Wednesday, 24 September 2014


Once you've experienced a strong sense of student engagement, you want it all the time. It's addictive! Last year I completed Design Thinking MOOC with Stanford and my personal project focused on how to support new teachers from their last practicum at university to the proficient level of accreditation (BOSTES). I chose this topic because I'm passionate about helping new teachers. With research suggesting that 50% of new teachers quit within their first five years of teaching in both Australia and US, I saw a need. I interviewed some pre-service teachers and created a prototype that was all based on empathy. I am hoping this idea will become reality. I highly recommend that teachers go through the Design Thinking process themselves, as their belief in the process will be more authentic. You will get more buy-in from teachers if they believe in the process. Here is a crash course on Design Thinking provided by Stanford

Last year to share the Design Thinking process, I integrated it into a History Society and Its Environment (HSIE) unit called, 'People’s beliefs & religions'. Firstly students developed their background knowledge on various religions & beliefs- Indigenous, Christianity, Islam, Judaism Buddhism, and Hinduism. Then they chose one and that determined the groups. I believe it is important to give students a voice and choice in their learning as their motivation becomes more intrinsic and engagement is high. As a group, they determined the topics or questions, listened, collaborated, delegated, checked in regularly and recorded their findings. During all of this, the students were learning the process of Design Thinking. 

I used designEd-Integrating Design Thinking In Your
 K-12 Classroom (M. Carroll, M. Pelochino, L. Logan, & R. Cox) as a guide and created lessons based on her framework. With various frameworks available, I created my own when doing the Stanford course (above) but shared desigEd's simplified version, 'Frame-Imagine-Make' with my Year 3 students. 

I wouldn't say I was teaching Design Thinking but creating activities to illustrate and learn the Design Thinking process. I knew the students were hooked as they kept asking me is it Design Thinking day? It was scheduled every Thursday but that didn't stop them from asking for more. I organised interviews and excursions with various people with expertise in the subject. Through this interview process we came up with a needs statement. This was so genuine, I couldn't have planned it any better! I asked my students who did they connect with most and it was the students from Chullora Public School who they interviewed to learn about Islam. After the interview, they played and had lunch together and from this our needs statement was determined. "How can we help other children learn about different beliefs and religions?"  I've learnt that children connect so much more with other children. If possible, make this happen.

Students then designed prototypes based on this need. One important element of this process is EMPATHY. Do you know the difference between Sympathy and Empathy? Please check out this clip. Students felt connected to the stakeholders and this resulted in 100% buy-in from the students. Their ideas were amazing...some blue sky but why not? Let's allow students to think big! Remember they are prototypes, not necessarily material products. Some worked alone, others in pairs or groups. Students generated creative ideas by listening to others and then generating new ideas. They asked if they could work on their projects over the weekends. They also asked if they could share their prototypes with the rest of the school. I hadn't explained to them that one element of Design Thinking is sharing with an authentic audience. I was so excited that I recorded them talking about Design Thinking and their experiences. I've kept one student's reflection journal just for me to remember the power of Design Thinking.

This year we incorporated Design Thinking with our science unit and we've had @JohnGattorna talk to our students about Design Thinking. What is exciting me at the moment is that our Project Based unit for HSIE incorporated elements of Design Thinking. Our driving question: ‘How can we as United Nation Ambassadors, assist children in need?’ One student recently said -
 'I never knew about Design Thinking and now it's everywhere-the whole empathy thing, asking questions, different points of view, having ideas. I really like Design Thinking.' 
This comment made my day. In Design Thinking the students establish a need based on empathy. In Project Based Learning, the teacher designs the driving question and the students determine the essential questions needed to answer the driving question. I’ve learnt that both can develop Empathy and if I help students develop a connection with the stakeholders or topic, it results in higher levels of motivation and engagement. I believe that the student's understanding of the topic, the people and our world is deepened, and hopefully long remembered. For me, this is addictive. 

And the learning continues,

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