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The Design Cycle: Using an Iterative Process Across Content Areas

Participate and share

Participate and share : Poster

Dr. Kristin Brynteson  
Kerri Sosnowski  

An iterative cycle is common in engineering. In this poster session, we will explore how an iterative cycle connects to all disciplines. We will discuss strategies for implementing the design cycle in different content areas to help students learn through productive struggle and promote a mindset of continuous improvement.

Audience: Coaches, Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Participant accounts, software and other materials: None
Topic: Project-, problem- & challenge-based learning
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
  • Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.
For Students:
Innovative Designer
  • Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

At Northern Illinois University STEAM, we use the core content as the conduit for students to engage in inquiry, dialogue, critical thinking, and creativity while we emphasize applying knowledge to real-life situations and solving problems. We develop experiences that build STEAM content knowledge, encourage curiosity, and foster creative thinking. We want learners to develop an enthusiasm for learning through collaborative hands-on experiences. We design many of our programs and activities to help learners experience productive struggle and become comfortable with the idea that failure is a positive and essential part of learning. The NIU STEAM programs provide students, educators, and community members experiences that increase knowledge and skills while inspiring curiosity, creativity, and collaboration.

Our framework is based on the idea that learning–much like problem solving, design, and creative expression–is an iterative process. Learning through inquiry, exploration, creation, and failure is not a discrete event, but a repeating process. There are overlapping concepts in all of the iterative processes we interact with, from the engineering design cycle, to the scientific inquiry process, to the writing cycle, and the process of design and creative expression. In this poster session, we will provide examples of how we incorporate the design cycle into interdisciplinary activities and engage in discussion and idea-sharing with participants.

Participants will:
- Learn how an iterative process is used in multiple disciplines.
- Discuss the connections between iterative processes in each discipline.
- Receive resources and samples lesson to implement in their classrooms.


Introduction to the Design Cycle
Examples of the Design Cycle Across the Curriculum
Strategies for incorporating the Design Cycle in various content area activities

Supporting research

Buck Institute for Education. (2018). What is PB? Retrieved from

Deksissa, T., Liang, L. R., Behera, P., & Harkness, S. J. (2014). Fostering significant learning in sciences. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 8(2), 12.

Partnership for 21st century Learning, (2007). Framework for 21st Century Learning. Retrieved from

Savery, J. R., & Duffy, T. M. (1995). Problem based learning: An instructional model and its constructivist framework. Educational technology, 35(5), 31-38.

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Dr. Kristin Brynteson, Northern Illinois University
Kerri Sosnowski, Northern Illinois University

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