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Our Philosophy

Design Pedagogy

Design Pedagogy is a purposeful educational methods approach to learning that centers on the process of Design. With design pedagogy, both teachers and students are asked to think as designers.  Design pedagogy establishes highly effective learning environments for students, and highly effective teaching methodologies for teachers.  For example, a “teacher as a designer” looks at the teaching and learning process as a dynamic continuous improvement “design” process. Design pedagogy has strong connections to the T&E components of STEM since they center on design, but there are also strong connections to science and mathematics since these are critical skills in effective design.  These STEM connections through design are also apparent in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which directly include engineering.  However, design can also be very effective educational method in non-STEM subjects since knowledge and skills in these content areas also strongly influence design quality.

Integrative Content

Integrative content represents an approach to teaching and learning rooted in purposefully applying content across a spectrum of disciplines, often in the context of integrative, and authentic, engineering design experiences.  The need for integrative content is a response to the recognition of the “silo” approach to teaching content, where content areas are taught in isolation of one another.  In authentic environments, effective solutions often require knowledge and skills from multiple content areas. Integrative STEM education programs are the means by which the intended outcomes of the STEM education can be attained.  Authentic and integrative design experiences are also effective in forming strong connections between school and community (an example being Place-based learning).

Authentic Experiences

Classroom learning experiences are intended to be a reflection of lasting knowledge and useful skills.  New understandings and abilities are most practical when they can be translated to a wide variety of new and unique contexts.  Most importantly, these contexts should be authentic and relate to the skills, experience, and interests of students, and potential future applications.  Through engaging in integrative design experiences, these connections are made explicit. Authentic experiences lead to deeper levels of cognition and learning, that sometimes cannot be achieved through traditional “book learning”.

Student Engagement

At the heart of all learning is establishing connections between what students already know and the world around them to contextualize information and aide in developing new knowledge and skills.  The simplest way to ensure adequate exposure to content that allows the students to make necessary connections to their world is a through immersion, both mental and physical.  Engaging students in design-based experiences requires more active than passive engagement, enabling learning to be accomplished in a manner most consistent with a variety of learning styles.

Creative Problem Solving

Creativity is at the heart of what drives innovation, and design has strong and obvious connections to creativity. At the intersection of design and integrative content is the engineering design process.  By merging meaningful content learning with design applications, the benefits of pure creativity and deep exploration of content can be leveraged to create lasting learning experiences, resulting in effective and creative problem-solvers, certainly important skills for life-long learners and “21st-Century skills.”

Global and Social Awareness

In the 21st century, humans designed products and systems.  How we operate in, around, and with them both personally and collectively is one of the largest determinant factors on natural systems, quality of life, and general well-being.  Immersion in design experiences can expose and connect students to larger social and physical networks, as well as their local, regional and global communities, requiring consideration of individuals, groups, values, cultures, customs, and needs.

Innovation and Optimism

Optimism has direct and strong links to both engineering and creativity. Engineers (“problem-solvers”) are inherently optimistic in understanding that problems can be solved. Similarly, innovative persons tend to be optimistic.  Innovation and optimism may not show up in many standards but are critical in the educational environment.  An innovative and optimistic student realizes that they can affect change, and becomes a more engaged student, and a student that has a controlling stake in their personal futures and education.

Collaboration and Communication

Design can be a personal pursuit, but more often requires extensive collaboration and communication between groups or individuals. Increasingly effective collaboration and communication directly results in more effective design processes, enabling teachers to seamlessly integrate skills-building in communication and collaboration.