Design Thinking – First Feedback

Contributor: Tammy Flanders

I’m only going to take up three points that came from the student’s feedback in today’s workshops.

1.A few of their points, we felt came from not meeting their expectations. Even though we set up the introduction to outline our objectives and how we meant to achieve them students felt that we had come up short.

For example, they wanted to see specific examples of design thinking in a physics, math and English classroom. Someone else wanted to know “Why design thinking?”. Finally, more students wanted to be even more involved in some of the activities.

Let me elaborate.

As an introduction workshop, Paula and I did not consider presenting specifics about integrating design thinking in content areas. Or why design thinking was a focus within this particular course. These questions would be better addressed in their regular class and will likely become clearer as they engage in the process when doing their assignments.

So, how to better to meet student expectations? A stronger introduction stating what we will and will not cover, recommend the Design Thinking library guide for examples of different teaching situations, and following up with their instructors.

  1. The comments about having the students doing more of the work were excellent points. Having students write their own post-it notes as they generated ideas, questions, problems related to immigrants/refugees instead of Paula and I doing this work, we agree would be better. Or having students rework their ideas created during the ideation component would also be fantastic and reflects a more realistic process. Design thinking is about revisiting your work over and over again.

But TIME was our major factor here. Eighty minutes isn’t very much time when working through this.

The rationale for doing this the way we have was strictly done as a consideration of time. Based on Paula’s experiences teaching other workshops having participants generate ideas in this way or revisiting and reworking their ideas, requires a considerable amount of time.  Having experienced this, myself at conferences, being pushed through this process in a couple of minutes is frustrating and sometimes results in confusion.


The questions then are:

What other sections can be significantly shortened or removed from the workshop?

If one section is given more time than the others, will this make the other components weaker?

What else can we come up with to overcome time constraints yet still give a meaningful workshop?

How much tighter can we make the introduction (i.e. talk less about the process we’ve undertaken in designing the workshop) before there isn’t enough information there for students to get any real meaning?

For the moment, we’re sticking with our format but will consider if there are other ways of doing this.

  1. Another point that a few students brought to our attention was the ’inauthenticity’ of the scenario we had them work through. As Paula has described above our scenario was based on immigrants and refugees settling into a country different from their own and how to go about meeting their needs in terms of employment, accommodation, food and finding community. We thought by using the two books to give them the mindset of a new arrival and talking about what they knew about Syrian refugees, or other situations based on their own experiences that would be enough for them to take on the role of either an immigrant or a social worker. By interviewing each other as a way to derive more information about the problems associated with a new arrival, we thought we had addressed empathy in an interesting way, a technique that could be used in their own classrooms, perhaps.

However, some participants felt this was a difficult undertaking and were not comfortable being an immigrant or refugee in case they misrepresented or based their representation on stereotypes.

Paula and I are not convinced that this is a real problem (at this point, at any rate). It may not be entirely authentic, granted, but taking up roles is a way to learn about what our biases are, what other kinds of information we need to learn about to really understand the situation and problems that come with living in a new country. This only highlights the importance of empathy for us. In the real world, you would of course go beyond an interview and research data from multiple sources.

What this really speaks to, in terms of our own teaching is the challenge of task design. To read more about designing task please visit a couple of other posts Paula has written, one from October 19th, 2015 and October 27th, 2015.

Stay tune, folks.   We are making changes to the workshop as we go and we’re so much through this process. Hopefully, you will too.




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