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Adopting design thinking

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Paul O'NeilIn 2012, the faculty and staff at ASIJ began integrating elements of design thinking into their curriculum, supporting the vision laid out in their strategic objectives. Since then, design thinking has been integrated into the curriculum of every division and has played a major role in campus architecture. Paul, a creative thinker and an innovator shares how ASIJ has succeeded in this initiative and what the results are in terms of practices, spaces and culture.

What does design thinking bring to the table for organisational change?

Design thinking as a process is no different to other forms of inquiry – except that as a process that brings about human centered design solutions the inclusion of “empathy for the user” is a critical piece. So in the context of organisational change, design thinking brings a process to investigate/immerse ourselves in the user experience. So if we are looking at a system – a teacher/parent/student level, we are interested in the experience of these people and how they perceive and interact with the system.

Largely what Design Thinking does for us as a system is create a different way of designing interventions. Meetings for example change drastically if a design thinking methodology is implemented.  Task forces or Action groups behave very differently when ideas and prototypes are taken more lightly with a view to implement “To Change” – rather than implement “the change”.

How did you apply design thinking at ASIJ?

Paul2We adopted the design thinking methodology as one strategy to help us achieve our strategic objectives.These are statements that outline the dispositions we want for our students. We want our students to be problem finders, collaborative, creative, risk takers, to follow their passions and to see the world from diverse perspectives. We believed that looking at design thinking as a methodology and an approach to understanding the world around us – that this methodology helps us to help students to: “behave intelligently when they don’t know the answer”.

We implemented design thinking as a way to develop a more inquiry based curriculum and with the intent to look for ways that we could naturally embrace these mindsets within curriculum areas. IN Design Technology for example the whole process might be appropriate, however in the English classroom the mindsets around empathy and prototyping might be suitable.

We also looked at ways design thinking could allow us to change some of our staid processes and also look for new courses and pathways additional to our existing curriculum.

What have you seen as a result?

We have seem some confusion with our teachers not sure about what part of the design thinking process might be relevant to them, or when they might use the whole process. There has also been some confusion between what is design thinking and what is design technology.

We have seen in the students a heightened awareness of the skills of questioning and interviewing.

The greatest shift has been in the language teachers and students use in classrooms. Units of work or learning challenges often appear as provocations that have a user in mind. Even writing tasks that have an audience in mind require that students consider the needs of an audience when developing their writing. Also the notion of prototyping and failing fast / failing early – changes the way students commit to a writing task.

We have seen more prototyping of ideas and new ideas being held more lightly than before. In some cases we see work existing in a “permanent beta” environment where we don’t have the usual attachment and finality to ideas and  projects we implement.

Paul joins us all way from Japan to share more insights on this important topic. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet him in person to exchange knowledge and ideas. He is going be with us for the entire two days, make sure you are there too.

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