Using Design-Thinking and Inquiry in Teaching Literacy


Using Design-Thinking and Inquiry in Teaching Literacy: A Mini-Course for Educators

Design by Shula Ponet

Rebecca G.'s Portfolio Page

What will you learn in this course?


  • 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?


This course will take you through the following lessons:

Lesson 1: Inquiry

Lesson Objective:

  • Classify inquiry-based learning.

In this lesson you will:

  • Define inquiry-based learning as you understand it.
  • Look at various literacy classroom scenarios and compare inquiry-based literacy classrooms with more traditional models.
  • Review and adjust your definition of inquiry-based learning.
  • View an explanation of inquiry-based learning in the ELA classroom.
  • Be exposed to inquiry-based learning resources.

Lesson 2: Design Thinking

Lesson Objective:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of design thinking and its components.

In this lesson, you will:

  • View a video about design-thinking.
  • Play a matching game to help you define steps of the design process and examples of design activities.

Lesson 3: The Design Inquiry Cycle

Lesson objectives:

  • Discriminate design inquiry cycle steps.
  • Identify connections between design-inquiry cycle steps and the Common Core Literacy Standards.

In this lesson, you will:

  • Play DesignQuiry, a game designed to help you discover the steps of the design-inquiry cycle.
  • Match design inquiry steps to Common Core Literacy Standards.

Lesson 4: Writing Curriculum with the Design Inquiry Cycle

Lesson Objectives:

  • Generate a design inquiry unit.
  • Generate scaffolds and differentiation for a design-inquiry unit.

In this lesson, you will:

  • Identify student needs.
  • Identify learning outcomes.
  • Write the steps of the design inquiry cycle your students will take.
  • Identify places for scaffolding and differentiation.


Begin your learning with Lesson 1: Inquiry

Lesson 2: Design Thinking

Lesson 3: The Design Inquiry Cycle

Lesson 4: Writing Curriculum with the Design Inquiry Cycle

Rebecca G.'s Portfolio Page

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