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ETAP 623 Fall 2013 - Wilde

Design by Shula Ponet

Intent of Project

Using Design-Thinking and Inquiry in Teaching Literacy

The intent of this course is to show educators how to use design-thinking and inquiry-based learning in a literacy classroom.

Topics that will be covered:

  • What is design-thinking?
  • What is the design-inquiry cycle?
  • What does the design-inquiry cycle look like in practice?
  • How can educators use the design-inquiry cycle to develop curriculum?

Learning Outcomes

Learners will be able to:

  • identify examples of inquiry in the literacy classroom. (Verbal and Intellectual Skill)
  • identify definitions and examples of design thinking. (Verbal and Intellectual Skill)
  • apply the design-inquiry process to formulate literacy curriculum. (Intellectual and Cognitive Strategy)
  • list the steps of the design-inquiry process. (Verbal and Intellectual Skill)
  • choose to use inquiry-based learning in their literacy teaching. (Attitude)

Needs Analysis for Using Design-Thinking and Inquiry in Teaching Literacy

Intent: While inquiry learning has been greatly explored in science, math, and technology, there is much less information about how to employ inquiry-based learning in literacy classrooms. As the literacy lead at a design-focused school, I have worked on a team to create a design-inquiry cycle for ELA classes that provides a framework to integrate inquiry-based learning with the design process created by the Stanford Institute of Design. The intent of this course is to help literacy teachers write curriculum using the design-inquiry cycle and to create inquiry-based activities to teach literacy skills.

Gathering Information: In order to better understand the need for this course, I surveyed four literacy teachers at my school teaching grades 6-10. They were asked questions about their use of Understanding by Design, their use of contextualized learning, their application and understanding of inquiry-based learning, and their comfort level with the design-inquiry cycle.

Summary: A summary of the responses can be found in this Google Survey Summary

Analysis and Revised Intent: In general, teachers expressed a decent understanding of the cycle. Teachers expressed moderate use of the context for their units and their essential questions. The surveyed teachers had extremely varied definitions of inquiry-based learning. One of the teachers believed that inquiry-based learning was only accessible to students who have already achieved mastery of subjects and are highly motivated and independent students. In terms of their use of inquiry-based learning, the surveyed group was split on their comfort level with and use of this type of teaching. They expressed moderate to high interest in using the inquiry-design cycle in their classroom.

Largely, the intent of the course will stay the same. I am now aware that it will be necessary to clearly define inquiry-based learning early on in the course to improve teachers' understanding of this type of teaching. I also now know that I will need to emphasize means of scaffolding and differentiation for lower-level students for use in inquiry-based activities. Additionally, I will need to clarify and highlight the benefits of using the design-inquiry process to quell teachers' fears about their students' learning.

Performance Objectives

  • Learners will demonstrate an understanding of design-thinking, by matching its components to their definitions.
  • Learners will classify inquiry-based learning, by defining examples of inquiry-based literacy learning.
  • Learners will discriminate design-inquiry cycle steps by matching them to Common Core Standards.
  • Learners will generate a design-inquiry unit by writing the steps their students will take in the design inquiry cycle, including scaffolding and differentiation.

Curriculum Map

Curriculum Map Design-Inquiry.jpg
Design-Inquiry Lesson 1 ICM.jpg
Design-Inquiry Lesson 2 ICM.jpg
Design-Inquiry Lesson 3 ICM.jpg
Design-Inquiry Lesson 4 ICM.jpg

Course Outline

Lesson 1: Inquiry-Based Learning

  1. Learners define inquiry-based learning using prior knowledge.
  2. Learners read 3 sample classroom scenarios that demonstrate teaching a literacy topic or concept in parallel ways (one inquiry, one traditional) and identify which learning experience they believe is inquiry.
  3. Learners adjust their definition of inquiry-based learning.
  4. Learners read a brief explanation of how inquiry-based learning is used in the ELA classroom.

Lesson 2: Design Thinking

  1. Learners watch a video about the Stanford Design Process.
  2. Learners play a matching game in which they match each design step to its definition and an example.
  3. Learners look at a brief description of Design Thinking from Stanford Institute of Design.
  4. Learners are provided with additional resources to implement design thinking from the at Stanford.

Lesson 3: Design-Inquiry Cycle

  1. Learners read a brief introduction about the creation of the Design-Inquiry Cycle.
  2. Learners play DesignQuiry, a game in which they experience the Design-Inquiry cycle in a brief, imaginative form.
  3. Learners demonstrate their understanding of the Design-Inquiry Cycle by inserting descriptions of each step of the process into a graphic of the Design-Inquiry Cycle.

Lesson 4:Design-Inquiry Curriculum

  1. Learners will look at an example unit using the Design-Inquiry Cycle.
  2. Learners will create an essential question for a Design-Inquiry unit.
  3. Learners will fill in a template or google form to create the steps of their own Design-Inquiry Cycle for their students to experience.

References and Resources

Barron, B., Pearson, P. D., Schoenfeld, A. H., Stage, E. K., Zimmerman, T. D., Cervetti, G. N., & Tilson, J. L. (2008). Powerful learning: What we know about teaching for understanding. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gagne, R. M., Wager, W. W., Golas, K. C., Keller, J. M., & Russell, J. D. (2005). Principles of instructional design.

Lim, J., Reiser, R.A., & Olina, Z. (2009). The effects of part-task and whole-task instructional approaches on acquisition and transfer of a complex cognitive skill. Education Technology Research and Development, 57, 61–77.

Krajcik, J., & Blumenfeld, P. (2006). Project-based learning. In K. Sawyer (Eds.), Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 317- 334). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Stanford Institute of Design. (n.d.). Retrieved from

King, R. (2011, 11 23). Using inquiry projects to teach language arts. Retrieved from

Richardson, A. (2010). Exploring text through discussions: Accountable talk in the middle school classroom. English Journal, 100(1), 83-88. Retrieved from Talk - Richardson0001.pdf

Rufo-Tepper, R., & Ponet, S. (2013, 02 22). [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Williams, J., Homan, E., & Swofford, S. (2011).Supporting students in a time of core standards: English language arts, grades 3-5. Urbana, Illinois: NCTE. Retrieved from