Introduction to Learning By Design
Often, those who write the textbooks are completely
invisible and unknown to the teachers who use them year
in and year out. This interview is with Janet Kolodner,
Principal Investigator and driving force behind the
NSF-sponsored design-based middle-school science curriculum
called Learning By Design. Visit the LBD website
Learning By Design has Launcher units to introduce
students to the culture of doing science-oriented design
work. It's content units include Vehicles In Motion,
Machines That Help, and Tunneling Across Georgia.
LBD™ supports learning science by offering motivating
tasks like design, where the need for doing investigations
to inform design decisions is central, and the temporary
failure of a design promotes a need to know. Students do experiments to develop
rules-of-thumb that link students' design work with science and engineering laws and
The Learning By Design curriculum encourages students to vary
some design features and not others. LBD uses constrained design
tasks so that students can focus on design decisions that are
related to the concepts being targeted by the curriculum, and so that
students don't get overwhelmed with making too many choices. In the
end, as teacher, you choose to follow their recommendations
or not. For instance, in LBD, students are given paper coffee filters
for making the canopy -- students do not choose what
materials to use for their chutes. A partially
constrained variable in LBD's parachute task is the load -- students
use choose how many washers
they will use, but they do not choose washers or some other object as a load.
Kolodner's major research has been around thinking
and learning through examples or "cases,"
or she calls "case-based reasoning". Such
reasoning is helpful when working on design challenges.
Collaboration is supported through a number of LBD
Rituals. These include students regularly share
ideas and data with others and recording them in Design
You can view and print out copies of the LBD student
and teacher materials related to the Model Parachute task
by opening the Acrobat documents below.
Apollo 13 Student Book (9 pages) is the booklet that introduces
students to Design Challenges and ways to make products
that meet given design criteria and constraints.
LBD Design Diary (9 pages) Students use these single-page
sheets to do some of the LBD rituals.
LBD Process (18 pages) These pages describe LBD rituals,
including Gallery Walks and Pin-Up Sessions, dealing with
constraints, and developing design rules-of-thumb that link
science concepts and design ideas.