The Design Challenges

Academic Design Programs use the Design-Based Learning (DBL) methodology. With DBL, units of study start with a Design Challenge. Rather than starting with being told what the content is about, students start by being given a problem to be solved. For example, if we were starting a unit studying the Pyramids in Egypt, rather than seeing pictures and reading about them up front, we'd have the students solve the problem that resulted in the Pyramids being built in the first place. So we'd tell the students that our problem was that we needed a way to memorialize ourselves for eternity. The Challenge might be: Design a Never-Before-Seen Everlasting Memorial. The criteria would be all of the things that were unique to Pyramids--without ever asking for Pyramids. We'd ask that the memorial has to be 3d, secure, contain relics from life, etc. The Never-Before-Seen requirement demands creativity. No two student will have the same solution, and yet all the students will understand the components of a Pyramid. From there, they read and study, comparing their unique solution to what was done in history and having a context for the learning. 

During the course of a year, students in ADP will build an entire civilization based on a series of Design Challenges. Some Challenges are done individually, most are done as part of a team. Here, students work on their Design Challenge and collaborate to present their solution.