About Doreen Nelson

doreen nelson

Doreen Nelson, AIA, recognized by The New York Times as one of the thirty most innovative educators in the United States, is an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects and a winner of the prestigious 2006 California State University Wang Award for Excellence in Education.

She pioneered Design-Based Learning over 35 years ago with a method that produces dramatic improvement in K-12 student achievement. It reverses the emphasis from traditional rote learning to engaging students in thinking at the highest level by building physical artifacts that represent concepts in the curriculum.

Creator of the nation’s first M.A. degree in Design-Based Learning, Nelson is a professor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona—in the College of Education and Integrative Studies and the College of Environmental Design—and at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. There, she oversees the Design-Based Learning Laboratory.

Nelson’s method of Design-Based Learning—first researched during her ten years of teaching in elementary and secondary schools, and first known as City Building Education (CBE)—is used by teachers worldwide. The diverse K-12 settings include classes for students expelled from California high schools, and classrooms in China, Finland and Japan. In Japan, a cultural and educational exchange program is introducing Nelson’s methodology to the Japanese national curriculum.

Her university-level work includes courses and projects conducted at UCLA, the University of Southern California, Stanford University, Harvard University, the Royal College of Art in London and the Smithsonian Institution.

Nelson is an author and contributor to the award-winning SimCity. The website www.designbasedlearning.org showcases her methods.