About the Design Thinking In Situ category

Once you have watched the video, create a new topic in this Discourse category and use the following prompts to start a discussion:

  • This project positions the students as experts for other groups in the school. How can you position students as experts in your classroom? Who would they provide their expertise too?

  • The teacher and students in this video discuss the five step process behind design thinking (understand/define/imagine/prototype/try). What does this look like in your discipline? How can students engage this in your classroom in a way that it is authentic to people working in this area?

  • The teacher in the video lays out a couple of practical tips to help you with your first time through a project. What might be some other questions that you are thinking about in relation to this first implementation?

In math/physics, the important concepts are often universal tools/techniques/laws that could be applied in many different contexts. When learning/applying these concepts, students can choose to focus on the application of these concepts in specific and different contexts, and become experts to their peers who have slightly different focuses. For example, on the unit of newtonian mechanics/kinematics, one group could study how roads handles turns (think banked curves), while another group can think about how parks design safe water slides or rides. They can then become experts of the specific context through which a common concept is applied.

In physical sciences, the design thinking process are very similar to the scientific process, where imagine and prototype is analogous to coming up with hypothesis, try is analogous to testing the hypothesis via experiments. One way we could encage students through design process is by having students try to model a physical phenomenon instead of being taught the law governing said phenomenon. For example, we can have students come up with an equation of motion in liquid (where the object may experience velocity dependent forces/drag forces).

What if there might be specific knowledges that the project should cover? How design the project such that these specific knowledge points are a necessary element of the students’ design process?

I really liked the idea of having students do something for a younger grade. It shows them that they are experts in something. I think that I could show my students that they are by asking them to help others with idea creating. I do that sometimes to in speech class- if someone knows something about a topic, I show them how they can cite themselves in the speech. The same can go with writing. Another way I wondered if they could show to be experts is to ask them to do something with the younger grades. Students on both sides appear to engage more when that happens.

Honestly, I keep seeing great science examples, but I struggled to connect these in language arts. I had to do some of my own reading to see how it could connect better. I think that students can use the design thinking process when exploring literature. It could help them explore the depth of a character or to understand figurative language more or to understand logical fallacies. I am not sure on the length of these projects, but they could be smaller scale.

A question I have is what might a typical day look like with this process? How do you manage time with it? Also, is there always automatic buy in from students? Do they have reservations? If so, how are they tackled?

  1. I teach 8th graders at my middle school, we could easily use the incoming 6th graders as the learners for my 8th graders to provide their expertise.

  2. Teaching ELA I have the advantage of using the writing process which mirrors the understand/define/imagine/prototype/try model when working on longform writing projects. I think having purpose behind why we are writing can help a lot with making this process authentic.

  3. I know that it takes really careful planning to make design projects go smoothly. My main struggle is usually keeping the students organized and making sure they are in it for the long term. Kids can burn out on a project sometimes when it’s as long as this example. Two months can be a long time for an 8th grader to stay invested in a topic. How does this teacher keep her students engaged throughout the process?

  1. Unfortunately, my school is limited to two grades. Thus, the use of age disparity isn’t really possible without travel or some virtual means. However, students could share their own pre-existing expertise on tangentially (or directly) related subjects to share prior skills with the class. If the project involved working in a 3D space — an annotated diorama for example — students pre-existing art/sculpture/carpentry experience could share what works in other contexts to aid their peers.

  2. As Alexis mentioned previously, there is overlap between the writing process and the design thinking steps. As students construct a variety of artifacts throughout the year, they are often following a very similar set of steps even if that “writing” is an essay or long work. Outside of that, I need to brainstorm a bit more myself to see the immediate connection.

  3. Does the staff to student ratio (1:7 via Wikipedia) of Meadowbrook make this style of project more feasible? Are there roadblocks with larger class sizes? How can you motivate a student for such a long-term project if it isn’t a subject they feel particularly confident or interested in?