Design Thinking – “The Teacher as Designer”

We often hear this statement during or before any of the workshops we run about design thinking.  Although this phrase appears in 2010 in an article entitled, “The Teacher as Designer: Pedagogy in the New Media Age,” by Mary Kalantizis, Bill Cope, referring to the process of Learning by Design, we use the more general description in our design thinking workshops.

The teacher as designer refers to every educator who designs a classroom, a lesson, a unit, a project, a school environment, a school atmosphere and/or professional development workshops for colleagues.

The design thinking workshops we offer have students work through the d.school five-step program using the “Three Little Pigs” story as an anchor.  This use of the design thinking process is not the only way we see this technique being used by teachers.

Using it to break your students into groups in your class and work through a potential solution to a problem is just one way the process is used in education.  It does reach all the current “c’s” of the modern classroom: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication. It also provides an opportunity for students to practice many so-called “soft skills” as well.

In the secondary stream of our program, we often get feedback about the process not being conducive to the delivery of curriculum content in their grade level.  Lesson and unit design can be developed using the five steps of design thinking.  Starting with the empathy stage where a teacher looks at the lesson from the student’s point of view may be quite eye opening.  Effective lesson and unit development can be completed using the design thinking process.

There may be school wide problems that are presented by other teachers or administration that can be solved using the design thinking process.

 

Each individual school has its own priorities and culture that is set by the administration, often taking into account staff and students ideas.  As administration creates a certain identity for a school, staff may be engaged in the design thinking process to bring these ideas to life.  Say, for example, a school seeks to be an integral part of the community in which it is situated.  Connections with the community can be fostered through various means and the ideas may come from an design thinking session that features the empathy and definition stages.  Moving towards ideation makes the collected research from these stages result in effective community connection for the school as a whole.  Having many great ideas that don’t fit the needs of the community won’t engage staff and students like something that meets the needs of the surrounding area and makes an positive impact in the community.

In these three separate areas of teaching, teachers can take up the d.school, five step process and introduce design thinking into their school.

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