensional depiction 
of three-dimensional space. This influ- 
ences how they later interpret graphic 
representations of ideas and relationships 
among ideas, an important skill that is 

critical to understanding data in the 
social sciences. 

In Piano, Texas, Ann Tucker teaches 
Texas history at Haggard Middle School 
where a core objective in her 7th grade 
class is to identify the structure and 
functions of local, county, and state 
governments, including city planning. 
Tucker encourages her students to 
interview city employees to gain a 
variety of perspectives as they work in 
research groups. 

Following a presentation of team 
findings, the teacher asks each student 
to plan and design an ideal city using 
information presenred by the teams. In 
addition to drawing a detailed plan of 



Students at Haggard Middle 
School in Piano, Texas, study 
local and state government, 
including city planning. As 
they work on their own city 
plans, students often consult 
with local officials to gain a 
variety of perspectives. 

the proposed city, the student writes 
a narrative describing the type of 
government, services, financing, and 
growth strategies for the community. 
The class evaluates designs on the basis 
of content, location and inclusion of 
services, feasibility of government and 
taxing functions, and innovations in 
transportation and communication. 

The strategy of involving students 
in the planning and design of a city 
also works for Eugenia Jameson, a 
sociology teacher at Piano Senior High. 
Her curriculum requires that students 

understand the influence of history 
and geography on cultural values and 
norms, the dynamic interaction 
between economic development and 
social stratification, the evolution of 
social and governmental institutions 
to meet basic needs, the urbanization 
process, and the influence of changing 
technology on all of these elements. 
Jameson also expects students to 
develop skills in problem solving and 
citizenship through participation in 
activities such as role-playing, debates, 
and group projects. 

In teams, students design and make 
a model of their own city. In an accom- 
panying narrative they must name the 
city, define its present population and 
a 20-year projection, and explain how 
the city's design will accommodate 
growth, respond to natural features, 
and relate transportation, infrastructure, 
housing, jobs, and recreation. Students 
consider the needs of different age, 
ability, and income groups. In their 
final report they describe the govern- 
mental structures required to make 
their city work. At the end of the year, 
members of Piano's planning commis- 
sion and city staff critique both middle 
school and high school projects and 
present awards for the best city plans. 

In contrast to planning cities from 
scratch, Leslie Porges' 8th grade civics 
and geography classes at Bogle Junior 
High School in Chandler, Arizona, 
tackled the complexities of planning for 
South Chandler, a 16-square mile area 
quickly turning from a rural to urban 
community. Armed with maps from 
local government, Porges' students first 
inventoried South Chandler by bus, 
then created a more detailed classroom 
map showing topographic features, 
roads, and existing development. 

Based on population projections, 
the students knew they had to plan for 
an average density of 3,500 people per 
square mile. They created zones for 


clean, high-tech industry along the 
major freeway and railroad tracks, 
placed higher density multi-income 
housing near these employment 
centers, and allowed for lower density 
housing further out. 

Throughout their project, the 
students consulted a variety of people 
in the community to make their deci- 
sions about commercial development, 
professional offices, schools, recreational 
spaces, and medical facilities. They also 
determined where to locate utilities, 
fire stations, and bus stops. 

The students learned that careful 
analysis of traffic patterns, land values, 
and community demographics forms 
the basis for most development decisions. 

To encourage nonpolluting forms of 
transportation, they proposed adding 
walking and biking paths in the right- 
of-way along most major corridors. To 
conserve water, mitigate against heat 
build-up, and make the city attractive, 
they also called for landscaping with 
drought-resistant plants on commercial 
street frontage, with more extensive 
buffers around industrial sites and 
other large facilities. 

Though working with rudimentary 
tools, Porges' classes produced a detailed 
and sophisticated plan, which won 
awards from the American Planning 
Association and the American Express 
Corporation. Prize money from the 
latter's national geography competition 
enabled Porges to acquire a computer 
and mapping software. Succeeding 
classes now continue city planning 
activities with the ability to produce 
professional-looking documents that 
identify a wide range of urban design 

At the Ethical Culture School in 
New York City, 5 th grade teacher 
Hettie Jordan-Vilanova uses a design 
project to focus student attention on 
the future and how the decisions made 
by our own culture will communicate 
the content of our lives ro future gener- 
ations. She asks students to design and 
build an archaeological dig site for the 
year 3000. "Whar artifacts have survived? 

What do they say about the culture? 
What do they tell you about how these 
people lived?" Jordan-Villeco's assign- 
ment results in scale models of the site 
and short stories written from the 
perspective of the archaeologist who 
makes the discovery. This activity 
points out to students that we learn 
history not only through major events 
and people described in books but also 
by studying the everyday aspects of 
people's lives, including our own. 

Because design objects and environ- 
ments both reflect and shape the culture 
in which they are produced, they prompt 
lively discussions and comparisons. 
Students gain insight into worlds other 
than their own and learn to appreciate 
differences as well as identify common 
concerns among people. 

In one project, 5th 
graders at the Ethical 
Culture School in New 
York City analyzed their 
neighborhood needs and 
then designed and created 
models for an interactive 
science and technology 
museum (above) and for 
a community center and 
hospice (left). 

"...for the natural world 
everywhere displays the 
significance of the concepts 
of mathematics, and the 
designed world is largely 
dependent upon them." 

OECD, Changing the Subject, 
1996, p. 89 

Language Arts Education 


standards, published by the National 
Council of Teachers of English and the 
International Reading Association in 
1996, provide clues to the importance 
of visual thinking to reading and writing. 

The standards show interest in 
students posing problems and speculating 
on their solution by gathering, evaluating, 
and synthesizing information from print 
and nonprint text, artifacts, and people. 
The standards pay special attention to 
the "complexity and creative potential 
of human problem solving" (International 
Reading Association and the National 
Council of Teachers of English 1996, p. 
38), as well as the presentation of clear 
and convincing arguments necessary to 
achieve results. The preceding examples 
of design activities in which students 
become participants in their own 
communities involve situations in which 
students use interviews and persuasive 
language in support of their ideas 
for change. 

Spanning grade levels, the standards 
document refers to mastering visual 
as well as verbal language. Presenting 
stories and information in nonprint 
media, including film and video, 
receive considerable attention in dis- 
cussions of language structure and 
interpretation. These references, and 
the design examples throughout this 
book, support the notion that successful 

students exercise more than verbal and 
computational vehicles of thought, and 
that doing so actually enhances all 
understanding. In addition, the standards 
call for students to extract information 
from maps, charts, photographs, and 
other graphic material and to use 
these forms of visual representation 
in developing persuasive arguments 
and effective communication. 

Michael Joyce, Vassar professor of 
English and author of Of Two Minds: 
Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics, goes a 
step further in discussing the visual 
aspects of reading and writing. Joyce 
describes a technologically induced 
shift in human consciousness that 
theorists believe is as profound as the 
historic move from oral to print com- 
munication. In a hypertext computer 
environment, readers choose the order 
in which they read and participate in 
the construction of meaning. Writing 
becomes visual, as well as verbal, 
demanding attention to both the form 
and content of text. What Joyce 
describes are tasks previously assigned 
to graphic designers, visual communi- 
cation professionals who control reader's 
eye movements, amplification of certain 
ideas, and juxtapositions of pictures 
and words that create new or modified 
meanings. Joyce and others believe new 
technology fundamentally redefines 
reading and writing to include a visual 


...successful students exercise more than 

verbal and computational V6 HI C16S OT 


command of language. In this context, 
the fit between design activities and 
language arts may be tighter than it 
first appears (Joyce 1994). 

The research for this book revealed 
many examples in which teachers use 
technology in the development of writ- 
ing skills. Although the most common 
examples include the authoring of 
illustrated texts or multimedia scripts 
that students later animate on the 
computer, others use design experiences 
to broaden students' sensitivity and 
understanding of subject matter. 

At Willamette Primary School in 
West Linn, Oregon, 2nd and 3rd grade 
teacher Katherine Holtgraves asks 
students to write the story of "mechan- 
imals" at the same time they are 
building a cam-driven, wooden toy. 
Their efforts result in first person 
narratives told from the perspective of 
the animals. This example illustrates 
both Joyce's comments on the need 
to address a nonlinear approach to 
content development (manifested in 

the "question web" described below) and 
the use of design to acquaint students 
with the subject of their writing. 

The children developed a question web about 
animals in general. They used the questions 
that intrigued them and added more specific 
ones to generate individual question webs 
about their chosen animal. Each child gath- 
ered information through a text search and 
kept notes in the learning logs. We listened 
to several passages selected for their narrative 
qualities and developed a list of those common 
features to understand "narrative" writing. 
We used the same process to experience "first 
person perspective. " The children drafted 
their animal information in that style, 
decided on pagination and accompanying 
illustrations, and designed borders that were 
symbolic or foreshadowing (both ideas based 
on published books we perused). 

We worked through inquiry to explain how 
the rotation of an off -set wheel moves a 
vertical shaft up and down. They listed the 
essential elements of that system and created 
a materials list. The children drew their 

ideas of the mechanics and later incorporated 
that system into a design of their own, 
illustrating their animal in its habitat. 
Their journals housed all of their working 
drawings and notes. 

Gail Aldridge, who also teaches 2nd 
and 3rd grade students at Willamette, 
reinforces the importance of the design 
process to the teaching of writing, "{The 
students] think through our design 
process and plan ahead using a sequencing 
strategy. We have carried that structure 
over to our writing. And our draft- 
revision processes in writing are natural 
connections to our process with three- 
dimensional construction. We have also 
developed a 'habit' of trying a variety of 
approaches or layouts before deciding 
on one, and keeping a working portfolio 
of options in case we need to dip into it 
for alternative ideas as we go." 

Patricia Kadlec teaches older students 
at Willamette. She says, "I share with 
my children graphic structures for 
organizing information and setting up 
their writing. We use webs, flowcharts, 


A left-handed writer solves the 
problem of smearing ink while 
writing. She designed a glove 
that moves above the page on 

morphological analysis charts, and 
Venn diagrams. These are visual designs 
that we use in many ways. I make time 
in our busy schedules to honor crafts- 
manship, working though draft stages 
to final copy with plenty of time for 
reflection, response, and revision. Just 
as in adult design studios, the critique 
that children receive from peers can be 
used in the present project or tucked 
away for later reference. We strive for 
quality and our efforts pay off in pride, 
rising standards, and new discoveries." 




At Daniel Webster Magnet School 
in New Rochelle, New York, Mark 
Ceconi's 4th grade students design and 
make comic books that illustrate their 
own narratives about superheroes. Using 
a writing technique called "semantic 
mapping," students brainstorm the traits 
of their characters in diagrams with 
radiating notes and sketches about visual 
details and behavior. They organize 
attributes in charts under sections 
titled costume design, superpowers, 
and alrer-ego. Then they build a visual 

storyboard of the narrative that reveals 
their characters' lives. 

Design shares with writing an interest 
in metaphor. Developing analogies is 
a common problem-solving strategy for 
designers; they ask how the demands 
of a problem situation are like other 
things that provide similar performances. 
Research shows that the ability to 
make analogies is a strong characteristic 
of creative people and develops through 
practice. Rubie Blount, a 9th grade 
English teacher at Hillside High 
School in Durham, North Carolina, 
asks students to develop visual analogies 
as prompts for their writing assignments. 
She says, "Using direct analogy (a door 
is like a lid), personal analogy (if I were 
a door I'd be revolving), and compressed 
conflict (a door is an 'open barrier') as a 
prewriting activity is a fun way to get 
kids to think creatively . . . Comparing 
the school hallway to Main Street 
forced us to extend our 
thinking to the 
limits. Because 
we initially 
felt the two 
were not a lot 
alike, we had 
to change our 
way of 
to be more 


Mathematics Education 

concern over mathematics educa- 
tion, expressed by the National Council 
of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) 
and the larger professional community, 
resulted in new national goals for 
mathematics curricula. These include: 
creating connections to other subjects 
and to the world outside the classroom; 
emphasizing complex, open-ended 
problem solving; and increasing 
communication and reasoning about 
mathematics (National Council of 
Teachers of Mathematics 1989). NCTM 
recognized that reconnecting mathe- 
matics to everyday living is paramount 
to engaging young people, especially 
female students and minorities. 

Lisa Leonard, a 6th grade mathematics 
and reading teacher at Derby Middle 
School in Birmingham, Michigan, 
shows how her two subject areas inform 
students' design and construction of 
bridges from toothpicks. Students 
begin by reading stories about a man 
who builds bridges from match sticks 
and a book about the construction of 
the Brooklyn Bridge. Working with 
the technology teacher, Leonard shows 
student "companies" how to draw plans 
for their own bridge designs on their 
assigned sites. Given a budget, students 
must order materials, maintain balance 
sheets, and chart the progress of the 
job. Upon completion of their bridge, 
each student company predicts the 

weight its bridge will bear and where 
it will rank among the successful solu- 
tions in the class. Accountants, civil 
engineers, carpenters, and a local bridge 
builder join the class for discussions 
and a final test of each design's structural 

The research team heard from many 
teachers that the new goals for mathe- 
matics education are consistent with the 
achievements of students who engage in 
design-based learning. Primary teachers 
most commonly report the use of 
design activities to teach measuring and 
calculation. A 1st grade teacher at 
Dranesville Elementary School in 
Herndon, Virginia, uses the construction 
of LEGO villages to teach children 
about scale and proportion. Each child 
must build a different element of the 
village, proportional in size to the 
other elements. Soon a classroom set of 
rules for relative size evolves. 

Researchers observed sophisticated 
uses of design for teaching mathematics 
at Chipman Middle School in Alameda, 
California, and at Roosevelt Middle 
School in San Francisco, California. 
Both schools are participants in the 
Middle School Mathematics through 
Applications Project (MMAP), developed 
by the Institute for Research on 
Learning in Menlo Park, California. 
The 8th grade classes of Bob Bergin 
and Ramona Muniz use MMAP-designed 

software tools to support their practical 
inquiries. For example, MMAP's 
ArchiTech, a drawing and spreadsheet 
computer program, allows students to 
design floor plans of buildings; investi- 
gate the effects of changes in heating 
and insulation values; and calculate 
measurements, scale, and proportion. 

In the early lessons, groups of students 
design a research station for eight 
researchers in Antarctica. They work with 
an architectural program that aids them in 
drawing the living quarters and a research 
facility. Students collectively design and 
draw a proposed solution on the computer. 
They then calculate the costs to build it, 
including the walls, windows, and 
furniture. Costs drive modifications in 

In later lessons, students calculate the costs 
of heating the facility. They then find the 
best R-value of insulation for reducing 
heating and building costs. Students defend 
this optimal insulation level through 
mathematical and real-world arguments. 

MMAP research findings and 
testimony from teachers suggest that 
the program encourages enthusiastic 
participation of students who never 
before showed an interest in mathematics. 
Jim Greeno, a research fellow at the 
Institute for Research on Learning 
and the Margaret Jacks Professor of 
Education at Stanford University, offers 


•• / 



;: ! 

success stories about students who were 
previously "written off' by math teachers. 

He says, "The MMAP approach 
reorganizes students' relationships to 
learning. My general impression is that 
the student who is alienated by the 
authoritarian structure of math and 
science, which have been taught in 
ways that reek of authority, may do 
better under the MMAP approach. In 
open-ended problems, one of the things 
that gets opened up is the social struc- 
ture." Greeno goes on to say, "If 
problems are specified for students to 
solve and students are given the facts 
and the procedures to solve them, they 
don't have an opportunity to identify a 
significant problem from a trivial one. 
The studies we have on people in the 
work environment clearly indicate that 
recognition of important problems and 
figuring out what to do in response to 
them is critical to success." 

Teachers also use design strategies to 
teach high school mathematics. Joanne 
Stanulonis, a mathematics teacher at 
Crossroads High School in Santa 
Monica, California, uses several design 
assignments in her classrooms. One 
project asks geometry students to 
explore the calculation of perimeter, 
area, volume, ratio, and proportion in 
the construction of a model house. The 
students determine the quantity of 
materials needed, make scale drawings, 

calculate the appropriate BTUs for 
cooling the house, determine the 
amount of water needed to fill the pool, 
and tally estimates within budget 

In another assignment on transfor- 
mational geometry, Stanulonis's students 
create Escher-like tessellations, rotating, 
reflecting, and vertically and horizon- 
tally transforming functions depicted 
in the Cartesian plane. Stanulonis says, 
"[Students] see these activities as a 
'break' from learning! Ha! Are they 
fooled! Some of the greatest learning 
and hardest lessons emerge from these 
design lessons! . . . More importantly, 
students discover they can 'work it out' 
with a peer by merely discussing the 
problem, tossing it back and forth." 

According to the Third International 
Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), 
funded by the National Science 
Foundation and released in October, 
1996, U.S. schools introduce students 
to a greater number of mathematics 
concepts than their counterparts in 
other countries, but seldom do 
American students explore these concepts 
in depth. The study of 41 countries 
found that American students focus on 
mastering mathematics procedures 
rather than on making sense of their 
application in everyday situations. 
According to Ken Travers, professor 
of mathematics education at the 

University of Illinois/Champaign and 
a member of the TIMSS steering 
committee, the articulation of content 
standards and benchmarks for mathe- 
matics in the United States is "right on 
track," but the transformation of actual 
classroom practice lags behind. "We 
talk about the importance of engaging 
students, of collaboration, and of 
problem-solving," Travers notes. "The 
videotapes [from this study] provide 
ample evidence that the Japanese 
teachers are already doing this" 
(Education Update, January 1997). 
What is needed, the TIMSS researchers 
conclude, is to make content more 
relevant to students by linking it to 
their personal lives, extending learning 
beyond the classroom, and encouraging 
more in-depth exploration. 

Science Education 

in 1985, the American Association 
for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 
launched Project 2061, a multi-year 
initiative to encourage systemic 
educational reform. In Science for All 
Americans, project director James 
Rutherford and co-author Andrew 
Ahlgren subsequently set forth the 
rationale for this ambitious undertaking. 
In it they decried traditional teaching 
methods that emphasized "the learning 
of answers more than the exploration of 
questions, memory at the expense of 
critical thought, bits and pieces of 
information instead of understanding 
in context, recitation over argument 
[and] reading in lieu of doing" (AAAS 
1989, p. viii). The authors called for 
a new goal: to develop scientifically 
literate citizens who understand our 
evolving technological society, exercise 
wise judgment in the public realm, and 
play productive roles in the economy. 

To remedy this situation, Project 
2061 promotes education reform with 
the goal of developing the scientifically 
literate person as "one who is aware that 
science, mathematics, and technology 
are interdependent human enterprises 
with strength and limitations; understands 
key concepts and principles of science; 
and uses scientific knowledge . . . for 
individual and social purposes" (AAAS 
1989, p. vii). The way to achieve such 
literacy, according to Project 206 1, is 

to teach principles and processes, not 
in the abstract, but in a variety of 
everyday contexts with which students 
are familiar. AAAS encourages teachers 
to involve students in identifying 
problems, framing questions, actively 
investigating, generating and testing 
alternative solutions, and describing 
outcomes using a full range of visual 
and mathematical models. 

Project 2061 has had widespread 
influence on science reform efforts in 
the United States. In articulating its 
vision of appropriate "scope, sequence, 
and coordination" of science education, 

the National Science Teachers 
Association (1992) endorsed the 
approach to content espoused in Science 
for All Americans. Similarly, Project 
206 l's 1993 publication of Benchmarks 
for Science Literacy influenced the 
development of national voluntary 
content standards then underway. 

Benchmarks states up front that the 
goal of science literacy is in part to help 
people "make sense of how the natural 
and designed worlds work" (AAAS 
1993, p. xi). In presenting guidelines 
for what students should know and be 
able to do in science, mathematics, and 

Students at Hemingway 
Elementary School in Ketchum, 
Idaho, study acceleration 
and momentum by solving 
problems in the design of a 
roller coaster track. 


Sixth graders at Dyker Heights 
Intermediate School in 
Brooklyn, New York, designed 
this catapult for the 1996 
Eureka Competition. 

technology by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, 
and 12, this tool for curriculum devel- 
opment devotes an entire chapter to 
exploring aspects of the designed world. 

The National Research Council of 
the National Academy of Sciences 
joined the voices of reform by calling 
for voluntary national standards for 
science education (National Research 
Council 1996). Echoing Project 2061 's 
insistence that students be engaged, 
the standards say, "Hands-on activities 
are not enough — students must have 
'minds-on' experiences. Science 

teaching must involve students in 
inquiry-oriented investigations in 
which . . . they apply science content to 
new questions; they engage in problem 
solving, planning, decision making, and 
group discussions; and they experience 
assessments that are consistent with an 
active approach to learning" (National 
Research Council 1996, p. 20). 

The authors of the National Science 
Education Standards acknowledge that 
children in kindergarten through 4th 
grade can understand and carry out 
design activities before they can engage 
in direct scientific inquiry. Thus design 
serves as the vehicle for gaining direct 
experience with materials and the 
forces of nature. From the earliest age, 
students can examine familiar products, 
such as zippers, can openers, bridges, 
and cars. They can identify the problem 
each design solves, describe the materials 
used, and analyze how well the design 

Very young 
children can also 
design their 
own communi- 
cation, products, 
and environments. Through the design 
process, children learn how to analyze 
constraints, such as cost or safety; to 
communicate their ideas verbally and 
graphically; and to work independently 
and collaboratively with a spirit of 

mutual respect for alternate approaches 
to the same problem. 

In grades 5-8, students differentiate 
between science and technology. They 
understand that scientists propose 
explanations for questions about the 
natural world, while designers and 
engineers propose solutions that respond 
to human problems, needs, or aspirations. 
They learn that design solutions must 
work within the constraints of nature, 
taking into consideration the properties 
of materials, varied physical abilities of 
different people, the force of gravity, 
and so forth. 

Like their counterparts in earlier 
grades, these students also analyze 
designed products, environments, and 
systems in the world around them. 
They develop their own solutions to 
complex problems and extend their 
explorations beyond products to 
structures, landscapes, and assembly 
lines. They learn to interview potential 
users and to probe constraints, including 
those that arise from societal preferences 
(for efficiency, safety, etc.) and those 
embedded in the natural world (such 
as the effect of natural forces or the 
durability of materials). 

In general, the National Research 
Council finds that many high school 
students harbor a popular but erroneous 
view that equates science with progress 
but technology with environmental 


problems. At the same time, they 
"respond positively to the concrete, 
practical, outcome orientation of design 
problems before they are able to engage 
in the abstract, theoretical nature of 
many scientific inquiries" (National 
Research Council 1996, p. 191). 

Design activities are powerful illus- 
trations of the ways in which science 
and technology shape one another. By 
dissecting the processes and choices 
that led to design solutions and by 
analyzing their consequences, students 
understand that all technological 
solutions carry risks and benefits. 
Moreover, they learn that the solution 
to one problem may illuminate the 
need for further scientific research or 
new technology. 

By being both judicious and creative, 
teachers can use even a limited number 
of design activities to reveal multiple 

facets of science. The standards sug- 
gest, for example, that students might 
analyze features of different athletic 
shoes, measuring the friction caused by 
various tread designs and exploring 
constraints imposed by the needs of 
different sports movements, the human 
anatomy, and different materials. 

The picture of high school science 
education painted by the National 
Science Education Standards is exciting 
and multidimensional. The standards 
encourage students to tackle more 
complex design problems than in 
earlier grades and to probe the myriad 
of influences that shape design criteria 
and constraints. The standards expect 
students to analyze the costs and 
benefits of design solutions and to 
document the evolution of their thinking 
and creativity, using drawings, three- 
dimensional models, and if possible, 
computer-assisted design. At the center 
of this learning, students come to under- 
stand the interconnections of science 
and technology, while also gaining a 
deeper appreciation of the value and 

necessity of knowledge and skills in 
other disciplines. 

Teachers contacted in the research 
for this book provide evidence that 
the goals of science education reform 
can be achieved in typical classrooms 
with students who might view science 
as a formidable hurdle under more 
traditional teaching approaches. At 
Sam Houston High School in Lake 
Charles, Louisiana, students in Linda 
Wygoda's chemistry and environmental 
science classes build structures from 
straws, make composite materials, and 
produce multimedia presentations on 
weather, molecular structure, and 
kinetics. Wygoda values the design 
approach, especially with students who 
are apprehensive about science. She 
says, "Design has been an outlet for my 
creativity as well as that of my students. 
I wouldn't teach any other way." 

At Lakeview High School in 
Columbus, Nebraska, Ed Kinzer's 
10th- 12th grade students in a science 
research class carry out independent 
projects. Student Mark Moeller 

Any activity that causes 
students to think and make 
is good. If the activity causes 
them to rethink and redo, 

it's even better When 

students design, build, use 
and test their own projects, 
it's the best that science 
education gets. 

PAUL BURTON, 7-8th grade 
teacher, Tucumcari, NM 







1 •*-. --* 



I'FTT 1 

1 - £££53 

m^^ i 





and invention 

designed, built, and tested an infrared 
walking stick for visually-impaired 
individuals. The user presses a switch in 
the stick, sending out beams of light. 
Reflecting back from objects, the beams 
set off one of three buzzers depending 
on the distance of the object. Moeller's 
design won national awards for science 
research and invention. 

Mark Ceconi, a 4th grade teacher at 
the humanities-centered Daniel Webster 
Magnet School in New Rochelle, New 
York, teaches the principles of aerody- 
namics through the design of model 
hang gliders built from straws, tissue 
paper, and pipe cleaners. Students learn 
about lift, drag, hot air currents called 
"thermals," and how the actions of 
the pilot change the movement of the 
aircraft. Throughout the lesson, students 
study analogous structures in birds: 
hollow bones, skeletal structures, and 

Manette Gampel, a science teacher 
at Dyker Heights Intermediate School 
in Brooklyn, New York, uses a design 
project entitled Building Biomes to 
teach the mandated curriculum in the 
natural sciences. The intent of the 
project is to explore the interdependency 
of plants and animals in an ecosystem. 
Students select a land or water biome, 
conduct research in the library, and 
record the plant and animal life that 
will thrive in the biome's climate and 

geography. They also study human 
inhabitants' behavior, including 
occupations, food procurement, and 
housing. Students then design and 
construct their own biomes, choosing 
plants and animals they predict will 
produce a balanced ecosystem. They 
consult with pet stores, plant nurseries, 
and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. 
Using computers, the students keep 
daily records of soil, air, and water 
quality and temperature changes. 

David Pinkerton, a physics teacher 
at Smoky Hill High School in Aurora, 
Colorado, describes student design 
projects that illustrate physics principles. 
Although he lectures periodically as 
an efficient way to prepare students 
for problem solving, Pinkerton says, 
"Cookbook experiments from lab 
manuals that feature a prescribed set 
of instructions have been eliminated 
[from my class}. . .The 'solve a real 
problem' format requires a lab team 
to design their experiment." His list 
of projects includes the design of an 
inertial nutcracker that uses no levered 
jaws; a mini-hovercraft judged on how 
little friction it generates; a video 
analysis of a simple motion, such as 
throwing a ball (the video is then used 
to construct a graph of human move- 
ment); a vehicle that operates on 
Newton's Third Law; and a functional 
electric motor (built from one C-cell 


Technology Education 

battery, two button magnets, a soda 
straw, three straight pins, and sufficient 
wire and tape) that serves a new pur- 
pose, such as slicing a grape or turning 
on a light. 

Some projects demonstrate how stu- 
dents can affect environmental 
outcomes through design intervention. 
Barbara van Wicklin's high school stu- 
dents at Fillmore Central School in 
Allegany County, New York, create 
devices and strategies for energy con- 
servation. "One team designed a new 
electric meter which measures pennies 
rather than kilowatt hours and outputs 
costs daily on a small calculator in one's 
kitchen. The students reasoned that 
when a person observes money being 
spent, they are encouraged to turn off 
the lights and conserve energy." 

These research study examples are 
very much in the spirit of the princi- 
ples outlined in the National Science 
Education Standards. Through design 
activities, teachers in this study 
balance their roles as science experts 
with facilitation of student discovery 
and invention. 

WHEREAS SCIENCE is about under- 
standing the world, technology is about 
taking action and knowing how to take 
action upon our physical surroundings 
(Bottrill 1995, p. 41). While some 
educators debate the necessity of 
involving students in the social and 
cultural implications of technology, it 
is clear that technology and design 
education share similar problem solv- 
ing concerns: performance expectations 

for proposed solutions; invention of 
alternative physical form; testing of 
prototypes; and assessment of outcomes 
in human as well as mechanical terms. 

Recent studies by national and 
international organizations reveal that 
technology education is in a state of 
creative ferment in schools around the 
world. The United Nations Educational, 
Scientific, and Cultural Organization 
(UNESCO) devotes the fifth volume of 

The design process, crucial 
to technology. ..should 
integrate well-developed 
communication skills with 
critical thinking skills. 

CLASSROOM, 1996, p. 17 


its series on Innovations in Science and 
Technology Education to an exploration of 
this phenomenon. British educator and 
series editor David Layton notes that 
whether countries are developing or 
industrialized, "the case for technology 
as a component of general education is 
under examination and is impelling 
specific curriculum innovations . . . 
Also, what is incontestable is the 
energy and vitality of the field. It has 
emerged as one of the most exciting, 
challenging and potentially significant 

areas of curriculum renovation" (Layton 
1994, pp. 11-12). 

The Organization for Economic 
Cooperation and Development (OECD) 
also cites technology as an emerging 
discipline in its study of teaching 
innovations in science, mathematics, 
and technology around the world. 
Across the globe, the OECD sees a shift 
"away from set-piece tasks for the 
acquisition of specific skills and towards 
generating solutions to real and complex 
problems (Black and Atkin 1996, p. 36). 
The OECD description of the learning 
outcomes of technology education 
shares much in common with accounts 
of design-based classrooms. 

. . . {I}t can draw pupils into a different 
practice of solving human problems and 
needs. Some of the means are practical and 
operational, often involving the making of 
artifacts, but others require thinking about 
the design of new systems and environments. 
To achieve high standards, students have to 
learn several different things: construction 
skills, identifying needs, developing optimum 
designs, acquiring and using necessary 
knowledge from science, from mathematics, 
and from other disciplines as the problem 
demands, and evaluating their own and 
other people's solutions. As a subject, 
technology can be distinctive by its interdis- 
ciplinary character and for its power to 
develop students' practical capability for 

tackling complex problems {Black and 
Atkin 1996, p. 88). 

In the United States, the National 
Center for Improving Science Education 
(NCISE) published its own study of the 
subject titled Technology Education in the 
Classroom: Understanding the Designed 
World. The international study team 
assembled by Center director Senta 
Raizen finds that most member nations 
in the OECD are ahead of the United 
States in introducing technology across 
all grade levels. Rather than "coherent, 
carefully planned sequences of technology 
education from kindergarten through 
twelfth grade," the NCISE reports that 
American schools more often present 
the subject "in bits and pieces — an 
isolated project here, a replacement 
unit there, or at best, a single year-long 
course that provides in-depth treatment 
of a few topics, but offers no continuity 
or sequence from one year to the next" 
(Raizen, Sellwood, Todd, and Vickers 
1995, p. 3). 

One reason for this disjointed 
practice, according to the Center, is that 
technology education, unlike other 
academic disciplines, has not articulated 
a clear path of intellectual progression 
from kindergarten through advanced 
university studies. The International 
Technology Education Association 
(ITEA), with funding from the National 


Science Foundation and the National 
Aeronautics and Space Administration, 
recently launched the Technology for All 
Americans Project to develop national 
voluntary standards, much like those 
for other school subjects. In 1996, the 
project released The Rationale and 
Structure for the Study of Technology, 
which sets forth the field's "knowledge 
base" (International Technology 
Education Association 1996). 

NCISE finds classrooms in which 
a craft-based approach emphasizes 
psychomotor skills in manipulation of 
traditional materials such as wood, 
metal, and textiles. Students make 
products according to prescribed 
designs, rather than based on their own 
analysis, methods, and evaluation. Even 
in classrooms sporting the latest high- 
tech equipment, instruction may limit 
students to the mastery of operational 

skills rather than cultivate critical 
thought. Elsewhere, teachers emphasize 
theoretical understanding of technological 
processes to the exclusion of practical 
applications where students test under- 
standing and press the technology 
envelope through new designs. 

To illustrate how well-designed 
technology education integrates various 
disciplines, the authors present the 
example of a semester-long junior high 
school activity in which students design 
a toy glider suitable for 1 0-year-old 
children and the systems for assembling, 
packaging, and marketing it. 

In science, students explore how 
some plants and animals glide and the 
strength-to-weight relationships of 
different materials. In mathematics 
they examine the geometry of different 
wing and fuselage configurations; 
measure the flight lengths, times, and 

trajectories; and calculate the cost of 
materials needed for their product and 
its packaging. They also must consider 
the costs associated with purchasing raw 
materials, manufacturing, distribution, 
and advertising. The packaging must 
protect the product and function as 
part of a marketing strategy. The class 
looks at past attempts at human flight 
and documents its own design process 
in a portfolio. A team of four teachers 
collaborates on facilitation for this 
project (Raizen et al. 1995, pp. 78-81). 

One place where a comprehensive 
approach to technology education is 
particularly evident is Willamette 
Primary School, in West Linn, Oregon. 
Examples from the school appear 
throughout this book. All teachers at 
Willamette understand and integrate 
both the design process and technology 
across all subject areas. Susan Dunn, 
who wrote Design Technology: Children's 
Engineering with Rob Larson, served as 
the school's first instructional coordinator. 
In their book, Dunn and Larson contrast 
the design-rich experiences of children 
in the past with those of young people 
in today's consumer culture whose play 
is largely conditioned by toy manufac- 
turers and children's media. There is 
less opportunity for young people to 
exercise their own imaginations and 
realize their vision through their own 
hands. Dunn and Larson believe design 

I feel that when a student 
designs and tests a system 
personalty, the learning is 
intrinsic and there is owner- 
ship. Children are full of 
brilliant ideas. They just need 
an environment to create and 
express themselves... I would 
be frustrated as an educator 
if design were not a part of 
how I teach. 

STEVE BRADY, 7-8th grade tech- 
nology teacher, Bu rnsvi lie, MN 

technology can reacquaint children 
with these natural human capabilities. 

At Dranesville Elementary School in 
Herndon, Virginia, teacher Stephen 
Knobloch asks students to construct a 
method by which they can move a pound 
of sand one foot vertically off the ground. 
Linked to a social studies unit on pyra- 
mids in ancient Egypt, this technology 
project investigates pneumatics, simple 
machines, hydraulics, and gravity. In 
other Dranesville classes, students develop 
design and technology solutions for a 
great variety of problems: how to keep 
geese from using the ponds and walking 
on the greens at a local golf course; how 
to transport Little Red Riding Hood's 
cookies to Grandmother's house via 
a "wolf-proof container"; and how to 
get three Billy Goats Gruff safely 
across a river to greener pastures on 
the other side. 

TIES Magazine and Project UPDATE, 
both based at The College of New 
Jersey (formerly Trenton State College) 
encourage the integration of design and 
technology across the K-8 curriculum. 
TIES Magazine (Technology Innovation 
and Entrepreneurship for Students) 
regularly features examples of design 
and technology from schools in the 
United States and abroad. Project 
UPDATE (Upgrading Practice through 
Design and Technology/Engineering 
Education) is a multi-year effort in 

K-8 teacher training and curriculum 
development. Funded by the National 
Science Foundation, the project works 
with pilot schools from New York to 
Virginia, using design problem-solving 
methods as a means of integrating math, 
science, and technology education. 

In its first phase, Project UPDATE 
helps teachers design Contextual 
Learning Units (CLUs) integrating the 
three primary subjects with others 
through four themes: travel, the built 
environment, events, and amazing 
machines. One teacher developed a 
number of units around the theme of 
A Sailing Trip to China. She developed a 
topic web that included map making 
and reading; measuring 
distances and calculating 
time; investigating 
specific gravity 
and relative den- ^3 
sity, buoyancy, 
tidal energy, and wave energy; and 
appreciating the art, music, and culture 
of China. Design and technology oppor- 
tunities arise throughout this journey to 
China, from making and testing sail- 
boats to designing efficient travel gear, 
to making and flying dragon kites. All 
emphasize the design process (Project 
UPDATE 1996, pp. 2-9). 

Exemplifying the new breed of 
technology teachers, Stephen Scanlon 
of Marlton, New Jersey admits design 

has transformed his teaching and his 
students' learning. 

For the first fourteen years of my teaching 
career I taught industrial arts education. 
I emphasized materials and processes. 
Design? Build the plastic and wood, 
three-tiered candy dish exactly like the 
model in class and you will receive an A. 
For fourteen years! ! Now? Active learning 
by design is the class and what we teach 
and learn. Whether in sixth, seventh, or 
eighth grade, students are taught through 
activities that require design. . . The biggest 
change in my teaching and classroom 
environment has been the excitement that 
my students bring to class with them. No 
longer are they confined to producing 
projects that are designed by someone else 
with results that are very predictable. 

Scanlon introduces his 6th grade 
students to design in the context of 
exploring the role of invention and 
innovation in our society. What 
motivates people to "pursue a better 
mousetrap"? How do analyzing problems 
and achieving design solutions depend 
upon "thinking differently"? 

In 7th grade, Scanlon 's students 
form the 2M Design and Package 
Company, collaborating with students 
in Susan Bishop's food, nutrition, and 
consumer studies class to develop a new 
snack food and design the packaging 
and marketing for it. 


In the 8th grade control technology 
class, Scanlon's students demonstrate 
their knowledge of electronics, pneu- 
matics, robotics, and other subjects by 
designing conveyor systems, burglar 
alarms, and other devices. In the 
advanced science and technology 
course, students build machines to 
illustrate the application of scientific 

Scanlon acknowledges that open- 
ended problem solving initially 
frustrates some students. Gradually, 
however, "students come to understand 
that responsibility for learning is now 
directed back to them. This atmosphere 
lends itself to a more positive response 
from all the different types of students 
within a class . . . Ultimately when 
students identify a problem on their 
own and solve that problem on their 
own, they realize that they can control 
their world." 

Crossing the threshold into high 
schools, one finds fewer occasions that 
motivate teachers to work in an inter- 
disciplinary way. Given that college 
and career decisions loom on the horizon 
for students, many teachers emphasize 
training in specific technologies. 
Design in these classrooms is more 
prescriptive and likely to focus on 
figuring out internal mechanics rather 
than addressing the interface between 
technology and users. 

Nevertheless, even some high school 
technology teachers are taking a second 
look at the benefits of integrating 
designerly thinking more firmly into 
their curricula. In some cases, they follow 
the lead of colleagues in other countries. 
In other instances, they respond to the 
increasing importance business assigns 
to design as a competitive strategy in 
the global marketplace. As more 
elementary and middle schools introduce 
technology within the context of the 
design process, many high school 
teachers also discover that their students 
have expectations to continue working 
from a design perspective. 

Working in design teams, Gary 
Finke's students at Oak Harbor High 
School in Oak Harbor, Ohio, tackle 
projects in architecture, photography, 
and computer-automated manufacturing. 
In one class, students designed a fire- 
house needed in nearby Toledo; in 
another, they designed and built part 
of a manufacturing plant that moves 
materials using robotics and an auto- 
mated assembly line. Finke looks to 
industry for inspiration and seeks out 
books, videotapes, and workshops that 
reveal how teams of designers and 
engineers work together in real-world 
settings. Finke's most motivated 

Middle school students discuss 
airplane design at a "Dare to 
Fly" event sponsored by the East 
Orange and Hasbrouck Heights, 
New Jersey, school districts. 


a r c h i t e ct m e 



m a tics 


students frequently devote free periods 
and after-school hours to their projects. 

In Philadelphia, Lincoln High 
School teachers Donald Testa and Nick 
Zecca teach design and technology to 
9th graders as part of Acatech, a new 
charter school-within-a-school empha- 
sizing academics applied to technology. 
Responding to this mandate, the teachers 
use design methods to update and modify 
previous industrial and vocational 
offerings. Having learned about British 
methods through inservice courses at 
Drexel University, Testa and Zecca use 
a variety of design briefs to address 
student aspirations and society's needs. 
Students design and make child-safe toys 
with moving parts, build and test struc- 
tures for their load-bearing capacity, and 
create logos and monograms. 

In Newark, Delaware, Paul Devine 
teaches technology classes for 9th 
through 12th grade students at Glasgow 
High School. The curriculum has three 
clusters: communications technology, 
physical technology, and bio-related 
technology. Whatever the grade or 
cluster, Devine encourages his students 

to explore the multiple dimensions of 
contexts for which they create design 
solutions. For example, in redesigning 
a 1922 row house for a family of three 
in Wilmington, Delaware, Devine asks 
students not only to accommodate 
contemporary needs and technology, 
but to consider designs of the past, how 
they are a reflection of their time, and 
how today's buildings can use concepts 
from the past in their design. In product 
development assignments, Devine 
prompts students to weigh the ecological 
and ethical implications of the ways in 
which they acquire and process raw 
materials and dispose of manufacturing 
byproducts and finished products. 

Devine searches for ways to link his 
courses with other disciplines. Upon 
learning that the Smithsonian Institution 
in Washington planned to dispose of a 
model simulating a fresh water marsh, he 
obtained it for the school, then worked 
with math, science, and environmental 
education teachers to develop related 
curricula. The technology students 
designed modifications to the model to 
complement student experiments. 


Environmental Education 

during the past 30 years, 
American educators have broadened 
the initial emphasis in environmental 
education from a concern for air and 
water quality to a more comprehensive 
approach to teaching about ecosystems. 
Responding to the flurry of energy 
conservation efforts during the oil crisis 
of the 1970s, educators began to pay 
more attention to the impact of the 
built world on the natural environment. 
More recently, interest in sustainable 
development has encouraged yet another 
transformation in environmental educa- 
tion, stimulating renewed interest in 
ways to educate students about interre- 
lated systems at all levels. 

A watershed event in changing 
perspectives on environmental education 
was the United Nations' Conference on 
Environment and Development, held 
in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Popularly 
known as the Earth Summit, it forged 
the critical link between education and 
our planet's ability to sustain an ever- 
burgeoning population. Looking at a 
40-year window of opportunity before 
the trajectories of resource depletion 
and population explosion lead to wide- 
spread calamities, the conference called 
upon all nations to develop plans for 
transforming their social, economic, 
and governmental practices. 

In June 1993, the White House 
established the President's Council on 

Sustainable Development — consisting 
of 25 leaders in government, industry, 
education, and environmental advocacy — 
to create a national action strategy for 
sustainable development. Central to the 
recommendations in the Council's 1996 
report is the provision of high-quality 
education that enables young people 
"to understand the interdependence of 
economic prosperity, environmental 
quality, and social equity — and prepares 
them to take actions that support all 
three" (President's Council on 
Sustainable Development 1996, p. vi). 
The Council emphasizes that educa- 
tion for sustainability should not be a 
new subject grafted onto an already busy 
school curriculum but a fundamental 
way of informing all teaching and 

learning. Design perspectives shape 
understanding of broad issues of sustain- 
ability and are necessary to transform 
patterns of consumption, business 
practices, and environmental planning. 

The principles underlying education for 
sustainability include, but are not limited 
to, strong core academics, understanding the 
relationships between disciplines, systems 
thinking, lifelong learning, hands-on 
experiential learning, community-based 
learning, technology, partnerships, family 
involvement , and personal responsibility 
(President's Council on Sustainable 
Development 1996, p. 70). 

As examples in this book reveal, 
some innovative teachers already engage 
students in such community-based 

Design perspectives are necessary 
to transform patterns of environ- 
mental planning. With help from 
the KIDS Consortium, students 
at Edward Little High School 
in Auburn, Maine, created a 
recreational master plan for their 
campus and its adjacent woods 
and then won school board and 
city council approval for the plan. 


learning experiences, drawing upon 
several disciplines in the curriculum. 
These teachers admit, however, that 
they often have to piece together such 
holistic instruction, learning about 
interdisciplinary, design-based methods 
through their own reading, outside 
professionals, and the occasional, relevant 
inservice opportunity. 

Recent reports on the state of 
environmental education confirm this 
testimony from the field. Education for 
Sustainability: An Agenda for Action 
makes a series of recommendations 
for greater integration of information 
about sustainability in formal and 
non-formal education. "Discipline- 
oriented educational processes," however, 
present obstacles to an interdisciplinary 
approach. Likewise, schools must 
overcome "insufficient professional 

preparation for teaching the core content 
of sustainability issues" (Education for 
Sustainability Working Group 1996, 
p. 8). Agenda for Action also finds 
widespread variation in state policies 
supporting the inclusion of environ- 
mental education in the curriculum and 
in teacher training. 

Most new teachers graduate from teacher 
preparation institutions with limited 
knowledge of education for sustainability 
and ways that it can be incorporated into 
their teaching. . . (Mjost teacher preparation 
programs have not incorporated the neces- 
sary content and methods. In fact, most 
university professors who offer core courses 
in educational methodology have not them- 
selves had the preparation necessary to 
infuse sustainability concepts into their 
courses and the internships they oversee 
(Education for Sustainability Working 
Group 1996, p. 15). 

Many of the inservice courses and 
instructional materials available to 
elementary and secondary school teachers 
originate in public agencies and 
nonprofit organizations concerned with 
various aspects of natural resource 
protection. Responding to a survey 
undertaken by the National Consortium 
on Environmental Education and 
Training, teachers report that such 
inservice opportunities are often strong 
in content but weak in pedagogical 

strategies. Similarly, teachers find that 
much of the material for classroom use 
raises awareness of basic ecological 
principles but does not help them to 
strengthen students' skill in analyzing 
resource management alternatives and 
exploring other aspects of the human- 
environment relationship (Wade 1994). 

In its recent report to Congress, the 
National Environmental Education 
Advisory Council decries the limited, 
topical focus of many environmental 
curricula and advocates "a more balanced 
menu of materials and programs that 
emphasize skill development and action, 
and that stress the interdisciplinary 
nature of environmental issues" 
(National Environmental Education 
Advisory Council 1996, p. 17). The 
Council's guidelines for exemplary 
practice call for teachers to help students 
explore the environment in its totality, 
even to the point of examining the 
environmental aspects of plans for 
development and growth. 

From teacher education to curriculum 
materials, leaders in environmental 
education are calling for a paradigm 
shift toward a more comprehensive 
understanding of the environment, one 
that encompasses human needs as well 
as natural resource issues. This requires 
a multidisciplinary approach, for as one 
recent study points out, "sustainability 
is best understood by exploring the 

intersections of a number of different 
dimensions, such as the interaction of 
social, political, cultural, economic, and 
ecological perspectives" (Gabriel 1996, 
p. 22). It calls on environmental educators 
to develop a "systems thinking pedagogy" 
to ensure this holistic approach. 

As educators develop this new 
pedagogy, they discover that design lies 
at the intersections of all these dimen- 
sions. Learning about the design of 
products, buildings, landscapes, and 
communities; investigating their 
impact on natural resources; and creating 
new sustainable solutions to today's 
problems are ways that teachers can help 
students develop the knowledge and 
skills needed for a more balanced world. 

Under the auspices of the North 
American Association for Environmental 
Education, a national multidisciplinary 
committee is preparing voluntary 
standards for the field that reflect the 
paradigm shift described above. The 
guidelines call for consideration of the 
social, economic, political, technological, 
cultural, historical, moral, and aesthetic 
aspects of environmental issues as 
well as their biological and physical 
dimensions. Citing content standards 
published to date in the natural sciences, 
social sciences, and humanities, the 
guidelines show that environment 
education offers numerous opportunities 
to meet curricular requirements in those 
fields by encouraging students to draw 

upon knowledge from many other disci- 
plines (North American Association for 
Environmental Education 1997, pp. 4-5). 

In New Jersey, combining the study 
of built and natural environments is a 
way to link suburban and inner city 
schools, as well as various academic 
subjects. Paul Inderbitzen, head of the 
American Re-Insurance Company, put 
together a coalition of public, private, 
and non-profit partners to sponsor 
BEES, Inc. (Building Environmental 
Education Solutions). Its goal is to help 
schools develop hands-on, in-depth 
investigations of local environmental 
problems in a manner that models the 
complex decision making involved in 
solving them. By meeting on site and 
in the classroom with a variety of stake- 
holders (residents, environmentalists, 
developers, legislators, city planners, 
remediators, and others), students come, 
to appreciate the intersecting interests 
in a particular issue. 

During the 1994-1995 school year, 
BEES brought together students and 
teachers from Trenton Central High 
School, Hunterdon Central Regional 
High School, the private Hun School, 
and Granville Academy, an afterschool 
program for disadvantaged youth. The 
schools worked together to analyze 
what might be done to reclaim an 
abandoned industrial site in Trenton 
for the residential area surrounding it. 

The future is not some place 
we are going to, it is one we 
are creating. The paths to it 
are not found, but made, and 
the making of these pathways 
changes both the maker and 
the destination. 

UNESCO, "Qualities Required 
of Education Today to Meet 
Foreseeable Demands in 
theTwenty-first Century," 
1989, p. 9. 


A New Jersey Department of 
Environmental Protection 
staffer gives members of BEES 
a tour of an abandoned factory 
site in Trenton. 

The 60 participating students learned 
about techniques for testing, washing, 
and removing contaminated soil. After 
interviewing neighbors concerning their 
desires, the students worked with urban 
planner Tony Nelessen to develop models 
showing how compatible housing and 
the necessary public infrastructure 
could be reintroduced on the site. 

The following year, BEES linked 
students and teachers at inner-city 
Camden High School with their 
counterparts at suburban Cherry Hill 
West to study a former factory site in 
South Camden designated by the state 
for the Superfund clean-up program. 
This investigation involved 80 students 
along with biology, chemistry, environ- 

mental science, English, social studies, 
art, and business teachers. The entire 
group participated in site visits and 
meetings with outside specialists, while 
smaller teams investigated site history, 
health effects, soil testing, community 
opinion, government policies and 
actions, and site redevelopment feasibility 
and design. 

Over the course of the school year, 
the teams studied the effects of different 
forms of radiation, conducted tests 
around the perimeter of the Camden 
site, and learned about the larger 
ecological context of the Delaware 
estuary. Because exploring the issue of 
environmental justice was a particular 
objective of the project, the students 

also interviewed neighborhood residents 
and toured two other facilities located 
within 10 blocks of the contaminated 
site, the county's principal sewage 
treatment plant, and a major waste-to- 
energy cogeneration plant. 

As the final phase of the project, the 
students worked with an environmental 
consultant and the city planner to 
analyze the feasibility of redeveloping 
the contaminated site. After estimating 
the cost of clean-up necessary to proceed 
with any option, they examined 10 
alternatives in terms of accessibility, 
construction cost, profitability, number 
of people served, and compatibility with 
the surrounding neighborhood. The alter- 
natives included low-income housing, 


school, park, recreation center, gym, 
skating rink, shopping center, restaurant, 
movie theater complex, and motel. 

For teachers and students alike, partic- 
ipation in these complex investigations 
of everyday problems is enlightening. 
"Working on the feasibility committee," 
says Camden student Bernadette Gray, 
"made me realize how much work goes 
into making decisions and determining 
what to do next." Hun School environ- 
mental studies teacher Colleen Balch 
sums up the long-term benefits: 

After these experiences, the students will 
never be able to look at an environmental 

problem in a simplistic way again The 

students have gained an understanding 
that our society is very complex, and they 
now have a knowledge of the tangled paths 
they have to walk to reach solutions for 
such multifaceted problems. Hopefully, they 
are on the path to feeling empowered to 
make changes (Building Environmental 
Education Solutions, Inc. 1 996). 

Far to the south, the entire 1 1th 
grade at Paramount High School in 
Boligee, Alabama, conducted a year-long 
environmental investigation through 
the lens of an architectural challenge: 
to design a waste treatment facility and 
environmental education center on the 
banks of the Tombigbee River. A four- 
person team of math, science, social 
studies, and language arts teachers 

developed this rich problem statement 
with help from Ventures in Education, 
a New York-based organization that 
assists schools in developing student- 
centered, constructivist methods of 
instruction. The Paramount team 
attended Venture's inservice workshops 
and worked closely with its Architectural 
Youth Program, developed by Marc Sokol. 

The teachers challenged the 65 
students to work together as a design 
firm, analyzing the social, economic, 
regulatory, and environmental aspects 
of the facility and devising their own 
architectural plans for it. Throughout 
the year-long process, Brenda Peters, 
from Auburn University's College of 
Architecture, Design, and Construction 
helped students develop skills in 
drawing, modeling, and constructive 
criticism of their design ideas. 

In science class, the students ana- 
lyzed different solid waste processes 
with the assistance of an environmental 

scientist from the state's Department of 
Environmental Management. With the 
help of a geologist from the University 
of West Alabama, they then examined 
the geology, hydrology, topography, 
and soil composition of the proposed 
site. In English class, they practiced 
writing research abstracts and formal 
reports. In math, they calculated the 
amount of household waste generated 
in Greene County and determined that 
the proposed facility must also treat 
waste from two additional counties to 
be profitable. 

In developing their design, the 
students had to determine the space 
and equipment needs of waste manage- 
ment technology and anticipate the 
needs of workers at the facility, staff at 
the environmental education center, 
and visitors. They surveyed residents 
in the community concerning their 
attitudes and interests in environmental 
education. At the end of the year, the 
students presented a thorough review 
of all issues, together with site plans, 
architectural drawings, and three- 
dimensional models. So impressed was 
school superintendent Joseph Dantzler, 
that he invited the students to present 
their work to the Greene County Board 
of Education and representatives from 
the state Department of Education. 

For student June Weston, one of the 
most valuable benefits of the project 

For teachers and students, 
participation in complex 
investigations of everyday 
problems is enlightening. 
Above, BEES students from' 
the Hun School in New 
Jersey try out an innovative 
soil testing kit with a 
scientist at Ohmicron, Inc. 


Most of my design projects 
have to do with synthesizing 
specific subject matter 
and application of learned 
concepts. ..Life is not 
compartmentalized into 
English, science, math, and 
social studies, so I strive 
to integrate all these into 
my course. 

LYNN SWEETAY, 11-12 ecology, 
Taravella High School, Coral 
Gables, FL 



n^-. .3 f , 

- v . fmt 

was "learning not to be intimidated by 
complex problems, but how to break 
them down and tackle the various parts 
in order." For their part, social studies 
teacher Nancy Cole and her colleagues 
are convinced of the value of this inter- 
disciplinary approach for meeting the 
state's curricular objectives. With a 
new team of 1 1th grade students they 
tackled the design of a comprehensive 
high school for the county. 

It is clear from these examples in 
social studies, language arts, mathematics, 
science, technology, and environmental 
education that teachers find the use of 
design in their classrooms an effective 
means for delivering mandated 
discipline-based curricula. No teachers 
in the research study expressed concern 

that design activities displace required 
content. Instead, all voiced belief that 
through design they better achieve 
learning objectives in their respective 
fields. In most cases, the added benefit 
of design activities is to connect 
disciplinary study to larger contexts. 

American Association for the 

Advancement of Science, Project 
2061. (1989). Science for All 
Americans. New York: Oxford 
University Press. 

American Association for the 

Advancement of Science, Project 
2061. (1993). Benchmarks for 
Science Literacy. New York: Oxford 
University Press. 

Black, P. and Atkin, J.M. (1996). 

Changing the Subject: Innovations in 
Science, Mathematics, and Technology 
Education. New York: Routledge, 
with the Organization for Economic 
Cooperation and Development 
(OECD) in Paris, France. 

Bottrill, P. (1995). Designing and 

Learning in the Elementary School. 
Reston, Virginia: International 
Technology Association. 

Building Environmental Education 
Solutions, Inc. (1996). BEES 
Program Brochure. Princeton, New 
Jersey: BEES, Inc. 

Center for Civic Education. (1994). 
National Standards for Civics and 
Government. Calabasas, California: 
Center for Civic Education. 

Dunn, S., and Larson, R. (1990). 

Design Technology: Children's 
Engineering. Bristol, Pennsylvania: 
The Falmer Press. 


Education for Sustainability Working 
Group. (1996). Education for 
Sustainability: An Agenda for Action. 
Washington, D.C.: President's 
Council on Sustainable 

Education Update. (January 1997). "It's 
All In the Videotape." p. 3. 
Alexandria, Virginia: Association 
for Supervision and Curriculum 

Gabriel, N. (1996). Teach Our Teachers 
Well: Strategies to Integrate 
Environmental Education into Teacher 
Education Programs. Boston, 
Massachusetts: Second Nature. 

Geography Education Standards Project. 
(1994). Geography for Life: National 
Geography Standards. Washington, 
D.C.: National Geographic 
Research and Exploration. 

International Reading Association and 
the National Council of Teachers 
of English. (1996). Standards for 
the English Language Arts. Newark, 
Delaware: IRA and Urbana, 
Illinois: NCTE. 

International Technology Education 
Association. (1996). The Rationale 
and Structure for the Study of 
Technology. Washington, D.C.: ITEA. 

Joyce, M. (1994). Of Two Minds: 

Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics. 
Ann Arbor, Michigan: University 
of Michigan Press. 

Layton, D., ed. (1994). Innovations in 
Science and Technology Education. 
Paris, France: United Nations 
Educational, Scientific, and Cultural 
Organization (UNESCO). 

National Council of Teachers of English 
and International Reading 
Association. (1996). Standards for 
English Language Arts. Urbana, 
Illinois and Newark, Delaware: 
NCTE and IRA. 

National Council of Teachers of 

Mathematics. (1989). Curriculum 
and Evaluation Standards for School 
Mathematics. Reston, Virginia: NCTM. 

National Environmental Education 
Advisory Council. (1996). Report 
Assessing Environmental Education in 
the United States and Implementation of 
the National Environmental Education 
Act of '1990. Washington, D.C.: 
Environmental Protection Agency. 

The National Research Council, National 
Academy of Sciences. (1996). 
National Science Education Standards. 
Washington, D.C.: National 
Academy Press. 

National Science Teachers Association. 
(1992). Scope, Sequence, and 
Coordination of Secondary School 
Science, Volume 1. The Content Core: 
A Guide for Curriculum Developers. 
Washington, D.C.: NSTA. 

North American Association for 

Environmental Education, (draft 
1997). Environmental Education 
Guidelines for Excellence: What 
School- Age Learners Should Know 
and Be Able To Do. Washington, 

President's Council on Sustainable 

Development. (1996). Sustainable 
America: A New Consensus for 
Prosperity, Opportunity, and a Healthy 
Environment for the Future. 
Washington, D.C.: President's 
Council on Sustainable 

Project UPDATE. (1996). Contextual 
Learning Unit (CLU) and Support 
Materials. Trenton, New Jersey: The 
College of New Jersey, Department 
of Technological Studies. 

Raizen, S.A., Sellwood, P., Todd, R.D., 
and Vickers, M. (1995). Technology 
Education in the Classroom: 
Understanding the Designed World. 
San Francisco, California: Jossey- 
Bass Publishers, Inc. 

Technology for All Americans Project. 
(1996). Technology for All Americans: 
A Rationale and Structure for the Study 
of Technology . Reston, Virginia: 
International Technology 

Wade, K. (1994). National Survey of 
Environmental Education Teacher 
Inservice Education. Ann Arbor, 
Michigan: Regents of the 
University of Michigan. 


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Challenges for Schools 

Researchers have found that 
even very young children 
engage in complex thinking 
and problem-solving. For this 
reason, educators talk less 
today about whether the 
child is ready for school and 
more about whether the 
school is ready for the child. 


Tomorrow's Schools of 
Education, 1995, p. 29 

When examined within the 
broader context of a school or 
district, design-based learning 
presents new ways for realizing long- 
term goals and learning outcomes. 
In a discussion of school- and district- 
level implementation of design 
strategies, it is easy to focus on physical 
obstacles to systemwide adoption. 
However, the strength of a design 
approach to curriculum and instruction 
lies in its ability to provide a new con- 
struct for educational reform and to 
challenge long-held practices that 
stand in the way of achieving signif- 
icant progress in improving schools 
for children. 

The research for this book reveals key 
issues surrounding support, expansion, 

and maintenance of design-based 
curricula. The issues come from the 
experiences of students, teachers, 
and administrators who use design- 
based learning in their classrooms 
and schools. They are: 

- use of resources in schools, 

- teacher education and support, and 

- beliefs and assumptions about students, 
teachers, schools, and community. 

It is important to note that these 
issues are not unique to using design in 
the classroom. They are the same issues 
raised by those calling for educational 
reform and by researchers examining 
the effectiveness of curriculum, instruc- 
tion, and the business of schools. 


Use of Resources in Schools 

The traditional 


StrUCtUre does not allow 

this very natural process. 


time and space, has long been a focus 
of educational reform. There is ample 
evidence that the structure of the school 
day and the design of classrooms 
in which learning takes place affect 
student achievement, just as they affect 
the productivity and quality of adult 
achievement in the workplace. 


Many teachers report that teaching 
through design runs counter to the ways 
in which schools organize the school 
day. The most common observation is 
the mismatch between the time needed 
to tackle rich, complex problems and 
the regular intervals at which children 
must change classes or shift attention 
to other subjects. The process of 
designing, teachers point out, requires 
varying amounts of time for planning, 
research, execution, and reflection. For 
some activities, 45- to 55-minute class 
periods are sufficient; for others, they 
are woefully inadequate. Teachers note 
that without latitude to change daily 
schedules, the flow of the design process 
is interrupted and some of the potential 
strength of learning activities diminishes. 
Teachers in self-contained classrooms, 
as in many elementary schools, or in 
cross-disciplinary teams, where teachers 
share adjacent class periods with the 
same group of students, report fewer 

problems with external time constraints. 
They can extend or contract assigned 
time periods to adapt to the demands 
of learning activities. However, in 
school settings where the academic day 
is tightly organized into regular periods 
of time and students work with many 
teachers who do not function as a team, 
the conflict between schedules and the 
type of learning implicit in design 
activity is more striking. 

For example, Smoky Hill High 
School physics teacher David Pinkerton 
negotiates with students and other 
teachers to allow his class to participate 
in hour- long assessments of their Rube 
Goldberg machines. Students must seek 
permission to miss and then make up 
time in other classes as they deliver their 
elaborate projects to school, set them 
up, and pretest them in preparation for 
Pinkerton's assessment of each team's 
work. Pinkerton says, "Design [projects] 
require time to make a prototype, see 
how it behaves, and adjust it, based on 
the interactions. The traditional school 
structure does not allow this very 
natural process." 

Administrators also acknowledge 
the challenge. Stanley Hestings, vice 
principal at Smoky Hill High School, 
observes, "Discrete course periods like 
those in high schools and middle schools 
make it difficult to accommodate irreg- 
ular or uneven requests for extended 


periods of time to undertake and com- 
plete a design task. To do it, we need 
to rethink the way the whole school is 
organized. You see, with a schedule like 
ours, changes like that can affect a 
dozen other teachers." 

The control teachers exercise over 
time allocation within their classrooms 
is also a factor in the use of design in 
the curriculum. Teachers report that 
initially they have difficulty in gauging 
how long it will take students to 
complete a project. With experience, 
they gain a better sense of how long 
some projects require. However, there 
are no guarantees. A concept that one 
group of students masters in two days 
could take a week with another group 
of children. Within the same class, 
students require differing amounts of 
time to complete an assignment. While 
traditional classroom activities often 
mask the varying rates at which children 
learn, design activities make them 
visible and allow the teacher to address 
student problems at an early stage in 
their learning tasks. 

The second area of concern about 
available time is teacher planning and 
coordination of design activities. 
Virtually all school reform efforts 
involving cross-disciplinary instruction 
discover that the traditional school 
schedule makes little provision for 
teachers' joint planning, coordination 

of instruction, and reflection. Based on 
regular class periods, the traditional 
school schedule inserts planning time 
in individual teachers' sched 
ules without regard for 
teamwork. Team-based 
approaches to using 
design in the classroom 
suffer from the same 
inflexible time structure that 
plagues any teaching team. It is fair to 
conclude that students do not experi- 
ence a truly integrated educational 
program when their teachers cannot 
plan together and coordinate instruc- 
tion during the school day. 

Furthermore, it is not feasible for 
teachers to complete joint planning 
for the entire school year in the two 
or three inservice days before the start 
of school. The teachers 
in this study claim 
planning for design 
activities and 
curriculum must be 
ongoing and responsive 
to issues and demands 
that arise throughout 
the year. 

In several of the 
site-visit schools, such 
as Willamette Primary 
School and Dranesville 
Elementary School, 
administrators attempt 

to schedule joint teacher planning time 
within each school day. Principal 
Madeline Brennan at the Dyker Heights 
Intermediate School recog- 
nized this need upon 
initiating the design- 
based program in her 
school: "A common 
preparation period was 
provided so that teachers 
could discuss options for multidisciplinary 
units of study and to identify those 
subjects which could be aligned to bene- 
fit the students' thinking." At many 
other schools, however, most teams of 
teachers using design in their classrooms 
report voluntarily extending their work 
day to meet or talk on the phone with 
fellow teachers from their team. 

A teacher at Beaver Acres 
Elementary School in 
Beaverton, Oregon, 
takes time to discuss 
a student's design for 
corn husk dolls. 


The use of design benefits 
my students both intrinsi- 
cally and extrinsically. As 
individuals, students take 
ownership and being to 
participate using originality 
and creativity. They find they 
can achieve and be successful, 
which increases their self- 
esteem and motivation... 
As a group, students learn 
how to cope with each other 
and work together. Their 
adaptability in many environ- 
ments is strengthened. 


Sennett Middle School, 
Madison, WS 


The second challenge in the use of 
resources concerns the organization 
and control of physical space. Demands 
for larger, alternately configured, or 
otherwise flexible classroom space are 
common among teachers who use 
design activities in their curriculum. 
Generally, the traditional classroom 
with rows of individual desks better 
accommodates janitors than it does 
teachers and learners. 

Many teachers in this study cite 
appropriate furniture and classroom 
space as central to the success of design 
projects. Tables around which groups 
of students cluster are preferable to 
individual desks. In schools where 

design and technology are a focus, 
tables are common features in most 
classrooms, and teachers configure 
them differently for each activity. 

Without question, space for storage, 
building, and presentation plays a key 
role in design experiences, as it does 
in any active, project-based learning. 
Design-based classrooms are distin- 
guished by the sheer volume of material 
that adorns walls; covers floors, tables, 
and desks; and spills into hallways. Many 
projects are three-dimensional and made 
of fragile materials requiring special 
storage. These projects can easily over- 
whelm typical classroom closets and 
cupboards, as well as bulletin boards, 
notebooks, and file folders designed for 
more traditional products of education. 

Reallocation of Resources 

The degree of support for design varied 
widely among the schools in this study. 
In some cases, districts allocate addi- 
tional resources, beyond those provided 
for traditional schools, to support 
design-based instruction. These resources 
may include teaching and professional 
staff, materials, equipment, and tech- 
nological support. At Dranesville 
Elementary School and Willamette 
Primary School, funding for technology 
and instruction coordinators initially 
was part of the overall school budgets. 
At Tippecanoe Elementary School for 

the Humanities, a full-time art special- 
ist supports classroom design activities, 
and a coordinator manages and supports 
the overall program. These coordina- 
tors do not have classroom teaching 
responsibility and devote their time 
exclusively to curriculum and inservice 
coaching of teachers. Their presence 
provides school-and system-level sup- 
port that sustains programs through 
changes in classroom teachers and 
institutional policies. They also pro- 
vide a liaison between the school or the 
classroom and administration, report- 
ing on achievements and obstacles to 
effective instruction. 

Several schools in this study estab- 
lish separate budget lines to finance 
design activities. Computer software 
and hardware purchases are frequent 
expenditures. More typically, however, 
teachers report that they scavenge for 
funds to supplement their budgets and 
make use of found or donated materi- 
als. It was clear from our site visits that 
for many activities teachers employ 
inexpensive materials and that finding 
things and putting them to a new use 
are part of the learning process for 
children. It was also evident that the 
teacher who uses design in the class- 
room is resourceful; none said he or 
she was unable to use a design approach 
to teaching because of a lack of expen- 
sive equipment. 


Teacher Education and Support 

MOST OF the teachers in this study 
did not gain competencies in design- 
based teaching and learning through 
traditional teacher education programs. 
With few exceptions, the teachers who 
appear in this study developed expertise 
in a design approach to teaching in one 
of four ways: 

- through prior work in design, including 
study for degrees in architecture and 
graphic design; 

- through inservice programs supported by 
professional societies or other design- 
related organizations; 

- through independent development of new 
strategies after years of frustration with 
traditional methods; or 

- through coaching in the design process 
by a designer relative, friend, or instruc- 
tional coordinator. 

Preservice and inservice teacher 
training are critical to the success of all 
education reform efforts. Teachers need 
to exhibit the same competencies as 
students: an understanding of systems, 
problem-solving skills, teamwork, pro- 
ficiency with technology, manipulation 
of information, and efficient allocation 
of resources. Traditional approaches to 
teacher preparation are not oriented 
toward ensuring that teacher candi- 
dates develop these competencies in 

their professional work. While this has 
implications for the success of many 
school reform efforts, it is particularly 
important for the use of design in the 
classroom, both as a strategy for teaching 
and as subject matter. 

Sheila McCoy, Dean of the College 
of Education and Integrative Studies at 
California State Polytechnic University 
at Pomona, describes the shift that 
must take place in teacher education. 

Design-based approaches force teachers to 
really think about what they are doing. 
For many teachers, it is the first time they 
are building from the ground up, not from 
surface material down. Teachers don't 
generally begin from nothing. They deal 
with boxes of curriculum materials and 
prepared content. They want things cut up 
in neat packages. Teachers in my college- 
level education classes frequently ask me, 
"What will be on the exam?" Design forces 
them to go back and ask themselves why 
they are trying to do something. It forces 
them to function as creators and authors, 
which teachers rarely do without a design 

David Kennedy, Director of Educa- 
tional Technology in the Washington 
State Office of Public Instruction, 
describes the challenges of changing 
departments of education and the 
preservice and inservice preparation of 
teachers. He believes state administrations 

and colleges suffer from "hardening of 
the categories" and "massive territoriality" 
that work against design and any 
approaches that encourage integration of 
subject matter or new ways of thinking. 
Sheila McCoy confirms the struggle 
to insert new approaches in college 
curricula, citing her own administrative 
efforts to gain university approval for 
Doreen Nelson's innovative master's 
degree program in design and creativity, 
based on City Building Education. 

Students at the 
Enlightenment School in 
Waterbury, Connecticut, 
complete a model of 
their school. 


" Teach erS haveto develop expertise 

within their school in order to achieve 3 

1 6 PI t they have to make sure there is the 

right kind of spirit in the 


cCoy describes design as "deceptively 
simple," often disguising its intellectual 
power in activities that resemble play. 
McCoy believes people have to see this 
approach in action or be part of an 
activity to be convinced that it taps 
higher-order thinking skills. 

Myron Atkin, professor of technology 
education at Stanford University, goes a 
step further in talking about the problems 
of introducing design-based strategies in 
teacher education. Atkin says, "Schools 
of education depend on professorial 
interest in adopting or not adopting 
new approaches as part of their teacher 
education curricula." If an education 
professor's personal interests don't sup- 
port new approaches, students in that 
college or university don't learn them. 
He cites the pervasiveness of science/ 

technology/society courses on U.S. 
campuses and the study of the social 
implications of science as much likelie 
orientations than his own design-basec 
approach to technology education. 
Atkin also believes, "Most teacher 
education is geared to state certification 
It is the state framework that really 
guides what is taught. . .. Western 
education glorifies the abstract, but cor 
crete action and practical reasoning 
glorify the species. We have taken this 
kind of learning out of our education, 
and it is time to bring it back." 

While educators are somewhat 
divided on how to best achieve reform 
in teacher education, many agree that 
inservice workshops are insufficient in 
creating sustained change in teaching 
practices. McCoy says, "You're always 

Teachers learn design and 
model-making techniques 
at a workshop offered by the 
Salvadori Educational Center 
on the Built Environment. 
Teachers take these techniques 
back to their schools and 
share them with others, 
developing their own 
expertise and building a 
spirit of collegiality. 

confronted with the question of how to 
deal with groups of people who have 
different knowledge. You can't even out 
the experiences in a short period of time." 

Leona Schauble, professor of educa- 
tional psychology in the College of 
Education at the University of 
Wisconsin-Madison, also believes that 
workshops are not the best way to 
bring about change. Instead, an ongoing, 
one-to-one relationship between 30-40 
teachers and the university's center for 
mathematics and science education 
allows Schauble and her colleagues to 
regularly videotape teachers' work and 
show them how to author their own 
projects and curricula. 

Susan Dunn, former instructional 
coordinator at Willamette Primary 
School, believes some people can learn 

a design approach through workshops 
or on their own, but she adds, "They 
miss the continuing conversation from 
the college classroom to their schools." 
Dunn teaches graduate-level courses as 
an adjunct professor at Lewis and Clark 
College and has taught graduate 
courses at the three schools in which 
she has been an administrator. Many of 
her teachers enroll in master's degree 
programs that divide college course- 
work between satellite classes in their 
own schools and the Lewis and Clark 
College campus. Their study includes 
research, assessment, child development, 
teaching strategies, and practicum. 
Dunn says, "Teachers have to develop 
expertise within their school in order to 
achieve a long-term commitment; they 
have to make sure there is the right 

kind of spirit in the building. The 
collegiality with other teachers is as 
important as the relationship between 
their graduate study and what they are 
doing at school. Immersion creates a 
more supportive environment and 
makes change a way of life." Dunn also 
accepts teaching interns from Lewis 
and Clark College and frequently hires 
them when they graduate. She calls 
this a "long-term commitment to 
building the fabric of the school." 

In the design and creativity master's 
program in education at California 
State Polytechnic University at 
Pomona, director and professor Doreen 
Nelson visits her graduate students' 
classrooms to observe how teachers 
reassess traditional strategies and trans- 
form their roles as curriculum planners 




ntffy Cl 6 S 1 A n as r 

and to find source^that prov 

. . .to i d e 
teachi n g 
in support of design 


elevant to their 
provide information 
curriculum and instruction 

and authors of new approaches. Dean 
Sheila McCoy says, "This process in 
which the teacher learns to perceive 
herself or himself as a designer can be 
scary for some; they have to create this 
thing, to step into the unknown." She 
cites Nelson's commitment to go 
beyond the college classroom as one 
reason for her teachers' success. 

Gail Johnson, Acting Coordinator 
for Certification and Personnel at the 
Utah State Office of Education, is more 
positive about short-term workshops. 
She observes teachers from Adele 
Weiler's Building Connections workshops 
on the built environment. Johnson 
believes changes in teacher behavior are 
consistent with statistics from the 
National Council for Staff Development: 
10 percent of the participants are "on 
board" immediately, while another 
60-70 percent come along in time. 
There is strong evidence that Weiler's 
concepts and practices become part of 
the teachers' yearly programs and that 
they revise their work and often retake 
the workshops. The State Office of 

Education updates teachers with infor- 
mation on new strategies from year to 
year. Johnson also believes design 
workshops spark higher retention than 
other topics. She observes, "Because the 
workshops are participatory and teachers 
are actively engaged, the information 
stays with them." 

Jan Norman, chair of the 
Department of Art and Museum 
Education at the University of the Arts 
in Philadelphia, agrees that there is 
some value in short-term workshops. 
Norman runs design-based workshops 
for Pennsylvania teachers from all 
subject areas. For the most part, her 
participants are seasoned teachers with 
long-term commitments to the class- 
room, not beginners. Norman says, 
"Most are interested in the problem- 
solving element and ways of teaching 
higher levels of thinking." However, 
Norman admits many teachers imple- 
ment only a single design project in 
their annual curriculum. She believes 
the ability to sustain a design approach 
to instruction depends on long-term 

plans for integrated curriculum and 
ongoing assessment. 

At the University of the Arts, Jan 
Norman developed courses in design- 
based instruction for undergraduate 
and graduate students in collaboration 
with Charles Burnette, chair of the 
university's industrial design program. 
Students who have a strong professional 
education in design can become certifiec 
to teach K-12 students. 

Donna Kay Beattie, associate 
professor of art education at Brigham 
Young University, shares with Norman 
an interest in methods through which 
students enrolled in undergraduate 
college design programs can acquire 
the qualifications to teach in K-12 
classrooms. Beattie sees differences 
between her students in design and 
those engaged in visual arts: "The 
design majors are characterized by 
open-mindedness and the ability to 
approach teaching problems from man; 
directions." The Brigham Young pro- 
gram also requires a design component 
in the art education curriculum and 


offers a design specialization option for 
art education majors. 

Since current university curricula for 
the preparation of teachers do not include 
the study of design as subject matter 
or as a pedagogical strategy, teachers 
must rely on their own resourcefulness 
to identify design as relevant to their 
teaching and to find sources that provide 
information in support of design-based 
curriculum and instruction. The lack 
of recognition of design and design 
education by university programs and 
the absence of resources in schools for 
ongoing teacher education remain serious 
obstacles to wider adoption of design- 
based instruction. 

Instructional Support and 

The research revealed that instructional 
and administrative support for the use 
of design in schools and school districts 
is uneven. There are a few examples 
of strong commitment to design by 
district administrators, but the major- 
ity of teachers who use design in their 
classrooms labor in isolation. 

Joel Montero, superintendent of 
the Novato Unified School District 
in California, is one of the exceptions. 
Clearly, Montero understands the 
benefits of design-based instruction 
and works to sustain a supportive 
environment for educators who are 

willing to reassess their teaching prac- 
tices. Montero says, 

What education hasn't done well in the 
past is foster applicative learning. "Design- 
build" or "design-develop" concepts ask 
students to apply what they know. ...We 
have several teachers who provide leadership 
in this approach. What you need is a ker- 
nel of interest, then critical mass at any 
school site, and the work begins to evolve 
and grow. The district has to be supportive. 
It doesn't all work perfectly the first time. 
If you're squeamish, get out of the way. You 
have to support teachers on the cutting edge. 

Montero 's experience with teachers 
who use a design approach also 
changed his attitudes about who he 
needs to hire. He looks for teachers 
who are "noncontrollers" and who are 
"not afraid of technology." Responding 
to what he sees as lack of preparation 
by colleges of education, Montero has 
developed a three-year "new teacher" 
training program that focuses on 
application-based learning. In many cases, 

he uses his own teachers as inservice 
instructors who conduct workshops for 
their colleagues. 

Finally, Montero takes responsibility 
for providing the community with a 
picture of success, for translating into 
action what an educated person needs to 
know. In doing this, Montero involves 
the business community through a 
"business education roundtable" of 
40 companies that advise him and his 
teachers about the likely demands of 
the workplace in the future. 

As Montero demonstrates, to sustain 
design-based learning and teaching, 
teachers must have ongoing support 
from curriculum supervisors and 
principals. First, because design is 
inherently interdisciplinary, teachers 
must receive inservice training and 
curriculum materials that balance dis- 
ciplinary with interdisciplinary and 
cross-disciplinary study. For the most 
part, secondary schools charge teachers 
with the responsibility for transmitting 
discipline-based content. Design-based 

To evaluate staff expertise 
in teaching through design, 
school administrators must 
recognize skills developed 
by the process itself. Here, 
two teachers from the Open 
Charter Magnet School 
examine their students' 
city-building process. 


CU111UCLC11L V 111 

d 1 S C 1 p 1 1 &38%g 

i n t e r d i s 
c r o s s - d i 


, the successful use of design 

strategies must equally address the 
achievement of specific disciplinary 
competencies while showing applica- 
tions in larger interdisciplinary and 
cross-disciplinary contexts. Any strat- 
egy that fails to achieve some level of 
competency in discipline-based issues 

eceive sustained adminis- 
in most school systems. 
Teachers reqiiire trailing in curriculum 
development and instruction to balance 
these issues. 


in classrooms demands that curriculum 
supervisors be equally knowledgeable 
in design so that planning, supervision 
of instruction, resource allocation, and 
assessment of teachers mirror what is 
going on in the classroom. Most 
curriculum specialists who support the 
use of design in classrooms gained their 
interests and expertise through the same 
informal channels as teachers. Some 
teachers express concern over the lack 
of informed specialists who can act as 
teacher resources and function as advocates 
for innovative teaching in their districts. 

Research indicated that courses in 
instructional methods, curriculum 
development, and assessment are 
appropriate venues for the introduction 
of new strategies that have their basis 
in design. Likewise, university laboratory 
schools are logical sites for experimen- 
tation and research in the application 

of new methods to classrooms. Such 
efforts are likely to foster teacher and 
curriculum specialist comfort with the 
design process and cultivate the confi- 
dence necessary for broader adoption 
of design-based methods. 

Third, the study indicated greater 
teacher success in schools where admin- 
istrators support development of teacher 
teams and bring beginners in design- 
based approaches to higher levels of 
comfort with methods used by more 
experienced coworkers. These adminis- 
trators recognize the need to construct 
schoolwide systems for collaboration 
and renewal of expertise; teachers cannot 
create these conditions on their own 
while managing the demands of the 
normal school day. 

While other approaches to education 
reform share this need for support, 
evidence from several schools suggests 
that success is more likely when there 
is strong support from administration. 
Willamette Primary School, Dranesville 
Elementary School, and Dyker Heights 
Intermediate School have in-school 
curriculum coordinators for design 
and technology. As part of the Apple 
Computer's Vivarium Project, the 
Los Angeles Open Charter Magnet 
School provides its design teachers 
with instruction support through a 
consultancy with Doreen Nelson using 
City Building Education. In these 

cases, teachers have developed a strong 
command of design concepts and pro- 
cesses, and they communicate them 
well to their students. 

The use of design as a strategy for 
teaching and learning also holds promise 
for teacher assessment and is likely to 
give teachers useful feedback to guide 
their practice. Because this type of 
instruction places the teacher in a role o 
facilitator, traditional testing of content 
knowledge and classroom procedures 
appears insufficient for identifying hovt 
successful teachers are. Jim Zinck, chaii 
of the science department at Smoky 
Hill High School, observes: 

Even "new" teacher assessment techniques 
often do not apply to teaching activities in 
a design classroom. For example, in visiting 
a design classroom, I might never observe 
the teacher engage the entire class at once. 
Instead, the teacher-as-coachlteacher-as- 
facilitatorl teacher-as-resource roles would 
result in the instructor moving from studen, 
to student or team to team offering advice 
on strategy, technique, or findings. Some 
students or teams working independently 
might never be specifically engaged by the 
teacher at all {within a normal class 
period}. If 1 used the district's (teacher 
assessment) form, or a {Madeline} Hunter 
form, I'd have to leave much of it blank 
because the categories simply don't apply. 


Beliefs and Assumptions 

AS suggested throughout this book, 
the use of design in the classroom 
challenges traditional beliefs and 
assumptions held by and about schools. 
Such challenges are inherent in any 
reform effort, but design-based curricula 
and instruction, in particular, raise 
questions about the continuing relevance 
of three widespread assumptions: 

- Discipline-centered instruction is better 
than interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary 
teaching for learning core subjects. 

- Design activities are the domain of 
gifted and talented students in the arts. 

- Schools must provide all the resources 
necessary for learning. 

The reflective study of design, in 
which students think about or com- 
ment on design objects or environments 
and their contexts, is equally cross-dis- 
ciplinary. In looking at the design of 
cities, students explore the social, phys- 
ical, and cultural environments that 
shape human behavior. Social studies, 
environmental science, and history play 
important roles in such investigations. 
In analyzing visual communication, 
students "decode" meaning in the 
relationship between word and image. 
Such assignments integrate skills in the 
language arts, art, history, and technol- 
ogy. While active involvement in the 
design process usually characterizes 

most design-based learning, these 
reflective activities are also the founda- 
tion for developing discriminating 
consumers who make critical choices 
in their adult lives. Because reflection 
on design frequently addresses systems- 
level problems, such as communication 
and the environment, it is also useful 
in showing students how core subjects 
relate to each other. 

California Polytechnic State 
University Dean of Education and 
Integrative Studies Sheila McCoy and 
others believe design education actually 
improves teachers' understanding of 
disciplinary content and, in doing so, 
prepares them for interdisciplinary 

Interdisciplinary Teaching 
and Learning 

For reasons discussed earlier in this 
book, contemporary reformers extol 
the value of interdisciplinary and cross- 
disciplinary teaching. As an inherently 
interdisciplinary activity, the design 
process offers an approach for structuring 
such study. Because design usually 
involves project-based and situated 
learning, students who engage in design 
activities model the work of adults by 
drawing content and skills from those 
disciplines necessary to solve a problem. 
Knowledge must "work" and be useful, 
not merely be acquired for the purpose 
of storing facts. 

Product designer Vince 
Foote explains the science 
inherent in athletic shoe 


multiple ways 
the world 

teaching. She says, "Design educa- 
tion shows that ideas have structures, 
too, and that you can take ideas and 
make them physical, actual. Design 
education forces people to go to the 
inherent structure, to go below the 
surface, and the more you do this 
the better your thinking will be. 
You can only build meaningful 
connections to your discipline when 
you look at its structure." David 
Kennedy concurs: "Design tran- 
scends all content areas. It organizes 
the product of any discipline." 

However, interdisciplinary and 
cross-disciplinary teaching requires 
planning time and extra effort by 
teachers. Leona Schauble at the 
University of Wisconsin's center on 
math and science education says 
that in most elementary schools in 
this country, "there is almost no 
talking from grade to grade and no 
sense of what teachers are building 
upon or toward." In the elementary 
classrooms documented by this 
study, teachers prepare new instruc- 
tional plans that span several subject 
areas. Art, technology, and science 
specialists in these schools often 
coordinate their work with that of 
classroom teachers to ensure that 
design activities extend across appro- 
priate time periods during the 
school day. 

Typically, there is less flexibility for 
innovation in middle and high schools 

- teachers have less control over the division 
of the school day; 

- school populations are shared by many 

- society expects older students to engage 
in reflective, rather than active, learning 
experiences; and 

- schools place great emphasis on matching 
high school discipline-based study to the 
demands of college. 

Research findings of this study 
support the notion that high schools 
are less likely to take a design-based 
approach and to engage in interdisci- 
plinary or cross-disciplinary study. 
Implementing cross-disciplinary design 
curricula in the upper grades depends 
on altering perceptions about the range 

of ways in which schools achieve discipli- 
nary expertise. Without administrative 
support to alter traditional practices, 
such as division of the school day into 
regular periods of time and the move- 
ment of students to new spaces for each 
subject, there can be little change. 

An Approach for All Students 

One of the persistent misconceptions 
about learning is that mastery of basic 
skills through repetitive learning 
experiences is a necessary prerequisite 
for tasks that involve higher-order 
thinking skills. The result is that the 
education of younger children, and 
of older children who perform below 
grade expectations, often emphasizes 
repetitive tasks and the acquisition of 
facts through some prescribed method. 
One manifestation of this thinking is 
that while gifted-and-talented programs 
are frequently the most creative and 
interesting, classes for "students at 
risk" function in highly regimented 
instructional climates. 

Several classrooms in this study 
serve gifted or privileged populations. 
Some classrooms represent magnet 
programs or enrichment for academically 
gifted students. Others are in schools 
that serve affluent neighborhoods 
where education is valued highly by 
the community. In the overwhelming 
majority of the schools studied, however, 

teachers work with a broad range of 
student abilities representing an array 
of economic backgrounds. The research 
also identified classrooms in which 
design strategies address the needs of 
less academically able students. In fact, 
teachers comment that design strategies 
work better than more traditional 
methods in engaging students who are 
reluctant learners. 

Stephen Knobloch, a teacher at 
Dranesville Elementary School, noted, 
"One of the greatest benefits [of 
design] for students is providing an 
opportunity for all students, not just 
the gifted/talented students, to experi- 
ence higher-level learning by doing. 
Many of my most enjoyable teaching 
experiences have been with learning 
disabled students who have their great- 
est success using the design process 
and then seeing the 'ah ha'." 

Stephen Scanlon, a technology 
education teacher at Marlton Middle 
School in Marlton, New Jersey, confirms 
that students with lower performance 
records have an opportunity to succeed 
in design experiences. He says, "Design 
allows the academically frustrated stu- 
dent to realize that 'intelligence' is not 
confined to textbooks. Design in my 
classroom allows the spotlight to be 
turned on students who have formed 
negative opinions about their role in 
the educational process." 


Father and daughter build a 
geodesic dome out of rotted 
newspaper at the Chicago 
Architecture Foundation's 
"Ingenious Sotutions Famity 

Product designer Vince 
Foote demonstrates the 
science behind traction 
for a middte school class 
in North Carolina. 

In at least one instance, at Warren 
County Middle School in North 
Carolina, gifted and talented 6th grade 
students experienced higher frustration 
with the open-ended nature'of their 
first design project than did their 
lower-performing classmates. These 
students were unsettled by the possibility 
of many "right" answers and by comments 
that the designs could be improved 
by exploring alternative viewpoints. 
Several refused to go to their next class 
until they could do the activity over 
again. Steven Scanlon concurs that 
design instruction can also offer a bene- 
ficial, eye-opening experience for 
students already deemed "successful": 
"[Design] allows the gifted student 
who may be frustrated by the 
regimentation of right, 
wrong, and one way of 
doing things to truly 
explore their talents." 

It is also impor- 
tant to note that 
the research found 
numerous examples 
of effective design- 
based learning and 
teaching with very 
young children, includ- 
ing those in kindergarten 
Students in the primary grades 
understand and engage in the design 
process. Concurring with Howard 

Gardner and Nigel Cross that there are 
multiple ways of knowing the world, 
this study affirms that design strategies 
provide students of all ages with oppor- 
tunities to practice and exhibit their 
mastery of information, resources, and 
processes through projects that are not 
part of the traditional curriculum. 

Community and Parent 

One of the major strengths of design- 
based teaching strategies is that the 
community becomes integral to 
instruction. Community partnerships 
flourish in schools that use design 
activities in the classroom, with 
graphic designers, industrial designers, 
architects, urban planners, con- 
tractors, software 

developers, and others 
playing active roles 
in instruction. 
Through such 
interaction, stu- 
dents share their 
perceptions of 
design issues, 
build connections 
between school and 
work, and expand their 
understanding, not only 
of careers in design but of 
many other adult roles in the com- 
munity. Because these encounters take 

place within the context of solving 
problems, students gain insight into 
these varied jobs and come to appreci- 
ate how many people shape the built 
environment. This type of learning does 
not take place in typical "career day" 
presentations, where children are simply 
told about adult work. 

Design activities also involve parents 
in their children's education. Teachers 
in this study report that parents notice 
their children's increased interest in 
school when design activities are intro- 
duced into the curriculum. Frequently, 

assignments spill over into learning 
activities in the home, which affords 
parents direct observation of student 
performance. Teachers also report, how- 
ever, that parents occasionally require 
careful explanations of curriculum 
strategy to see that the school retains a 
commitment to basic problem-solving 
skills and that strings of projects add 
up to more than entertainment. Once 
informed, these parents usually become 
strong supporters of design-based 
approaches to teaching and learning. 
Parents and future employers also 

express concern over assessment. 
Schools must demonstrate how portfo- 
lio assessment and performance-based 
testing work and what they reveal. 
While evidence exists supporting the 
validity and reliability of such evalua- 
tion, many people are accustomed to 
more quantitative indicators of success- 
ful learning. Administrators and 
teachers should not underestimate the 
effort required to achieve public under- 
standing and acceptance of more 
comprehensive methods of evaluating 
what students know and are able to do. 





the research for this book suggests 
that there is great variation in 
teachers' understanding of the 
design process and design issues. Many 
teachers who responded to the ques- 
tionnaire interpret all active learning 
as design based. Yet building the 
Parthenon out of sugar cubes, replicat- 
ing the Globe Theatre complete with 
thatched roof, making a computer model 
of a castle, or constructing an entire vil- 
lage out of cardboard, moss, and twigs 
are little more than "makework" projects 
if teachers cannot clarify for students the 
design thinking that lies behind choos- 
ing materials, using technology, and 
responding to climate and human needs. 

Similarly, teachers who don't have a 
true understanding of the design process 
cannot adequately coach students to 
create their own design solutions to a 
problem, be it imaginary or real. To be 
able to use the full dimensions of design 
problem solving to benefit instruction 
and learning, many teachers need a better 
grounding in the design process so they 
understand the unique characteristics 
that distinguish it from other activities. 

Some teachers confuse visual products 
(illustrated book reports, drafted plans 
for a house) with design problem solv- 
ing, in which students make critical 
choices that affect the quality of the 
environment, efficiency of products, and 

effectiveness of communication. While 
illustrating and drafting are valuable 
skills that enhance students' work, they 
rarely go far enough to involve students 
in making choices about or analyzing 
important issues related to design or 
the subject of their investigation. 

Many respondents to our question- 
naire described projects in which the 
teacher knows the outcome before 
students begin the assignment. They 
also described exercises in terms of pre- 
scribed methods for reaching a solution 
rather than in terms of student inquiry 
and discovery. These teachers miss the 
point of the design process. They stifle 
opportunities to broaden students' 


— missing from most 
students' experiences is 
the notion that design 
shapes and reflects the 
perception and behavior 
of others. 

understanding of the subject matter of 
such investigations and usually assess 
student performance in terms of how 
well a resulting product resembles 
their expectations. To truly use design 
problem solving, these teachers need 
ongoing professional critique of their 
assignments and teaching practices as 
well as assistance in developing new 
facilitation skills. 

The number of research examples in 
which design itself is a subject of reflec- 
tive study are few, indicating teachers' 
lack of confidence in and education 
about design as well as limited access 
to design resources. The teachers who 
incorporate reflective study of design 
into social studies and arts curricula 
generally have prior experience with 
the subject through formal study or 
with a colleague or family member 
who is a design professional. Design 
issues are not the normal content of 
teacher preparation. 

Even the best classroom examples 
in our study show a somewhat narrow 
view of design. In almost all cases, the 
core design issues are physical, and they 
center on the study of one or more of 
the following: 

- the physical conditions to which a design 

- the physical nature of the environment 
that design creates, 

- connection of a culture with only the 
physical attributes of a designed object, 

- the physical activity required to bring 
form to an idea. 

While these issues are important — 
and examples show how projects 
develop design students' thinking 
skills — missing from most students' 
experiences is the notion that design 
shapes and reflects the perception and 
behavior of others. They are missing 
out on the idea that designers often 
make choices based on how they and 
others want people to think or act. 

The definition of "culture" implicit 
in most of the project examples limits 
design discussion. In responses to the 
questionnaire, teachers describe the 
cultural dimensions of designed 
objects, environments, or problem 
solving in terms of ethnic origin or a 
period in one country's history. For 
most of the teachers in this study, "cul- 
ture" equals only the geographical or 
historical location of the design prob- 
lem or object of investigation. Rarely 
do they view culture as shared systems 
of belief, experience, or circumstances 
of life. Consequently, few projects 
penetrate surface definitions of how 
people identify and represent them- 
selves through their choices about 
environments, products, and communi- 


Teacher Education 

cation — rich territory for discussion 
and project development. 

Most teacher surveys that describe 
active learning use three-dimensional 
modeling or construction as primary 
activities. Although some teacher 
responses to our questionnaire describe 
activities in which students make 
two-dimensional objects, the majority 
of these represent fine-arts projects, 
where the primary purpose is self- 
expression, or technical drafting 
exercises, where the mental aspects 
of translating a three- dimensional 
object into a two-dimensional repre- 
sentation are of lesser importance than 
the execution of the drawing itself. 

Notably absent in the surveys is 
mention of two-dimensional, graphic 
communication for the purposes of 
explaining, informing, or persuading. 
This is surprising considering the 
dominance of media in students' lives 
and the ease of storing these projects 
in comparison to three-dimensional 
projects. Teaching students to "encode 
and decode" visual information is an 
important aspect of literacy in today's 
media-rich world and a valuable link 
to language arts and the analysis of 
scientific and social studies data. 

it is evident that wide adoption of 
design as a curricular or pedagogical 
strategy will not happen without serious 
attention to teacher education and the 
development of teacher skills, knowl- 
edge, and attitudes about design. Such 
attention must focus on inservice as well 
as preservice professional development. 

Although inservice programs broaden 
teacher awareness and understanding of 
design and its use in the classroom, the 
majority are insufficient in bringing 
about attitude changes and skills acqui- 
sition at levels that prompt permanent 
change in teaching practices. Research 
indicates that inservice programs encour- 
age changes in teacher performance in 
the first year after participation, but the 
use of new methods declines dramati- 
cally in subsequent years. Teachers and 
researchers attribute this decline to lack 
of positive reinforcement for their work 
from school principals, supervisors, and 
more experienced colleagues. 

The Holmes Group, a consortium 
of 84 research universities, seeks to 
advance the reform agenda for the 
education of professionals who work 
in schools. 1 Its report, titled Tomorrow's 
Schools of Education, cites the weaknesses 
of continuing education programs for 
teachers as "their overemphasis on 
seat-time... [,] their lack of continuity 

or sustained assistance over time, and 
their lack of close connection to educa- 
tional practice as it affects youngsters' 
learning" (The Holmes Group 1995, pp. 
55- 56). This is the culture into which 
design educators must insert them- 
selves if progress is to be made through 
inservice and continuing education of 
teachers in design-based methods. 

Currently, few inservice programs 
promote the use of design in the 
classroom. Most are led by a handful 
of university design educators whose 
primary responsibilities are teaching and 
research in their respective institutions. 
These programs range from one-day 
workshops to summer institutes, with 
limited opportunity for follow-up once 
teachers return to their classrooms. 


m Jm 


i ^Hta 


'*#_ •-- ■ 

w ■ 

. v 






Taking time to appreciate 
good design work validates 
the process in the eyes of 
younger students. 

If education schools do not 
equip school professionals to 
perform in new ways then as 
surely as 5th grade follows 
4th grade, most educators 
will continue to regard 
teaching as show and tell, 
learning as passive listening, 
knowledge as a litany of 
facts, tests as memory 
samples, and accountability 
as something about which 
only students must concern 


Tomorrow's Schools of 
Education, 1995, p. 9. 

Rarely do programs enroll administra- 
tors or a team of teaching professionals 
from the same school, inhibiting the 
development of a cadre for in-house 

The Holmes Group is equally harsh 
in its assessment of teacher preservice 
education in the United States. Included 
in its criticisms is piecemeal reform that 
"has proven inadequate because of the 
web of connections among the system's 
various parts — curriculum, pedagogy, 
assessment, texts and materials, and 
professional development" (The Holmes 
Group 1995, p. 9)- The report goes 
on to say that, "Students in education 
programs must experience learning 
environments where learners search for 
meaning, appreciate uncertainty, and 
inquire responsibly so they can recreate 
such circumstances for their own stu- 
dents" (The Holmes Group 1995, p. 12). 

Providing a design-based education 
for teachers may be more difficult than 
it appears. On college campuses with 
design programs, faculty and adminis- 
trators use already scarce resources to 
teach small studio classes to future 
design professionals. Access to design 
study for majors in nondesign disci- 
plines, such as education, is limited. 
The studio classes generally involve 
making design objects with groups of 
15-20 students in highly specialized 
work environments and vertical course 

structures that require extensive pre- 
requisite study. Education majors rarely 
compete successfully for registration in 
such classes. Clearly, design professors 
interested in broader application of 
their pedagogical approach should work 
with education professors to develop 
courses for teachers that illustrate the 
design process and its connections to 

While it is unlikely that expensive 
studio-based instruction will be offered 
to help reform teacher education, lec- 
ture courses present an opportunity 
to acquaint prospective teachers with 
reflective study where design is a sub- 
ject of investigation rather than a 
process for making something. However, 
most art history or arts studies classes 
rarely include a discussion of design in 
the syllabus. In the rare instances where 
design is a subject of investigation in 
these classes, it is usually viewed as a 
subspecialty of art and described in 
aesthetic terms, apart from issues of 
use, social context, and process. College 
and university art and design programs 
must encourage enrollment of non- 
majors in general courses and develop 
substantive discussions of critical issues 
in design so that teachers can be better 
prepared to involve students in the 
reflective study of design and to include 
them in evaluating and discussing 
design's impact on the quality of life. 

The job of preparing teachers in 
design-based learning strategies, how- 
ever, cannot be left to schools of design. 
Most are underfunded and struggling 
to maintain their traditional studio 
teaching practices in academic environ- 
ments increasingly influenced by the 
efficiency standards that argue in favor 
of large lecture classes. They are unlikely 
to expand their missions significantly 
without additional resources. 
Furthermore, schools of design are not 
always in proximity to the strongest 
education programs. While there are 
as many as 500 four-year art and design 
programs that teach at least some courses 
in graphic design, many of the most 
effective are in private art colleges 
where there are no teacher education 
programs. Architecture programs exist 
in 100 institutions, and industrial 
design is an even smaller discipline 
of study with fewer than 50 programs. 
Collaborations between schools of 
education and schools of design — and 
broader access to design courses for 
education majors — is a fundamentally 
sound strategy that should be encour- 
aged,, but the small numbers of design 
faculty argue against this approach as 
a means for expanding design-based 
practices in U.S. schools. 

The most promising approach is 
to introduce design-based instruction 
into schools of education. By training 


education professors in the content 
and methods of design, or by hiring 
designers as part of their teaching staffs, 
college and university education pro- 
grams can support the development of 
well-informed teaching professionals 
who use design-based methods in their 

The most obvious place for such 
integration is in teaching methods 
courses. The first university design 
and education Master's degree program 
began in 1995 at California State 
Polytechnic University at Pomona. 
Doreen Nelson, with a joint teaching 
appointment in the Colleges of 
Education and Environmental Design, 
launched a Master of Arts program in 
education, focusing on design and cre- 
ativity. Smaller scale efforts include the 
work of Charles Burnette and Jan 
Norman at the University of the Arts 
in Philadelphia; Susan Dunn at Lewis 
and Clark College in Portland, Oregon; 
and Meredith Davis and Robin Moore 
at North Carolina State University in 
Raleigh. Clearly, others will emerge. To 
maximize and sustain impact, however, 
it is important that these programs not 
become islands of specialization within 
an otherwise unchanged system of 
teacher preparation. The achievements of 
teachers who use design-based pedagogy 
show promise that other teachers' work 
can be enhanced by design education. 

By hiring designers as part of their teaching 
staffs, education programs can support the 
development of well-informed teaching profes- 
sionals who use design-based methods in their 


Supporting Systemwide Change 

THIS BOOK points out the importance 
of systemwide support for the work 
of design-based teachers and learners. 
Across the history of the design in 
education movement, we find many 
examples of successful teachers abandon- 
ing design-based strategies because the 
energy required to sustain innovative 
teaching in the face of administrative 
indifference was too great. In many 
cases, these teachers also lacked teach- 
ing peers who shared their interest in 
design; they had no counsel for their 
own teaching problems and no follow- 
up support for their students. Just as 
important, their school systems lacked 
reference materials and substantive 
research to support the decision to 
pursue a design approach to teaching. 
As reported throughout this study, 
teachers who have administrative sup- 
port for the use of design in classrooms 
achieve rich outcomes with their students 
and sustain success across the school 

Administrative support includes knowledgeable 
principals and curriculum specialists who understand 
the fundamental processes of design. 


year and from one year's class to the 
next. Such schools support an atmos- 
phere of innovation and the creative 
involvement of teachers in curriculum 
development. These educators also are 
effective members of teaching teams 
because their school ensures conditions 
that foster joint planning, instruction, 
and assessment. Student achievements 
build progressively from one class to 
the next and from year to year because 
the school consistently places high value 
on thinking and open-ended inquiry, 
rather than on the acquisition of facts 
and mastery of skills detached from 
holistic problem solving. 

Administrative support includes 
knowledgeable principals and curric- 
ulum specialists who understand the 
fundamental processes of design inquiry 
and the impact of design-based teaching 
and learning. They are able to make 
changes in the structure of the school 
day, allocate resources, and hire teacher 
colleagues who facilitate the use of 
design in the classroom. They share 
responsibility for, rather than dictate, 
curriculum, and they include a broad 
set of performances in their definitions 
of teacher assessment. In student 
assessment, they show more interest 
in substantive learning results than 
in reporting; they see assessment as 
ongoing feedback about student learning 
accomplishments that helps teachers 

confirm or redirect strategies. They are 
slow to make judgments on the basis of 
a single activity and support innovation 
in the interest of long-term achievement. 

Through well-communicated presen- 
tations of philosophy and goals, these 
strong administrators use their positions 
to attract community professionals and 
parents into the classroom. They involve 
themselves in the active life of the school 
and make frequent visits to classrooms 
and student presentations. Evidence of 
student work fills the physical environ- 
ment of their schools, and they tolerate 
rearrangement of rooms and furniture. 
They provide a well-articulated vision 
of teaching and learning that inspires 
teachers and sustains focused commit- 
ment across time. 

To become such an administrator 
requires experience and education. 
To date, most design-based training 
programs are for classroom teachers; 
curriculum specialists occasionally 
participate. While principals often 
endorse teacher participation in design 
education programs, they themselves 
rarely attend lectures and workshops 
as students of this approach. Further- 
more, existing workshops fail to address 
the pressing concerns of principals and 
other school, district, and state admin- 
istrators: raising test scores, the success 
rate of graduates, keeping children in 
school, and working with decreasing 

Substantiating Achievement Through 
Credible Assessment 

budgets. Workshops that show admin- 
istrators how design-based programs 
contribute to meeting school-level 
challenges are necessary to expand the 
influence of these practices in schools. 
Research that analyzes and documents 
successful implementation of design- 
based approaches in other schools is 
needed to convince and support 
administrators who decide to pursue 
alternative strategies. 

Just as design-based teaching depends 
on supportive administration in schools, 
principals of schools that use design 
look for confirmation that districts and 
states value their schools' teaching and 
learning achievements. District and 
state departments of public instruction 
should lead and foster educational 
reform to prevent single schools from 
becoming refreshing oases in an other- 
wise mediocre educational environment. 
To accomplish this, state administrators 
should fund and pilot studies and pub- 
lish research in the use of design-based 
strategies. They should promote the 
successes of design-based learning and 
provide training for schools that wish 
to learn about its methods and out- 
comes. Because of the movement to 
site-based management of schools, 
administrators also should educate 
the public about design approaches 
to learning before wider adoption can 
take place. 

THE ANECDOTAL information pro- 
vided by the committed, professional 
educators contacted for this study, as 
well as the on-site observations and 
numerous interviews conducted by the 
research team, reveal compelling evi- 
dence of the benefits of design-based 
teaching and learning. Furthermore, 
there are strong correlations between 
design education methods and many 
of the curricular objectives and instruc- 
tional approaches being advocated by 
leading researchers and education 
reformers today. 

Nevertheless, before schools, districts, 
states, and teacher education programs 
embrace the use of design in the class- 
room, they must be convinced of its 
success. This study only opens the door 
onto a subject with a myriad of educa- 
tional dimensions to explore. To broaden 
the influence of design in education in 
the United States and extend its benefits 
to more of the nation's students, educa- 
tors must go beyond telling stories to 
develop appropriate, authentic instru- 
ments for determining student and 
program success. 

Developing and maintaining the 
administration of performance-based 
tests, in which the form of the test 
demands application of the skills and 
content being tested, will not be easy. 
Myron Atkin at Stanford University 
notes: "There is a lot of nostalgia 

about assessment. People support 
tests that look like tests used to look. 
California has experimented with 
performance-based assessment, but it is 
very expensive and people are impatient. 
They turn to something else when 
results are not immediate. What we're 
looking at in education today won't be 
there six or seven years from now; the 
political cycles exert pressure to deliver 
quick results. Politicians believe they 
have a strong role to play in what edu- 
cators do. This is not true in Europe, 
where the teaching profession is more 
highly respected, so you will see much 
greater strides in reform and assess- 
ment in other countries." 

Kathryn Loncar, Associate Professor 
of Education at the University of 
Missouri, conducted a review of Ginny 
Graves' design-based curriculum, Walk 
Around the Block. Her study confirms 
that rigorous assessment is one chal- 
lenge facing proponents. She says, "To 
be convincing and to promote design in 
education, we need documentation of 
student performance on standardized 
tests." She feels the anecdotal evidence 
is persuasive, but in the current political 
climate, numbers count. 

Susan Dunn, former instructional 
coordinator at Willamette Primary 
School, says her current school gives 
standardized tests, but fewer than 
before the adoption of design-based 

In research terms, the major 
dependent variables of 
schooling are not scores on 
standardized tests, whether 
norm- or criterion-referenced: 
they are the kinds of ideas 
children are willing to explore 
on their own, the kinds of 
critical skills they are able 
to employ on tasks outside 
classrooms, and the strength 
of their curiosity in pursuing 
the issues they will inevit- 
ably encounter in the course 
of their lives. 

Counts in Schools 


sharing with 

Others what you 
have done 

approaches. They are used more as an 
audit of how well everyone is doing. 
She believes, however, that assessment 
is "sharing with others what you have 
done, which includes people who hold 
evaluation responsibility," such as prin- 
cipals and instructional coordinators. 
Dunn says, "This evaluation can't be 
punitive and must encourage risk taking. 
Furthermore, administrators need to be 
teaching in the classroom to assess this 
approach." Dunn also encourages her 
teachers to talk about learning in their 
classrooms with the phrase "When our 
students are doing design. . . " rather 
than saying, "Our children do design." 
This forces teachers to complete the 
phrase with a description of learning 
outcomes that gives outsiders a better 
picture of student achievement and 
frames their accomplishments in terms of 
thinking skills, rather than cute products. 

Educational psychologist Leona 
Schauble comments that, "Design evidence of how students 
think and lets how they think govern 
teaching. The evaluation criteria are 
public in the classroom, unlike other 
forms of assessment." 

As demonstrated by the schools 
in this study, performance-based and 
portfolio assessment seem appropriate 
methods for measuring individual 
student learning. These methods are 
consistent with the latest research in 
learning and assessment, and they 
provide useful feedback to teachers, 
students, and parents. They also employ 
dimensions critical to the design 
process, including: 

- evaluation of holistic problem solving 
in which thinking and doing are as 
important as the products of thought 
and action; 

- assessment across time, rather than as 
single measurement at one moment in 
time; and 

- accommodation of differences in stu- 
dents' learning preferences and ways of 
demonstrating mastery. 

Yet there is little agreement within 
and among these schools, even in 
similar subject areas and grade levels, 
about what constitutes an appropriate 
portfolio of work, the criteria against 
which teachers and schools measure 

excellence, and the ways in which 
teachers and schools report individual 
learning achievements. While many 
of the teachers in our study are clear 
about assessment criteria and strategies 
for individual projects, they offer little 
insight as to how the projects fit into 
the overall assessment of student perfor- 
mance in their subject area or among 
subjects where cross-disciplinary strate- 
gies occur. 

Further, design-based educators 
have yet to develop effective ways for 
linking individual student assessments 
to the evaluation of schools and dis- 
tricts. While the work in the United 
Kingdom offers insight into large- 
scale assessment, the British adoption 
of a national curriculum has no parallel 
in U.S. education. Despite promotion 
of voluntary national standards in core 
subjects, movement toward site-based 
management and local curriculum 
control present even greater challenges 
to reporting statistically significant 
outcomes from the use of design in 
U.S. classrooms. 

Because design is frequently the 
method of inquiry, rather than the sub- 
ject of inquiry, it is often difficult to 
attribute learning achievements to the 
presence of design in the curriculum 
through periodic assessment in core 
subjects. The New Standards project 
(described in Appendix A) shows 


Teacher Resources 

promise in capturing this type of learn- 
ing success through its assessment of 
Applied Learning. In these performance- 
based exercises, students test a range 
of problem-solving skills that are not 
linked to specific school subjects and that 
share much in common with the design 
activities described earlier in this report. 
Clearly, the task ahead is to develop 
and implement assessment criteria and 
strategies that will produce reliable and 
valid evidence of design-based educa- 
tion's value, in terms understandable 
to parents as well as educators. This 
must be done within the current con- 
text of "reporting and accountability" 
that characterizes U.S. education, while 
remaining true to the nature of design 
activity and learning. At the same time, 
the advocates and practitioners of 
design-based education should demon- 
strate the common elements among 
national voluntary standards in core 
subjects — problem-solving mastery, 
communication skills, critical thinking, 
linking school with life and work — and 
connect their achievement to design- 
based teaching strategies and curricula 
through credible assessment. 

THOSE WHO TRAIN teachers in 
design-based methods report frequent 
requests for reference materials on design 
and teaching design to help educators 
continue their study after workshops 
end. Other teachers comment that wider 
availability of design- based lesson plans 
in various disciplines would provide use- 
ful models from which they could build 
their own projects. 

Plainly, there are few resources 
through which teachers and adminis- 
trators can learn about design and the 
use of design in education. The publi- 
cations that do exist are hard to find 
and not widely publicized in teacher 
journals. While experts debate the 
advisability of developing prepackaged 
programs that do not take into account 
the characteristics of individual schools 
and classrooms, it is clear that litera- 
ture to support instruction is needed 
if college and university teacher educa- 
tion programs are to invest in design- 
based curriculum development. 

While some publishers include more 
project suggestions in the teacher's 
editions of their books in response to 
increased interest in active learning, 
most write textbooks as if they were 
lectures. Even many interactive media 
products organize content in structures 
that resemble passive books, not inter- 
active hypertext environments. These 
products often ignore divergent learn- 

ing strategies that allow students to 
move through content in a self-deter- 
mined order according to their specific 
needs. Rarely are interactive media 
programs linked to physical activity 
outside the computer or to solving a 
problem for which the programmer 
has no predictable solution. The next 
move for authors of design-based cur- 
ricula should be to collaborate with 
textbook publishers and developers of 
curriculum materials. Once textbooks 
reflect these innovative strategies, there 
will be wider use of design methods. 

Among the resources teachers need 
is a network of other teachers using 
design in the classroom. Curriculum 
control necessarily resides at state and 
local levels in the United States, yet 

Participants in a 
National Design 
Museum workshop 
test their creation. 


A teacher, ideally conceived, 
is a designer who helps 
learners to design 

DAVID PERKINS, Knowledge as 
Design, p. 230 

elementary and secondary teachers any- 
where in the country have a wealth of 
support systems to rely upon and can 
benefit from the insights and innova- 
tions of their peers in areas such as 
curriculum development, instructional 
practice, and assessment techniques. 
Among these support systems are state 
and district specialists in various disci- 
plines, state and national associations 
linking members by grade level or 
subject area, technical assistance hot- 
lines, Web sites, and workshops offered 
by textbook and software publishers, 
and newsletters distributed by various 
education reform initiatives. 

In contrast, teachers attempting to 
integrate design topics and methods 
into their practice are relatively isolated 
from one another and from researchers, 
curriculum developers, and other advo- 
cates of design-based learning. At 
present, no organization coordinates 
a national network of teachers, work- 
shops, or the distribution of materials 
related to the use of design in K-12 
classrooms. Nor have special interest 
groups focusing on design methods 
emerged within the major discipline- 
based teacher associations. 

Instead there are numerous comple- 
mentary, but generally unconnected, 
efforts relating to design-based educa- 
tion. As recounted earlier in this book, 
some are based in community institu- 

tions such as museums or local chapters 
of professional design associations; others 
are tied to schools of education, schools 
of design, or nonprofit organizations 
with a regional or national scope. Still 
others are short-lived, multiyear pro- 
jects funded by federal agencies or 
foundations. In each case, the indivi- 
duals involved may develop and even 
publish curriculum materials relating 
to design in education. But often these 
materials are printed in limited editions 
or receive insufficient marketing to 
attract a national audience. 

The institutions that house pioneer- 
ing design education programs also 

may present unintended impediments 
to the broad dissemination of their work. 
Some authors of relevant curricula are 
designers who teach part-time in schools 
of education, or they may be the only 
faculty with K-12 interests in schools of 
design. Professional design associations, 
while supportive of K-12 initiatives, 
have other concerns that frequently 
take budget and program precedence 
over primary and secondary education. 
Furthermore, these associations generally 
focus on one design discipline, and their 
school programs follow suit. 

Public and private sector funders of 
pilot projects, curriculum development, 



or other research directly focused on 
design in education may also be unaware 
of their overlapping interests and not 
informed of the progress made by each 
other's grantees. At the federal level 
alone, the Department of Education, 
Department of Energy, Environmental 
Protection Agency, National Endowment 
for the Arts, National Endowment for 
the Humanities, National Science 
Foundation, and other agencies have 
all funded projects relevant to design 
in education (whether or not their 
design dimensions were fully articulated 
and explored). Similarly, relevant pro- 
jects receive funding from numerous 
private and corporate foundations, 
sometimes under the aegis of science 
and math reform, at other times in the 
areas of art education, technology, and 
school-business partnerships. With 
rare exceptions, however, few of these 
hinders work jointly across disciplines. 
Neither do they support pilot projects 
or research efforts with adequate 
resources or over sufficient periods of 
time to enable painstaking assessment 
of learning outcomes, longitudinal 
study of student populations, or wide- 
spread dissemination of results. 

As this book shows, however, 
teachers who see the relevance of design 
to their practice and its multiple bene- 
fits to their students' lives and learning 
can be found in all corners of the 
United States, teaching all grade levels 
and subject areas, working both alone 
and with other teachers, and reaching 
all types of students. Surely there is a 
critical mass of developing interest, 
which — if supported by strategic 
investments in networking, preservice 
training, resource dissemination, and 
further research — will lead to a quan- 
tum leap in the integration of design 
methods across the spectrum of U.S. 
education. Design will then have a 
positive, catalytic influence not only 
on students' learning, but also on U.S. 
schools and communities. 

The Holmes Group. (1995). Tomorrow's 
Schools of Education. East Lansing, 
Michigan: The Holmes Group, Inc. 

1 In 1996. The Holmes Group became The Holmes Partnership, 101 Willard Hall Education Building, University of Delaware, 
Newark, Delaware 19716. 


• w< 


Y i\m ' 

Appendix A 


in the Context of Education 

the relevance of a design approach 
to teaching and learning is evident 
when viewed within the context 
of education reform. After more than a 
decade of heralding the need to improve 
schools, educators still search for prac- 
tical strategies for achieving reform 
goals. This summary of recent reform 
initiatives illustrates the connections 
between our national aspirations for 
improving education and the outcomes 
of incorporating design experiences in 
K-12 classrooms. 

A Nation at Risk 

the 1983 report of the National 
Commission on Excellence in Education 
expressed what many educators and 
policymakers long believed: Deteriorat- 
ing academic performance would soon 
lead to significant social and economic 
problems in the United States. The 
report was blunt about the implications 
for the country. "Our once unchallenged 
preeminence in commerce, industry, 
science and technological innovation 
is being overtaken by competitors 

throughout the world." This powerful 
report focused national attention on the 
fact that our schools were no longer 
adequate to prepare students for suc- 
cessful adult lives. 

Despite considerable debate over 
the possible reasons for the decline in 
U.S. education — including insufficient 
funding for schools, decline in standards 
of excellence, increase in the number of 
students placed at risk, loss of common 
values, poor teacher training, inadequate 
leadership, irrelevant curricula, and 
lack of community support — several 


...deliberately linked the nation's future 
economic prosperity to the quality of 
today's education 

areas of consensus have emerged over 
the past decade. Parents, teachers, 
administrators, and community leaders 
in the debate tend to agree that: 

- Many schools do not develop in 
children the basic skills, knowledge, 
and attitudes necessary to become 
productive adults. 

- All schools must build connections 
among the academic disciplines and 
between in-school experiences and the 
rest of children's lives. 

- A successful life in the 21st century 
will depend less on mastery of specific 
facts and more on skill in accessing, 
analyzing, organizing, and acting upon 
information. There is an increasing need 
to use knowledge, rather than simply 
acquire it. 

- All schools must engage students in ways 
that respond to their natural curiosity and 
individual ways of learning, providing 
multiple points of entry into subject 
matter and a variety of assessment 

Attempts to achieve these reform 
goals began in the United States in the 

1980s. Initial efforts tightened, and in 
the case of the arts increased, high school 
graduation requirements and increased 
periodic standardized testing of students 
at all levels. Later came the decentraliza- 
tion of program management in many 
school systems, providing principals, 
teachers, and parents a greater say in 
what is taught, by whom, and how. 
Experiments in site-based management 
empowered teachers to make local deci- 
sions about curriculum, assessment, and 
educational policy. A few districts have 
extended the school day or lengthened 
the school calendar in the belief that 
time in the classroom contributed to the 
quality of student performance. More 
recently, even greater numbers of dis- 
tricts have instituted "block schedules," 
lengthening the time spent on a subject 
in a single period in high school, but 
requiring only a total of four subjects 
per day. 

However, in spite of these and other 
developments since 1983, as Diane 

Massell and colleagues (Massell, 
Fuhrman, Kirst, Odden, Wohlstetter, 
Carver, and Yee 1993, p. 5) observe in 
their review of education reform over 
the last decade, "The kind of standard- 
setting launched by A Nation at Risk 
did not directly address the academic 
content of schooling. It required more 
seat time in courses labeled science 
and mathematics, for example, but 
did not insure the quality of science 
and mathematics courses that students 
would receive." 

As reform efforts have continued, 
educators have placed increasing 
attention on the nature and content 
of instruction. In 1988, the National 
Council of Teachers of Mathematics 
(NCTM) issued a set of grade-specific 
standards for mathematics. These stan- 
dards remain the model for defining 
national content objectives in other 

A watershed event in efforts to estab- 
lish national priorities for education 
improvement was the 1987 publication 
of Workforce 2000: Work and Workers for 
the 21st Century. This report established 
a national framework for what students 
must achieve, and it deliberately linked 
the nation's future economic prosperity 
to the quality of today's education. In 
response to this overarching summary 
of the nation's need for a well-educated 
.and occupationally flexible workforce, 


The Goals in Brief 

Goals 2000 

a number of public and private- 
sponsored commissions and task forces 
went to work devising strategies to meet 
the challenges posed in this seminal 
report. Three have direct relevance to 
design-based learning. They are: Goals 
2000 and the formalization of national 
education policy, The Secretary's 
Commission on Achieving Necessary 
Skills (SCANS), and voluntary national 
content standards in basic subjects, 
including the arts. 

More recently, the work of the New 
Standards Project, a collaboration of 
the Learning Research and Development 
Center (LRDC) at the University of 
Pittsburgh and the National Center on 
Education and the Economy (NCEE), 
holds promise for building an assessment 
system that measures student progress 
in meeting national standards. The 
assessment system has three components: 
performance descriptions in English/ 
language arts, mathematics, science, 
and applied learning; an on-demand 
examination; and a portfolio assess- 
ment system. Of particular relevance 
to the discussion of design approaches 
to teaching and learning are the perfor- 
mance descriptions in applied learning 
and the portfolio assessment. 

from a historic summit in 1989, 
jointly convened by the National 
Governors Association and President 
George Bush, came national goals for 
education that, with some revisions, 
Congress codified as Federal policy in 
1994 in the Goals 2000: Educate 
America Act. These eight goals describe 
the conditions and outcomes for educa- 
tion and list core subjects in which all 
students must achieve mastery of skills 
and knowledge. The Goals 2000 legis- 
lation added two goals to the original 
six developed in 1989 and includes 
the arts among the core subjects out- 
lined in Goal 3. The use of design in 
education holds great significance for 
achieving several of these goals. 

The full language of Goal 3 expresses 
concern for students' thinking and 
problem-solving skills by indicating that 
"all students learn to use their minds 
well." The implication is that schools 
currently pay less attention to building 
students' full range of cognitive abilities 
than to the subjects of their thought. 
Design-based learning, on the other 
hand, places a high value on examining 
modes of inquiry and developing 
flexible thinking skills that are useful 
across disciplines. Furthermore, more 
children succeed in classrooms when 
the instructional approaches tolerate 
and encourage a variety of learning 
styles and modes of inquiry. 

Goal 4 calls for excellent preservice 
and inservice training of teachers. While 
most college programs prepare teachers 
in the subjects they will later teach, 
college curricula lag behind in develop- 
ing and disseminating new teaching 
methods that respond to the most recent 
research about how children learn. 
Many teacher education programs fail 
to equip teachers with the thinking 
skills necessary to invent new learning 
experiences or a vision of themselves as 
more than the repositories of data. 

As this book illustrates, there is 
impressive evidence that teachers who 
use design in their classrooms are more 
excited about teaching and view them- 
selves as creative professionals. There is 
also confirmation that these teachers 
acquire their skill with innovation 
through sources other than their college 
or university education and that they 
are ambassadors for a design approach 
with their teaching colleagues. Because 
design-based approaches to teaching 
transcend the boundaries of subject 
matter, address the diversity of student 
learning styles, and actively engage 
teachers in building innovative curricula, 
design education shows great promise as 
a model for reforming teacher education. 

Goal 6 emphasizes the creation of 
a literate and productive workforce, 
prepared for competition in the global 
economy and active in the life of the 

By the year 2000 . . . 

Goal 1: All children in 
America will start school 
ready to learn. 

Goal 2: The high school 
graduation rate will increase 
to at least 90%. 

Goal 3: All students will 
Leave grades 4, 8, and 12 
having demonstrated 
competency over challenging 
subject matter including 
English, mathematics, science, 
foreign languages, civics and 
government, economics, the 
arts, history, and geography. 

Goal 4: U.S. students will 
be first in the world in 
mathematics and science 

Goal 5: Every adult American 
will be literate and will pos- 
sess the knowledge and skills 
necessary to compete in a 
global economy and exercise 
the rights and responsibilities 
*of citizenship. 

Goal 6: Every school in the 
United States will be free of 
drugs, violence, and the 
unauthorized presence of 
firearms and alcohol, and 
will offer a disciplined 
environment conducive 
to learning. 

Goal 7: The nation's teaching 
force will have access to 
programs for the continued 
improvement of their profes- 
sional skills. 

Goal 8: Every school will 
promote partnerships that 
will increase parental 
involvement and participa- 
tion in promoting the social, 
emotional, and academic 
growth of children. 

Design activities teach 
children to make intelligent 
choices about technology, to 
design technology to 

solve, pn.ablems, 

and to deil 11 6 the preferred 
role of machines 
in their lives. 

community. The use of design in the 
classroom achieves these objectives. 
Ours is an increasingly visual world; 
literate adults are those who can inter- 
pret, judge, and act upon visual as well 
as verbal and quantitative information. 
Television, magazines, and newspapers 
like USA Today demand discriminating 
readers of visual messages. Design 
activities teach students to communi- 
cate fluently in both visual and verbal 
modes of expression and to be critical 
readers of information in all forms. 
Design experiences frequently employ 
modeling and diagramming that reveal 
the true nature of information and the 
complex relationships among ideas. If 
students are to be masters of informa- 
tion and not unknowing victims of 
persuasion, they must develop visual 
literacy at levels equal to their command 
of verbal language. 

Technological literacy will be equally 
important in the next century. Citizens 
without access to information networks 
risk exclusion from democratic processes 
and decision making in their work and 
communities. A technologically 
unskilled workforce faces extinction. Yet 

simply acquiring software skills is not 
sufficient to address the goal of tech- 
nological literacy. Literacy also is about 
knowing what to say and how to say it. 
Students must know when to use spe- 
cific technologies and how to account 
for the degree to which tools determine 
outcomes. They need to be critical users 
of technology who demand human- 
centered, rather than machine-centered, 
approaches to solving problems. 

Design experiences integrate 
technology instruction with the goal of 
solving human dilemmas. Designers 
think of technology as "a choice about 
the way to do things," rather than as a 
predetermined method of operation or a 
tool. Their models can be sophisticated 
three-dimensional computer diagrams or 
wooden sticks held together with glue. 
Each informs its creator and others in 
different ways. Design activities teach 
children to make intelligent choices 
about technology, to design technology 
to solve problems, and to define the 
preferred role of machines in their lives. 

Exercising the rights and responsi- 
bilities of citizenship demands a range 
of skills not often fostered by traditional 
teaching practices. Schools usually 
encourage individual performance at 
the expense of shared accomplishment. 
Where team assignments exist, they 
frequently lack an explicit framework 
for working together and leave stu- 

dents skeptical about relinquishing 
control of tasks to their peers. Design 
activities, on the other hand, involve 
students in the process of choice, 
usually as members of teams focused on 
solving a single problem. The design 
process guides their work, introducing 
structured critique and collective judg- 
ment throughout the process. Through 
such experiences, children learn team- 
work and strategies for participation in 
issues and labor that involve differing 
points of view. The design process 
provides a clear structure for generating 
alternatives, making choices, and 
resolving conflicts of opinion. 

Design activities also challenge stu- 
dents to explore the social and cultural 
contexts implicit in their design tasks. 
The subjects of their investigation are 
often the very issues they will confront 
as adults: the location of a city park, 
the match between the architecture of 
a public building and the values of a 
community, solutions to community 
recycling of discarded products, and 
visual communications that encourage 
and inform public debate on important 
issues. Design experiences, unlike those 
in many other academic disciplines, 
require no special translation to life 
outside of school. They engage students 
in content and model practical 
processes that are intrinsic to life as 
responsible citizens. 


The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) 


convened representatives from education, 
business, labor, and government to 
identify the skills and competencies 
that workers of the future will need "to 
encourage a high performance economy 
characterized by high-skills, high-wage 
employment." The final report, issued 
in July 1992, named five competencies 
and a three-part foundation of skills 
and personal qualities the Commission 
believed necessary for strong future job 
performance (see Figure A-l). 

Figure A.l 

The SCANS recommendations 
provide curricular and pedagogical 
frameworks for preparing students 
for adult life and pose a substantial 
challenge to the major institutions 
charged with responsibility for devel- 
oping worker competencies. The report 
distinguishes, in a commonsense way, 
the elements of being "educated" and 
then introduces a set of higher-order 
competencies necessary for successful 
participation in future economics and 

Of particular relevance to the use of 
design in schools are the five competen- 
cies identified by the National Board 
on Workplace Skills as central to the 
productive workforce of the future: 

- use and manipulation of information, 

- use and allocation of available resources, 

- use of technology, 

- understanding and use of systems, and 

- use of interpersonal skills. 

Key Worker Competencies, Skills, and Qualities Identified by Scans 

Competencies for Productive Work 

The Foundation for 
Effective Mastery and Use of Key Competencies 

Use of Resources 
Use of Information 

Interpersonal Skills 

Using Systems 
Using Technology 

Allocates time, money, materials, space, and staff to 
achieve desired ends 

Acquires and evaluates information; Organizes and 
maintains information; Interprets and communicates 
information; Uses computers to process information 

Participates as a member of a team; Teaches others; 
Serves clients/customers; Exercises leadership; 
Negotiates to arrive at a decision; Works with 
people with culturally diverse backgrounds 

Understands systems; Monitors and corrects 
performance; Improves and designs systems 

Selects technology; Applies technology to task; 
Maintains and trobleshoots technology 





Creative thinking 









Seeing things 
in the mind's eye 



Knowing how 
to learn 

Integrity /honesty 



Source: The Secrerary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, What Work Requires of Schools: A SCANS Report for America 2000 
(Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Labor). 


Many of the reasons for using design 
activities to achieve SCANS objectives 
are the same as those discussed with 
reference to Goals 2000, yet a few 
require elaboration in terms of how 
design relates to the SCANS report. 

While a literate citizenry knows 
how to interpret, judge, and act on 
information, its members also must be 
active makers of messages and able to 
manipulate information in ways that 
lead to the discovery or application 
of new knowledge. Design activities 

develop the ability to enhance and 
transform ideas through the visualiza- 
tion, manipulation, and application 
of data to problem solving. Through 
design projects, students learn to reveal 
meaning in facts, to view the same 
information from many viewpoints, and 
to expose various dimensions of data 
through alternate forms of presentation. 

While the role technology plays in 
this manipulation and application of 
data is increasingly important to work, 
so is the development of technology 

itself. Design projects encourage the 
invention of new ways of doing work 
more efficiently. Beginning with sim- 
ple projects and moving to complex 
technological solutions, design-based 
education encourages students not to 
accept the limitations of current tech- 
nology in the solution of problems. 
Instead, they should invent the means 
for doing something, as well as the 
solution itself. 

Also among the strengths of design- 
based education is student learning 
about the use and allocation of resources. 
Through design projects, students gain 
firsthand experience in closing the dis- 
tance between the resources they think 
are necessary for the very best solution 
to the problem and what they can 
afford. They learn to view objects and 
environments in terms of their total life 
cycle (from raw materials to disposal or 
reuse), increasing their awareness of the 
environmental, social, and economic 
consequences of design decisions. 
Students also learn to assess quality in 
terms of the integrity of materials and 
the processes that shape them. Finally, 
students learn about human resources 
and that the solution to a problem 
may not be physical but social. They 
discover the efficiency and effectiveness 
of teamwork and planning, as well as 
the economic value of processes such as 
prototyping and formative evaluation. 


Voluntary National Content 
and Performance Standards 

the third major initiative for U.S. 
national education reform in the early 
to mid-1990s was the development of a 
coordinated effort to articulate curricu- 
lar expectations for core subjects in the 
schools. Following the announcement 
of national education goals by 
the governors and the White House in 
1989, a working group of governors 
recommended voluntary national stan- 
dards as a yardstick against which to 
measure achievement. In response, 
Congress established a special council 
to examine expert opinion regarding 
appropriate high-level standards of 
achievement in various disciplines. The 
intent was "to raise the ceiling for stu- 
dents who are currently above average 
and to lift the floor for those who now 
experience the least success in school, 
including those with special needs" 
(The National Council on Education 
Standards and Testing 1992). 

The National Council of Teachers 
of Mathematics published its suggested 
standards for mathematics in 1988. 
Based in part on the conclusions and 
recommendations of the report of the 
National Council on Education Standards 
and Testing, the U.S. Department of 
Education solicited proposals and 
awarded grants for standard-setting 
projects in a number of core subjects. 
Voluntary national standards in the arts 
(dance, music, theatre, and the visual 

arts) were completed and disseminated 
in early 1994, followed by voluntary 
standards in U.S. and world history, 
geography, civics and government, 
science, and English/language arts. 

The standards describe what every 
American student should know and be 
able to do in various disciplines, repre- 
senting "a common vision of competence 
and educational effectiveness . . . not how 
those results ought to be delivered" 
(Consortium of National Arts Education 
Associations 1994, p. 12). Through a 
consensus process, organizations charged 
with developing standards articulated 
content and achievement standards for 
students at grades 4, 8, and 12. While 
developers of the National Standards for 
Arts Education made efforts to include 
design, the work of other disciplines 
also reflects competencies that can be 
achieved through design-based strate- 
gies and teaching attitudes that are 
consistent with a design approach. 

As the voluntary standards in the 
core subjects of the National Education 
Goals emerge, as well as the expecta- 
tions they convey for what students 
should know and are able to do, they 
must inform the design and implemen- 
tation of assessments. The means for 
gauging our progress as a nation toward 
achieving these high expectations in 
core subjects is through the National 
Assessment of Educational Progress 

. children [earn 



(NAEP), which is funded by Congress 
and commonly referred to as The 
Nation's Report Card. NAEP periodi- 
cally assesses students in grades 4, 8, 
and 12 in the core subject areas listed 
in the National Education Goals. The 
National Assessment of Educational 
Progress in the Arts, scheduled for 
1997, is one of the first NAEP subject 
assessments to be based on the volun- 
tary national standards and to use 
performance-based projects in visual art 
and design. The next comprehensive 
NAEP assessment in the arts is sched- 
uled for 2007. 

National reform efforts reflect gov- 
ernment and industry concern that 
our schools view their decisions about 
instruction and curriculum within the 
context of the society in which students 
will perform as adults. They also 
acknowledge that emphasis must shift 
from acquiring discrete facts to learning 
processes that help people succeed 
within an environment characterized 
by a rapidly changing knowledge base. 
While the preceding initiatives focus 
on what children learn, others look for 
greater understanding of how they learn. 


New Performance Standards 
in Applied Learning 

J J how good 

is good enough? 


students should know and be able to 
do'; petfotmance standatds go the next 
step to specify 'how good is good 
enough'" (National Center on Educa- 
tion and the Economy [NCEE] and the 
University of Pittsbutgh 1997, p. 3). 
Unlike discipline-specific standards, 
the performance standards in applied 
learning focus on "connecting the work 
students do in school with the demands 
of the twenty-first century workplace . . . 
on the capabilities people need to be 
productive members of society, as 
individuals who apply the knowledge . 
gained in school and elsewhere to ana- 
lyze problems and propose solutions, to 
communicate effectively and coordinate 
action with others, and to use the tools 
of the information age in the work- 
place" (NCEE 1997, p. 5). 

By drawing attention to distinct 
performance standards for applied 
learning, the authors establish a 
"domain for assessment and reporting 
student achievement" (NCEE 1997, p. 
112). Assessing students' performance 
in applied learning is not an appeal for 
a new subject in American classrooms, 
but acknowledgment that such areas 
of competence apply to all subjects and 
within the context of cross-curricular 
learning experiences. 

Problem solving is a primary con- 
cern of the standards. The performance 

description focuses on productive 
activity and three kinds of problem 
solving. Middle school students must 
conduct projects in at least two of the 

- Design a product, service, or system in 
which the student identifies needs that 
could be met by new products, services, 
or systems and creates solutions for 
meeting them; 

- Improve a system in which the student 
develops an understanding of the way 
systems of people, machines, and 
processes work; troubleshoots problems 
in their operation and devises strategies 
for improving their effectiveness; 

- Plan and organize an event or activity in 
which the student takes responsibility for 
all aspects of planning and organizing 
an event or an activity from concept to 
completion (NCEE 1997, p. 112). 

Standards related to "tools and tech- 
niques" center on the problem-solving 
standard and are "only meaningful 
when considered in the context of work 
that has a genuine purpose and audience" 
and "put to use in an integrated way" 
(NCEE 1997, p. 112). The standards 
calling for students to make effective 
use of information technology and to 
present project plans or results to audi- 
ences beyond the school overlap with 
other areas of competence. However, in 
all cases, evidence of achievement in 
these standards must be concrete and 
demonstrated through a work product. 



Assessment activities aimed at evalu- 
ating student mastery of the performance 
standards bear striking resemblance to 
design projects mentioned earlier in this 
book. Designing and building a wheel- 
chair access ramp, conducting an energy 
audit of the classroom and developing 
procedures for reducing waste, designing 
and conducting a community survey to 
inform local city or county council 
decisions about the future use of a 
community-owned building, and pub- 
lishing a brochure advertising the 
school for new students are consistent 
with the activities developed by teachers 
identified through this study. 

In the 1995-96 testing of applied 
learning portfolios, however, developers 
found most of the teachers and students 
in the 50 middle school test classrooms 
had no prior experience with such pro- 
jects. Yet the development of assessment 
systems have a powerful effect on 
teaching practices and curricula in the 
United States. Assessments signal what 
society values in education and provide 
a means for describing the achievement 
of goals, effectiveness of practices, and 
relevance of outcomes. As future assess- 
ment strategies, whether at national, 
state, or local levels, value the knowledge 
and skills developed through design 
experiences, it is hoped that more 
teachers will apply design-based 
approaches in their classrooms. 

Consortium of National Arts 
Education Associations. (1994). 
National Standards for Arts 
Education. Reston, Virginia: 
Music Educators National 

Massell D., Fuhrman S., Kirst, M., 
Odden, A., Wohlstetter P., 
Carver, R., and Yee, G. (1993). 
Ten Years of State Education 
Reform, 1983-1993. New 
Brunswick, New Jersey: 
Consortium for Policy Research 
in Education. 

National Assessment Governing 
Board. (1994). NAEP Arts 
Education Consensus Project, Arts 
Education Assessment Framework 
(Pre-publication edition). 
Washington, D.C.: The Chief 
State School Officers with the 
College Board and the Council 
for Basic Education. 

National Center on Education and 
the Economy and the University 
of Pittsburgh. (1997). 
Performance Standards, Volume 2, 
Middle School. Washington, 
D.C.: National Center on 
Education and the Economy. 

National Commission on Excellence 
in Education. (1983). A Nation 
at Risk: The Imperative for 
Educational Reform. Washington, 
D.C.: National Commission on 
Excellence in Education. 

The National Council on Education 
Standards and Testing. (1992). 
Raising Standards for American 
Education. Washington, D.C.: 
Superintendent of Documents 
and Government Printing 

National Council of Teachers of 
Mathematics. (1989). Curriculum 
and Evaluation Standards for 
School Mathematics. Washington, 
D.C.: Working Groups of the 
Commission on Standards for 
School Mathematics of the 
National Council of Teachers 
of Mathematics. 

National Endowment for the Arts. 
(1994). Goals 2000: Opportunities 
for the Arts. Washington, D.C.: 
National Endowment for the 
Arts, U.S. Department of 
Education, and National 
Assembly of State Arts Agencies. 

The Secretary's Commission on 
Achieving Necessary Skills. 
(1991). What Work Requires of 
Schools: A SCANS Report for 
America 2000. Washington, 
D.C.: U.S. Department of Labor. 

United States Department of Labor. 
(1992). Skills and Tasks for Jobs, 
A SCANS Report for America 
2000. Washington, D.C.: United 
States Department of Labor. 

United States Department of Labor, 
Employment and Training 
Administration. (1987). 
Workforce 2000: Work and 
Workers for the 21st Century. 
Washington, D.C.: prepared by 
the Hudson Institute for the 
Department of Labor, 
Superintendent of Documents. 


Appendix B 


Information and Assistance 

there is no single source in the 
United States for information or 
assistance on the uses of design 
in elementary and secondary educa- 
tion. Just as many different elements — 
products, graphic communications, 
buildings, landscapes, and urban plan- 
ning — go together to create the designed 
environment, so too do many different 
individuals and institutions constitute 
the web of allies upon which educators 
can draw. 

At the most personal level, teachers 
in communities large and small usually 
can find design professionals who stud- 
ied one or another of the disciplines 
mentioned above. Graphic designers, 
for example, may work for advertising 
agencies, publishers, corporate and uni- 
versity communications departments, 

or in their own design firms. Planners, 
architects, and landscape architects may 
work for city and county governments, 
real estate development companies, 
conservation organizations, or in their 
own firms. Many design professionals 
are eager to help young people explore 
the many dimensions of design all 
around them and experience the excite- 
ment of creating new forms. While 
such professionals may be able to assist 
in integrating design topics and activi- 
ties into the curriculum, they may also 
need some instruction themselves about 
the teacher's content and assessment 
objectives and about the abilities of 
children at various stages of cognitive 
and social development. 

Beyond the level of individuals, 
many communities in the United 

States have nonprofit organizations and 
institutions with expertise in design 
and an educational mission that includes 
working with elementary and secondary 
schools. Among these may be local or 
state chapters of professional design 
associations, schools of design, museums, 
and various nonprofit organizations dedi- 
cated to raising awareness about cultural 
heritage or environmental design quality. 

In many cities and counties there 
may be a historic preservation organi- 
zation with education staff or trained 
volunteers who can help students explore 
the evolution of their own community, 
its buildings, and surrounding land- 
scape. While some programs focus 
specifically on understanding how con- 
struction techniques and architectural 
styles changed over time, others engage 


young people in the examination of 
contemporary planning, design, and 
preservation issues in both town and 
countryside. Similarly, local environ- 
mental groups and nature centers may 
be sources of information and activities 
enabling students to explore the many 
connections between natural resource 
issues and the design of products and 

Serving larger cities and metropoli- 
tan regions there may be additional 
institutions with information and 
educational expertise in one or more 
aspects of design. Many children's 
museums and science and technology 
centers, for example, have interactive 
exhibits on such subjects as architec- 
ture and engineering, product design, 
and graphic design in print and 
electronic forms. Art museums and 
history museums may have collections 
encompassing one or more of the design 
disciplines. In addition to their on-site 
resources, many of these institutions may 
have outreach programs specifically 
tailored to K-12 schools, including 
inservice workshops for teachers, 
curriculum units for classroom use, and 
periodic in-school learning activities. At 
a minimum, the education staff at such 
museums are good sources of informa- 
tion about other organizations that can 
assist teachers interested in developing 
more expertise in using design. 

At the national level, there are a few 
non-profit institutions and organiza- 
tions specifically devoted to advancing 
the use of design in elementary and 
secondary schools. Many of these have 
newsletters, publish or distribute cur- 
riculum materials, and conduct teacher 
education. Other organizations may 
focus primarily on reaching and edu- 
cating leaders in business and govern- 
ment about the importance of design 
to the nation's economy and the quality 
of life in its communities. These groups 
also may have materials that teachers 
can use with secondary school students 
or adapt for younger grades. 

Each of the design disciplines has 
one or more national organizations. 
At a minimum they distribute general 
information about their field, career 
opportunities, and accredited colleges 
and universities. Many have publica- 
tion catalogs or bookstores that carry 
print and audio-visual materials on 
design topics for a general audience, 
as well as more technical materials 
for design professionals. Increasingly, 
national design organizations reach 
out to young people in both formal 
and informal educational settings. 
Some include print and audio-visual 
materials specifically for children in 
their catalogs. A few have taken the 
next step by carrying curriculum mate- 
rials for K-12 teachers or by working 

with educators to develop new materi- 
als for classroom use. 

While national design organizations 
may encourage their state and local 
affiliates to work with elementary and 
secondary schools, such programs are 
usually at the discretion of individual 
chapters or members. State and local 
chapters, or components, of the 
American Institute of Architects have 
been particularly active in establishing 
on-going programs to assist teachers 
in many parts of the country. Often 
these are administered by a separate 
non-profit organization or "foundation" 
established by the chapter to carry out 
public awareness-raising activities and 
more formal educational programs. 

In addition to institutions with 
expertise in one or more of the design 
fields, organizations dedicated to 
design in K-12 education, and the 
design professions themselves, there 
are a myriad of professional education 
groups whose interests overlap design 
to one degree or another. As this book 
has shown, teachers in every academic 
area and at every grade level have found 
that the use of design benefits their 
practice and their students' learning. 
While few education organizations 
have specific programs devoted to 
design, they may have staff expertise, 
materials, and inservice opportunities 
in one or more related areas, such as 


project-based learning, performance 
assessment, or school-to-work transi- 
tion, that teachers using design 
within a single discipline or in an 
interdisciplinary program might 
find useful. 

The following list, while selective, 
attempts to encompass the wide 
range of organizations to which 
teachers can turn for information, 
assistance, or simply just for com- 
munication with their colleagues 
about various aspects of design in 
K-12 education. As that dialogue 
increases across discipline boundaries, 
grade levels, and even international 
borders, it will undoubtedly stimu- 
late new approaches to the use of 
design across the curriculum, 
innovative collaborations, and 
ultimately excellent practice in 
America's classrooms. 

Sources in the United 

American Center for Design 

325 W. Huron Street, Suite 711 

Chicago, IL 60610 




American Association for the 

Advancement of Science, Project 2061 

1333 H Street, NW 

Washington, DC 20005 


American Institute of Architects 

and American Architectural Foundation 

(Learning by Design Program) 

1735 New York Avenue, NW 

Washington, DC 20006 


American Institute of Graphic Arts 

164 Fifth Avenue 

New York, NY 10010 


fax: 212-807-1799 


American Planning Association 
122 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1600 
Chicago, IL 60603 
fax: 312-431-9985 

American Society of Interior Designers 
608 Massachusetts Avenue, NE 
Washington, DC 20002-6006 

American Society of Landscape Architects 

636 Eye Street, NW 

Washington, DC 20001 



A National Arts Education 

Information Network 


Association of Science 

and Technology Centers 

1025 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 500 

Washington, DC 20005 


Association for Supervision and 
Curriculum Development 
1250 North Pitt Street 
Alexandria, VA 22314-1453 
703-549-91 10 or 1-800-933-2723 

Building Connections 

730 E. Three Fountains Dtive #84 

Murray, UT 84107-5250 


Building Environmental 
Education Solutions, Inc. 
685 College Road East 
Princeton, NJ 08543-7201 

Center for City Building Education 

2118 Wilshire Boulevard #303 

Santa Monica, CA 90403 




Center for Civic Education 
5 146 Douglas Fir Road 
Calabasas, CA 91302-1467 
fax: 818-591-9330 

Center for Understanding 
the Built Environment 
5328 W 67th Street 
Prairie Village, KS 66208 
fax: 913-262-8546 

Chicago Architecture Foundation 
224 S. Michigan Avenue 
Chicago, IL 60604-2507 
fax: 312-922-0481 

Connecticut Architecture Foundation, 

Architecture Resource Center 

87 Willow Street 

New Haven, CT 065 11 


fax: 203-562-5378 

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design 
Museum, Smithsonian Institution 
2 E. 91st Street 
New York, NY 10128 
Education Department: 
fax: 212-860-6909 .edu/ndm 


Corporate Design Foundation 


20 Park Plaza, Suite 321 

Boston, MA 02116 




Design Based Education K-12 
University of the Arts 
Art Education Department 
320 S. Broad Street, 
Philadelphia, PA 19102 
fax: 215-875-5467 

Design Management Institute 

29 Temple Place 

Boston, MA 02111-1350 


fax: 617-338-6570 


Getty Education Institute for the Arts 
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 600 
Los Angeles, CA 90049-1683 
fax: 310-440-7704 

Goals 2000 Arts Education Partnership 
One Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 700 
Washington, DC 20001-1431 

Foundation for Architecture, Architecture 

in Education Program 

1617 JFK Boulevard, Suite 1165 

Philadelphia, PA 19103 


fax: 215-569-4688 


The Holmes Partnership 

101 Willard Hall, Education Building 

University of Delaware 

Newark, DE 19716 


fax: 302-831-3013 

Industrial Designers Society of America 

1 142 Walker Road, Suite E 

Great Falls, VA 22066 


fax: 703-759-7679 


Institute for Research on Learning 

66 Willow Place 

Menlo Park, CA 94025-3601 



International Technology Education 


1914 Association Drive 

Reston, VA 20191-1539 


fax: 703-860-0353 


Kennedy Center Alliance for Art 
Education Network 
John F. Kennedy Center 
Education Department 
Washingron, DC 20566-0001 
fax: 202-416-8802 

National Art Education Association 
1916 Association Drive 
Reston, VA 20191-1590 

National Association for 

Community Education 

3929 Old Lee Highway, Suite 91 -A 

Fairfax, VA 22030-2401 


fax: 703-359-0972 

National Building Museum 
401 F Street, NW 
Washington, DC 20001 

National Center for Improving 

Science Education 

2000 L Street, NW, Suite 603 

Washington, DC 20036 


fax: 202-467-0659 


National Center on Education 

and the Economy 

New Standards 

700 1 1th Street, NW, Suite 750 

Washington, DC 20001 


fax: 202-783-3672 


National Council for Geographic 


1 6-A Leonard Hall 

Indiana University of Pennsylvania 

Indiana, PA 15705-1087 


National Council for the Social Studies 
3501 Newark Street, NW 
Washington, DC 20016 

National Council of Teachers of English 

1111 West Kenyon Road 

Urbana, IL 61801 


National Council of 
Teachers of Mathematics 
1906 Association Drive 
Reston, VA 20191-1593 

National Endowment for the Arts, 

Education and Access Division 

1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 702 

Washington, DC 20506 


fax: 202-682-5002 or 5612 

National Science Teachers Association 

1840 Wilson Boulevard 

Arlington, VA 22201 


National Trust for Historic Preservation 

1785 Massachusetts Avenue, NW 

Washington, DC 20036 



North American Association for 
Environmental Education 
1255 23rd Streer, NW, Suire 400 
Washington, DC 20037 
fax: 202-884-8701 


Package Design Council 
481 Carlisle Drive 
Herndon, VA 20170 
fax: 703-318-0310 

President's Council on 
Sustainable Development 
730 Jackson Place, NW 
Washington, DC 20503 
fax: 202-408-6839 

Project UPDATE and TIES Magazine 
Department of Technological Studies 
The College of New Jersey 
103 Armstrong Hall 
Trenton, NJ 08650-4700 
fax: 609-771-3330 

Quill and Scroll Society 

School of Journalism and Mass 


University of Iowa 

Iowa City, IA 52242 



Salvadori Educational Center on the Built 

Environment CCNY 

138th St. and Convent Avenue, Room 202 

New York, NY 10031 


fax: 212-650-5546 

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards 
(design awards) 

Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, Inc. 

555 Broadway 

New York, NY 10012-3999 


fax: 212-343-6484 

School Zone Institute, College of 
Architecture and Planning 
University of New Mexico 
2414 Central, SE 
Albuquerque, NM 87131 

Second Nature 

44 Bromfield Street, 5th Floor 

Bosron, MA 02108 



SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group 
on Computer Graphics) 

Association for Computing Machinery 
1515 Broadway 
New York, NY 10036 

Society for Environmental Graphic Design 

401 F Street, NW, Suite 333 

Washington, DC 20001 


fax: 202-638-0891 


Society of Newspaper Design 
129 Dyer Street 
Providence, RI 02903 

Urban Land Institute 

1025 Thomas Jefferson Street, NW 

Suite 500 West 

Washington, DC 20007-5201 


fax: 202-624-7140 

The Urban Network, College of 
Architecture & Urban Planning 
3021 Art & Architecture Building 
University of Michigan 
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2069 
fax: 313-763-2322 

Ventures in Education (Architectural 

Youth Program) 

245 Fifth Avenue, Suite 802 

New York, NY 10016 


fax: 212-696-5726 

Worldesign Foundation 
186 W 80th Street 
New York, NY 10024 
fax: 212-769-9954 

Other Sources 

Design and Technology Association 

(Journal of Design and Technology) 

16 Wellesbourne House, 

Walton Road Wellesbourne, Warwickshire 

CV35 9JB, England 


fax: 1789-841-955 


Design Dimension Educational Ttust 

Dean Clough, Halifax HX3 5AX England 


fax: 1422-341-148 


Goldsmiths College, University of London 

Design Studies Department, 

Technology Education Research Unit 

1 3 Laurie Grove, New Cross 

London SE 14 6NH 



IDATER, International Conference 
on Design and Technology Educational 
Research and Curriculum Development 
(see address for Loughborough University below) 


fax: 1509-223-999 


International Institute 
for Information Design 
Joergersrrasse 22/2 
A/1170 Vienna, Austria 
fax: 43-1-408-8347 

Loughborough University 

Department of Design and Technology 

Loughborough, Leicestershire 

LEU 3TU, England 


fax: 1509-223-999 



Appendix C 


Cited in this Study 

Atwood-Tapleq School Oakland, Maine* 
Banksville Gifted Cencer Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania * 
Beacon Heights Elementary School Salt Lake City, Utah 
Beaver Acres School Beaverton, Oregon * 
BEES, Inc. Schools New Jersey 

Granville Academy 

Hun School 

Hunterdon Central Regional High School 

Trenton Central High School 
Bogle Junior High School Chandler, Arizona 
Cape Henlopen High School Lewes, Delaware * 
Crossroads High School Santa Monica, California * 
Daniel Webster Magnet School New Rochelle, New York * 
Derby Middle School Birmingham, Michigan 
Dranesville Elementary School Herndon, Virginia** 
Dyker Heights Intermediate School Brooklyn, New York** 
Eagle Ridge Junior High School Savage, Minnesota * 
El Modena High School Orange, California* 
Epiphany School Seattle, Washington** 
Ethical Culture School New York, New York* 
Fillmore Central School Fillmore, New York* 
Gaithersburg Intermediate School Gaithersburg, Maryland* 
Glasgow High School Newark, Delaware* 
Greenwich High School Greenwich, Connecticut 
Haggard Middle School Piano, Texas 
Hawthorne Elementary School Madison, Wisconsin* 
Hawthorne Elementary School Salt Lake City, Utah 
Hillside High School Durham, North Carolina 

Holland Christian Middle School Holland, Michigan * 

Institute for Research on Learning Menlo Park, California** 

Lakeview High School Columbus, Nebraska 

Lincoln High School Philadelphia, Pennsylvania* 

Locust Valley Intermediate School Locust Valley, New York * 

Louis Armstrong Middle School East Elmhurst, New York * 

Marlton Middle School Marlton, New Jersey * 

Meadowthorpe Elementary School Lexington, Kentucky** 

Oak Harbor High School Oak Harbor, Ohio* 

Open Charter Magnet School Los Angeles, California** 

Public School 145 New York, New York* 

Rice Lake Middle School Rice Lake, Wisconsin* 

Sam Houston High School Lake Charles, Louisiana * 

San Jose Middle School Novato, California** 

Sequoyah Middle School Broken Arrow, Oklahoma* 

Simsbury High School Simsbury, Connecticut* 

Smoky Hill High School Aurora. Colorado** 

Soledad Canyon Elementary School Canyon Country, California * 

Special Education Learning Center Hartford, Connecticut* 

Stilwell Elementary School Kansas City, Kansas* 

Tippecanoe Elementary School for the Humanities Milwaukee, Wisconsin** 

Union Grove High School Union Grove, Wisconsin * 

Warren County Middle School Warren County, North Carolina 

Willamette Primary School West Linn, Oregon** 

Willis Intermediate School Delaware, Ohio** 

* Respondents to Endowment survey 

** Respondents to Endowment survey and site-visit school 






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We are grateful to the following 
for providing the photography and 
artwork that appears throughout 
this book. We regret that we were 
unable to publish all of the excellent 
artwork we received from the many 
outstanding educators participating 
in this project. 

Penny Archibald-Stone, Autodesk, 
Brochocka Baynes, Teresa F. Bettac, 
Lisa Bloomfield, Pauline Bottrill, 
Steve Brady, Patrick Buechner, Shirl 
Buss, Pamela Carunchio, Chicago 
Architecture Foundation, Cooper- 
Hewitt National Design Museum, 
Meredith Davis, Susan Dunn, Pete 
Ellenzweig, Wendy Fein, Will Fowler, 
Manette Gampel, Ania Greiner, Katie 
Mead Griffiths, Michael Hacker, Peter 
Hiller, Historic Landmarks Foundation 
of Indiana, Paul Hobson, K. Holtgraves, 
Patricia Hutchinson, Daniel Iacofano, 
Richard Igneri, Hettie Jordan- Vilanova, 
Mary Ann Keith, KIDS Consortium, 
James J. Kirkwood, Stephan Knobloch, 
Janice Leonetti, Maxis Software, Robin 
Moore, Doreen Nelson, Julie Olsen, 
Lynn Olson, Dolores Patron, Brenda 
Peters, Julie Ritter, Marvin Rosenblum, 
Jan Rothschild, Anna Sanko, Mark 
Sokol, Suzanne R. Stanis, Jane Stickney, 
Jan Striefel, Joseph Sweeney, Anne 
Taylor, Catherine Teegarden, Terry 
Thode, Ann Tucker, Ventures in 
Education, Inc., Yu-Wen Wang, Paula 
White, Lorraine Whitman, Val 
Wiebeck, Karen Wintress. 


About the Authors 

Meredith Davis is Professor of 
Graphic Design at North Carolina 
State University where she teaches 
graduate courses on design and cogni- 
tion. She is also an author, lecturer, 
and consultant on the relationship 
between design and K-12 education. 
Davis holds an M.F.A. from Cranbrook 
Academy of Art and a B.S. and M.Ed, 
in art education from Pennsylvania 
State University. 

Peter Hawley develops public 
education and partnership projects 
at the American Planning Association 
in Washington, D.C. Previously, he 
directed a number of education initia- 
tives at the Design Program of the 
National Endowment for the Arts, 
including Design as a Catalyst for 
Learning. Hawley holds a master's 
degree in education from the University 
of Massachusetts, a master's degree 
in historic preservation from the 
University of Vermont and an under- 
graduate degree in history from 
Princeton University. 

Bernard J. McMullan, Ph.D. has 

more than 1 5 years experience in the 
design and assessment of educational 
reform strategies with a focus on study- 
ing institutional change collaborations 
at the secondary and post-secondary 
levels. He has worked with the National 
Endowment for the Arts and the 
Mississippi Arts Commission assessing 
the educational benefits of arts-infused 
education on student achievement and 
school improvement. 

Gertrude J. Spilka is Associate 
Director of the OMG Center for 
Collaborative Learning in Philadelphia 
where she has directed several research 
projects that explore the role of the arts 
in education reform. She is currently 
directing an assessment of ArtsEdge, 
a Web site sponsored by the John F. 
Kennedy Center for the Performing 
Arts, the National Endowment for 
the Arts, and the U.S. Department of 
Education to disseminate information 
to advance arts education and education 
reform objectives. 


About the NEA 

The National Endowment for 
the Arts 

Established by Congress in 1965, 
the National Endowment for the Arts 
is an independent agency of the federal 
government. The Endowment's mission 
is to foster the excellence, diversity, and 
vitality of the arts in the United States, 
and to broaden public access to the arts. 

The Endowment carries out that 
mission through grants, leadership 
initiatives, partnership agreements 
with state and regional organizations, 
partnerships with other federal agencies 
and the private sector, research, arts 
education, access programs, and advocacy. 

Since 1996, the Arts Endowment 
has considered applications and 
proposals from eligible individuals and 
organizations in four ways: grants to 
organizations, grants to individuals, 
partnership agreements, and leadership 
initiatives. Grants to organizations 
include four categories: Heritage and 
Preservation, Education and Access, 
Creation and Presentation, and Planning 
and Stabilization. Applications are 
reviewed by rotating groups of arts 
experts including professional artists, 
arts educators, arts administrators, and 
knowledgeable laypersons. 

For more information, visit the 
Endowment online at http://www.arts or call 202/682-5400. 

The Endowment and Arts 

Almost from its inception, the Arts 
Endowment has encouraged and suppor- 
ted efforts to increase opportunities in 
and improve the quality of arts education 
for America's children, youth, and adults. 
Since 1988, when the Endowment 
published the landmark report on the 
status of American arts education, 
Toward Civilization, the agency has 
been particularly committed to making 
the arts a part of the basic education of 
every student in grades K to 12. 

At the national level, the Arts 
Endowment in recent years has supported 
the development of the National 
Standards for Arts Education, and the 
1997 National Assessment of Educational 
Progress (better known as NAEP or the 
Nation's Report Card) Arts Assessment. 
In cooperation with the U.S. Department 
of Education, the Endowment has 
supported the Goals 2000 Arts Education 
Partnership, which is comprised of 
more than 100 national organizations 
from the education, arts, business, and 
government sectors working to ensure a 
vital role for the arts in state-and local- 
level educational improvement. For 
information about the Partnership, call 
202/326-8693 or visit the Partnership 
online at http://artsedge.kennedy-center. 
org/aep/aep.html/ . 

To increase access to information 
about arts teaching and learning, the 
Arts Endowment, in partnership with 
the Department of Education, supports 
ArtsEdge, an electronic network 
sponsored by the John F. Kennedy 
Center for the Performing Arts. Arts- 
Edge services include arts education 
news, a Search Lab for access to docu- 
ments, directories, and resources; and a 
Curriculum Studio designed to provide 
teachers and artist-educators with 
examples of innovative programs and 
practices. For more information, visit 
online at http://artsedge.kennedy-center 
.org/ or call 202/416-8871. 


About ASCD 


Founded in 1943, the Association 
for Supervision and Curriculum 
Development is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 
education association, with international 
headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. 
ASCD's mission statement: ASCD, a 
diverse, international community of educators, 
forging covenants in teaching and learning 
for the success of all learners. 

Membership in ASCD includes a 
subscription to the award-winning 
journal Educational Leadership; two 
newsletters, Education Update and 
Curriculum Update; and other products 
and services. ASCD sponsors affiliate 
organizations in many states and inter- 
national locations; participates 
in collaborations and networks; holds 
conferences, institutes, and training 
programs; produces publications in a 
variety of media; sponsors recognition 
and awards programs; and provides 
research information on education 

ASCD provides many services to 
educators — pre-kindergarten through 
grade 12 — as well as to others in the 
education community, including parents, 
school board members, administrators, 
and university professors and students. 
For more information, contact ASCD 
via telephone: 1-800-933-2723 or 
703-549-9110; fax: 703-299-8631; or 

e-mail: Or write to 
ASCD, Information Services, 1250 N. 
Pitt St., Alexandria, VA 22314-1453 
USA. You can find ASCD on the World 
Wide Web at 

ASCD's Executive Director is Gene 
R. Carter. 

1997-98 ASCD Executive Council 

President: Edward Hall, Dean, Division 
of Social and Professional Studies, 
Talladega College, Talladega, 

President-Elect: Thomas Budnik, 

Heartland Area Education Agency, 
Johnston, Iowa 

Immediate Past President: Frances 

Faircloth Jones, Executive Director, 
Piedmont Triad Educational 
Consortium, University of North 
Carolina, Greensboro, North 

M. Kay Await, Associate 

Superintendent, Franklin Special 
School District, Franklin, Tennessee 

Bonnie Benesh, Change Consultant, 
Newton, Iowa 

Bettye Bobroff, Executive Director, 
New Mexico ASCD, Albuquerque, 
New Mexico 

Marge Chow, Director, Master in 
Teaching, City University, Renton, 

John Cooper, Assistant Superintendent 
for Instruction, Canandaigua City 
School District, Canandaigua, 
New York 

Michael Dzwiniel, Teacher, Edmonton 
Public Schools, Alberta, Canada 

LeRoy Hay, Assistant Superintendent 
for Instruction, Wallingford Public 
Schools, Wallingford, Connecticut 

Joanna Choi Kalbus, Lecturer in 

Education, University of California 
at Riverside, California 

Raymond McNulty, Superintendent 
of Schools, Windham Southeast 
Supervisory Union, Brattleboro, 

Judy Stevens, Executive Director of 
Elementary Education, Spring 
Branch Independent School District, 
Houston, Texas 

Sherrelle J. Walker, Assistant 

Superintendent, Federal Way School 
District, Federal Way, Washington 

Robert L. Watson, High School 

Principal, Spearfish 40-2, Spearfish, 
South Dakota 




Ed ii i 

Design as a Catalyst for Learning 

The design process can lead to a deep under- 
standing of the abstract concepcs taught in 
schools. It puts ideas to work in situations 
that allow students to test themselves and 
the value of learning in everyday life. 

When children are engaged in the process 
of designing — a product, a building, a city 
plan, or any object — they are learning to 
identify needs, frame problems, work collabo- 
ratively, explore and appreciate solutions, 
weigh alternatives, and communicate their 
ideas verbally, graphically, and in three dimen- 
sions. With periodic self-assessment and 
critiques of work in progress, students come to 
understand that performance testing and con- 
tinual improvement are as fundamental to the 
design process as they are to lifelong learning. 

Teachers nationwide are using design as a 
problem-solving tool to integrate curriculum, 
teach thinking and communication skills, and 
encourage students to apply academic concepts 
in authentic tasks. This ground-breaking book- 
developed in cooperation with the National 
Endowment for the Arts provides an introduc- 
tion to effective design activities and strategies 
for every grade level and subject area. 



ISBN 0-a?lED-EflM-D 


9 780871"202840 I