Saturday, 7 June 2014

Designers for a day

We had a pupil-free, Professional Learning day last Friday, providing us with some precious time to 'lift our eyes' a little and do some more conceptual, bigger-picture, longer-term thinking.
One of the activities that I wanted us to spend time on was looking at trends in the collated data from our self-assessments against the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.
We were able to identify some commonly-occurring areas of strength / confidence, as well as some areas for which we were relatively weak, or lacking in confidence.

I wanted us to focus on a small number of these collective weak points, with teachers each choosing one to go and do some work on with a small group of colleagues. I was hoping that we'd be able to generate some actions, ideas, initiatives, etc that we could look to put in place or trial, in order to take some steps towards improving in these identified areas of need.

I was interested and looking forward to this activity from a while out, but when I started to put a bit of thought into how I'd run the activity, I ended up becoming more interested in the process than the topic focus / content - the 'how' [we were going to work] became what I was most looking forward to, even more so than the 'what' [we were going to talk and think about]...
This was because I wanted to have a go at using some elements of Design Thinking - an approach to problem-solving that facilitates understanding, creativity and logic all at once, probably made most famous by US company, Ideo.
I was fairly cautious about not trying to go 'too big' with this first attempt at using the Design Thinking language and process, so I kept it to just a few of the elements that would be manageable and relevant to work through in a two-hour session:

We worked through each stage, stopping briefly to introduce each [including revealing constraints, such as 'rules' for brainstorming... ], culminating in each group making some mini-plans for each of the ideas that they selected to 'prototype'... 

A couple of the benefits of Design Thinking are that it is empowering - as staff are involved in working through a problem and designing a solution themselves, rather than having predetermined, externally produced solutions dictated to them - as well as that it is social and collaborative - people are reliant on their peers to generate quantity and quality of ideas, tap into different perspectives, access feedback, etc. 
We certainly experienced some of these and other benefits, as there was high levels of discussion, interest and engagement as we worked towards designing some of our own solutions to our own challenges.