It has been said – if your cup is half full, you are thought of as an optimist, but if your cup is half empty, you are looked upon as a pessimist. If you happen to be an engineer, perhaps you’d view the cup as twice as large as it should have been in the first place. As clearly articulated this past weekend, if you are a designer – your cup presents huge opportunities to solve a meaningful problem, one that requires identifying and sorting through endless possibilities as a path to one innovative and sustainable solution!
Design as a Methodology for Learning
On Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, the first IDSA K12 Design Education Symposium was held at the Henry Ford Academy in Dearborn, MI, where 50 highly motivated K-12 teachers, college educators, practitioners, administrators, visionaries and forward-thinking college students from across North America gathered to focus on one vital topic – the integration of creativity, problem solving and innovation within K-12 classrooms today.
As a working group of like-minded, yet diverse participants, we came together to converse, learn from one another and lay the groundwork for future K12 Design open forums. Throughout the day we heard from leading experts on topics such as what is happening in the learner’s mind, nurturing competencies to survive and thrive in the 21st century and a global perspective to connecting the dots through an open source design-learning community. We also heard from best practice presenters who shared stories of their experiences with integrating design into K-12 classrooms. We concluded the session in a design charrette – where we explored initial next steps, desired impact and overall focus of our design learning community.
As guided by our keynotes and best practice presenters, we considered the following critical question:
What level of impact might design as a methodology for teaching and learning have on 21st century student learning?
K-12 design education today represents a continuum of approaches – some offer design as a subject for students to master skills within the discipline, whereas others provide students opportunity to develop design-thinking skills as embedded in the design process.
Within our pilot symposium, we focused on a learning centered approach to K-12 design education anchored in research-based pedagogy that is scalable and sustainable within any classroom across the nation – regardless of infrastructure, curriculum or funding. Our goal is to offer effective design learning best practice opportunities for K12 educators to deliver that are doable and accessible. To that end, we engaged in a process to unpack vital connections to how designers learn, process and sort through vast amounts of information as they create and implement innovative solutions to problems worth solving.
An evaluation survey of our participants is now being conducted to gather valuable feedback and input regarding future directions and events to take place. Furthermore, early plans are in place for the 2013 K12 Design Education Symposium where everyone will be invited to participate from around the nation.
IDSA Design Learning Challenge 2013
The IDSA K12 Design Education Initiative – Design Learning Challenge 2013 offers a design-learning framework available to all K12 educators and their students as a way to engage in and benefit from design as a method to Learn.Think.Do. As evidence of impact, the following snippet was authored by a seasoned K-12 educator and participant of the IDSA Design Learning Challenge 2012:
“…I participated in this year's Design Learning Challenge and found that my students learned far more through their participation than I could have achieved with my own lessons and units on design. Additionally, based upon our own learning, my colleagues and I are redesigning our own design curriculum based upon the work we did… Thus, our participation amounted to a type of professional development, perhaps the best experience I've ever had towards that end...”
The Design Learning Challenge 2013 intentionally links the Common Core State Standards to design learning projects based on targeted criteria for authentic assessment to ensure greater chances for successful integration. The framework is purposefully designed to support a variety of curriculum-embedded challenges to engage the greatest number of students in content areas. This years’ theme invites students to study a topic of high interest to them with active opportunities to practice essential 21st century skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and collaborative inquiry.
As facilitated by their teacher, K-12 students will conduct a human-centered action research project aimed at creating meaningful change. During the project, students will:
- Select one topic of high interest to study among local problems (or issues) within their environment
- Create and implement a plan of action
- Report on findings, effectiveness of decisions and resulting impact
- Consider new questions to explore based on what they have learned
With the generous support from our Partners: The Henry Ford, Henry Ford Academy, Henry Ford Learning Institute and the National Art Education Association; Sponsors and Supporters: Ballay Family Fund, The Pittsburgh Foundation, Autodesk, Stratasys and IDSA’s Michigan Chapter, this pilot symposium was complementary and provided a stipend for those who traveled a great distance to participate.
As we move ahead with the IDSA K12 Design Education Initiative, we depend on continued donations and support – your contributions are welcomed and greatly appreciated! For more information, please contact Doris Wells-Papanek, MEd, IDSA, at firstname.lastname@example.org.