Wait, I Thought I Had A Question

After deepening my understanding of Design Thinking last year and tinkering with it in my work with both faculty and students, I thought that I wanted to explore it in more depth at Cohort21 this year. At the start of the second Face-to-Face session, I thought that I wanted to explore how to help teachers use design thinking to approach challenges. I landed on this question:
How might we empower students and teachers to approach issues with creative confidence?
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I realized this was a massive topic and thought that I could approach it from multiple angles…

Back at school I dove in and:
  1. met with another Cohort21 participant, David Crawford, to start to explore the idea of story and film and what that might look like from grade to grade.
  2. debriefed with my Head of School who thought this work would support everything we do and his own Action Plan
  3. worked with our Curriculum Coordinator to help teachers plan their math units in a new, more conceptual way.
  4. started devoting more of my own class time to student reflection using Seesaw
  5. explored the “new” emphasis on Agency in the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme. (more details on this at the end*)
But something wasn’t sitting quite right. While I liked the question, it felt like it could go in so many directions…

Shifting Sands

My school recently determined and released it’s Strategic Directions from now until 2029. As part of this, my department has been renamed “Innovation and Information” rather than Information Technology and the school has committed to focusing on Design Thinking and Innovation from SK-grade 12. I have been asked to provide input on what this might mean for our younger students… This is all very exciting and I am keen to explore it so, at the start of the third Face-to-Face meeting, I thought that I would migrate the focus to of my Action Plan question to:
How might we utilize design thinking with Primary students?
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While this was interesting, it wasn’t as compelling as my initial question back in November…I also thought that my Action Plan question should be broader and more rooted in taking action than “just design thinking”. The more I thought about my constraints and the changes I know are coming to the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP) with respect to the notion of Agency (see description below*), the more I thought that a better question would be:
How might we empower student and teacher agency with design thinking in the PYP?
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Getting to The Right Question

The Right Question Institute talks abut the importance of reflecting on questions… Now that I have had some time away from the excitement and energy that is a Cohort21 Face-to-Face session and had some time to reflect, I am wondering if maybe Design Thinking is a possible answer to the question I am interested in. Maybe what I really want to focus on is:
How might we develop student and teacher agency?
This would allow me to explore if (and possibly how) Design Thinking and creative confidence may be connected to making meaningful choices, trying things, reflecting, and seeing the impact. It would be broad enough to see if there are other ways to empower students and teachers to reflect on issues and take action. It would also help with the task I have been assigned to explore the possibilities for Design Thinking in our Primary Years Programme.

A Plan Is Taking Shape

January ToDo – Discover/ Learn from people/ Empathize
I want to explore Design Thinking more deeply to consider if/ how it:
  • leads people to reflect
  • gives them a sense of creative confidence
  • might be done in age-appropriate ways with students and with teachers so that we can all cope with the constant change around us and help one another
To this end, I have booked several meetings in the next week! I am excited to start talking with the following people about what they think might be age-appropriate with respect to design thinking and 5-10 year old boys:
  • curriculum leaders at my school
  • design teachers in our Middle School
  • Les McBeth and FDS
  • current students and teachers
  • former students now in the Middle School
  • other schools in Toronto
  • schools around the world
  • Twitter chat participants
February ToDo – Interpret/ Find patterns/ Determine design principles
  • Look back at the notes from all my discussions and consider which may link to empowering student and teacher agency in the Primary Division
March ToDo – Ideate/ make my ideas tangible/ prototype
  • Figure out how to best implement all the design principles
April ToDo – Experiment/ Iterate
  • Revise and fine tune plans
I’d love to chat with anyone else exploring Agency and Design Thinking with young learners and their teachers.
The International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme has recently revised the program and is slowly releasing the changes. One thing on which they are placing greater emphasis is Agency.
The notion of Agency applies to everyone – students, teachers, coordinators, leadership, and the entire learning community. Agency is something we all have. In IB PYP schools we want to empower everyone to make choices and take ownership of their actions to co-construct teaching and learning.
Rather than a skill, Agency is more of a mindset. Some shifts in IB-PYP schools as they emphasize Agency may include the need for:
  • Power structures to be more democratic
  • More collaborative partnership between educators and students
  • Transparency at all levels
  • More control and choice for students
  • A broader definition of learning – social, emotional, artistic, physical, pla and conversation – and recognition of different ways of learning
One comment to “Wait, I Thought I Had A Question”
  1. Lara,
    This is so very exciting! I would love to hear an update at our next F2F! In the meantime, at my school, we are experience a moment of transition with our “Form Challenge”. This is a year-long project for our Grade 7 & 8 students that takes place in their Form (homeroom) times once every two weeks. Initially, the program was small and intermittant. Last year, we made the shift that it would become part of the regular schedule in Form classes. To deepen the experience we integrated Design Thinking protocols throughout the entire process – shout out to @lmcbeth for her work with our teachers! – beginning with empathy. It has proven to be a real success in many ways…and not so much in other respects.

    I’d love to unpack this with you at some point, because I think that there is so much potential to infuse really great frameworks that will put our students in positions to grow skills of empathy, flexible thinking and iteration (i.e. that the answer doesn’t have to be perfect and/or whole before they get feedback). HOWEVER, I would say that the big work for us is to infuse this type of thinking into the lived experience of our faculty and staff as well.

    Go get ’em!

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