Design thinking and teaching to me as a professional are like peanut butter and jelly. Forgive the cliché analogy, but I really do believe they are that intrinsic to each other. The biggest key insights I took away from studying different design thinking strategies were the fundamental connections between understanding the students and the content being taught in a given lesson or unit. Without a thorough understanding of the former or the latter, it is truly difficult for me to begin the design thinking process. As stated by Wiggins and McTighe: “That means that we must be able to state with clarity what the student should understand and be able to do as a result of any plan and irrespective of any constraints we face,” (2005, p. 14). Once I have both these things in mind, I’m able to then work through a design process and come up with a lesson or a solution to the task at hand. This meant I most closely aligned myself with Understanding by Design (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005) and Discipline Based Learning (2015), with their focus on placing the outcomes first and then the design of the lesson in the latter stages.
“Design thinking demands its practitioner to deeply consider both the user and the topic,” (Bartlett, Quinn, Dalton, Clark, 2017 p. 21)
While there are aspects of the other design thinking strategies I like and adapt to different planning phases, I find that if I set my outcomes to first be student success depending on the lesson plan (whether that be student academic success, student engagement, etc.), and then identifying the topic or topics of study, I am from there able to build forward and design a lesson or unit using those strategies. Not only am I able to then comprehend more authentic tasks for my students more readily, the apprehension of authenticity possibly not equaling mandated outcomes gone from my mind, the process of building lessons and units becomes more streamlined and manageable for me as a professional. Take the lesson I designed for a problem of practice, for example. In this I used these key insights, building with student outcomes and areas of study in mind, and made a lesson truly authentic for my students, giving them potential real world examples to work from because I knew the specific outcomes they needed to hit and built those tasks from there. I was able to build a lesson that would engage students who were struggling with engaging in math, while not losing sight of those key outcomes.
Moving forward, I now have a set of strategies that I can utilize for the near future when designing. However, it also gives me the availability to explore other design thinking strategies. I believe no one design thinking strategy is going to be a catch-all, much like lesson planning itself. I intend to practice and learn more about other design thinking strategies, so I can utilize and combine different design thinking strategies to best help different kinds of students and classrooms in the future. I have established a goal for myself using those design principles, and can now build from there. To sum up, my design thinking philosophy is that if you start with a baseline that is based around student success and then work from there, you will ultimately scaffold and help ensure that success becomes a reality.
Bartlett, S., Quinn, E., Dalton, T., & Clark, S. (2017). Designing shifts to position teacher as designer of learning. IDEAS 2017. Retrieved February 07, 2018.
Dimensions of Discipline Based Inquiry. (2015.). Retrieved February 07, 2018, from http://inquiry.galileo.org/ch2/dimensions-of-discipline-based-inquiry/
Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2008). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.