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,

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Do we value instant gratification or instant feedback?

Today someone mentioned on @Voxer how we could get #SatChatOc trending worldwide. I then realised it had been months since I had checked if #SatChatOc was trending. I am a little reluctant to admit that I previously used Twitter Trends for feedback. It was that instant grade or dare I say it...instant gratification. While it reflects the popularity of the chat, the result occurs after the event. Similar to that of summative assessment, there is nothing to do to change the result. I had no responsibility to do anything more because it was all too late. This instant result or gratification is similar to that requested by some students and parents. You probably know this all too well-a grade such as a pass, fail, or letter. The assessment that provides a score or ranking. And there is also the competitive component. Twitter provides the identify of your competitors (sports, politics, celebrities etc) which reminds me of when students ask each other, "What did you get?" 

So why haven’t I been checking the trends on Twitter lately? Honestly, I no longer see the benefit and I am looking for more. Twitter trends will not indicate the effectiveness of #SatChatOc. It will not highlight the areas that need improvement. It will not tell me if an educator utilised the resources, questioned their practice or benefitted professionally from the chat. I am an insatiable learner who has connected with many insightful educators through #SatChatOc. I appreciate the feedback received from those who inspire, question and challenge me. Some of their suggestions that have resulted in action are-
  • give questions prior to the chat
  • have one person post questions
  • to use pictures for #SatChatOc questions
Ok, I admit, I slipped up! I usually practise what I ask of my students. Don't just look at the grade or ranking but at the comments that will help you reflect and learn while developing metacognitive knowledge. I ask my students to take ownership of their learning, reflect, ask questions, seek feedback and request assistance when necessary. The model below illustrates how to create deep learning and why reflection and feedback shape & develop our growth. It presents a challenge to teachers to move beyond shallow learning (rote learning or teaching to the test) to encourage a deeper and more critical learning process. Single loop learning is important, but not enough for complicated or complex problems. Double loop learning involves a reflection on, and questioning of, the processes of the learning (seeking more efficient ways of achieving the task). This type of learning requires some creatively and 'outside the box' thinking. Triple loop learning involves 'learning how to learn' by reflecting on how we learn. Being profound and asking why, these may be seen as metaphors for life.


With more detail, this table clearly indicates the single loop as the 'what', the double loop as the 'how' and the triple loop as the 'why'. Although summative assessment is essential for report cards, formative assessment is crucial. Formative assessment drives my instruction. Critique and feedback gives the student a goal or guide for their future learning. It is hard to dispute the effectiveness of critique and feedback when you watch the following clip.

Critique and feedback - the story of Austin's butterfly - Ron Berger
According to Wiliam, "attention to the use of assessment to inform instruction, particularly at the classroom level, in many cases effectively doubled the speed of student learning" (pg. 882).
While Summative assessment or Assessment of Learning may appear to be that end point or final race, learning is ongoing. So when I return to school, I will share with my students what I discovered about myself as a learner. How I sought feedback for a quick evaluation and gratification. Feedback must encourage reflection, growth and further learning. Connecting with my students as a learner typically creates an engaging conversation. I will continue to provide my students with the instant feedback they so deserve. One-on-one conferences are so effective and it can take only a few minutes. I will teach and model how to reflect, learn and develop the skills of a lifelong learner. Feedback is only useful if given and acted upon promptly and is essential when determining goals for future learning.
“find out where learners are in their learning, find out where they are going, and find out how to get there” (Wiliam, 2011, p. 1019).