Recognized by The New York Times as one of the thirty most innovative educators in the USA, Doreen Nelson is an educational theorist, researcher, curriculum designer, and author. She is a Wang Scholar—the highest honor of excellence in the California State University System—and an Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects, one of the highest honors the AIA can bestow on a person outside the architecture profession.
Dr. Nelson pioneered the field of Design-Based Learning in 1969 with her City Building Education methodology, which grew out of her ten years of K-12 classroom teaching. It demonstrates how design and creativity enhance and extend the teaching of math, sciences, languages, and social studies. Now known as the Doreen Nelson Method of Design-Based Learning, it uses simplified techniques from the design professions to reverse traditional rote learning and engage students in thinking at the highest levels as they build physical artifacts that represent concepts in the required curriculum. This results in dramatic improvements in student achievement particularly in required academic standards in grades K-12 in all subject fields and for non-English speakers.
In 1995, Dr. Nelson started the nation’s first Master of Arts degree program in education in Design-Based Learning at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA, where she is a professor in the College of Education and Integrative Studies and an Adjunct Professor in the College of Environmental Design. She is also a professor at Art Center College of Design, has taught at USC, UCLA, Stanford University, Harvard University, the Royal College of Art in London, and the Smithsonian Institution.
Along with many of the world’s most renowned technologists and experts in educational psychology, Dr. Nelson serves on the board of the Viewpoints Research Institute, which focuses on “powerful ideas education” to advance education worldwide through systems research coupled with personal computing. She also helped to design the award-winning SimCity computer game and wrote the game’s curriculum guides for teachers. Moreover, she is an author and educational film producer.