School Name: Journey Middle School
School District: SD#62 Sooke
Inquiry Team Members:Kelly Dvorak: firstname.lastname@example.org
Diane Wiens: email@example.com
Zac Vine: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kara Troke: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education, Career Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Matahematics / Numeracy, Science, Social Studies
Focus Addressed: Aboriginal understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Formative assessment, Growth mindset, Indigenous pedagogy, Inquiry-based learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Social and emotional learning, STEM / STEAM
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Incorporating design thinking into core academics using design challenges in order to increase student flow.
Scanning: During the scanning, teachers presented lessons that incorporated design thinking in a number of different types of classrooms. The teachers observed during these lessons, and in their regular teaching, that students were more active in the learning activities when design thinking was being used. We have also developed a self-assessment based on our focus to help inform our work.
Focus: Our groups feels that the design process can help students become more active design thinkers. Our group feels that participating in design process will help students understanding content more deeply and having more moments of flow.
Hunch: Design thinking takes time to develop the lessons themselves and to do the necessary front loading. Students are prevented from flow because they are in charge of their own learning. Design process allows students to have more control, voice, and agency and develop their empathy for others.
New Professional Learning: What is design thinking? What’s out there for design thinking resources? Are there schools already involved deeply with this work?
What does flow look like, how will we know if our students are in flow?
Taking Action: As we went through our inquiry process, our focus shifted substantially. We first decided to bring design thinking and robotics into the Core academic subjects to see if it would increase student engagement. One strategy we used was the design process placemat. We set the challenge to a Grade 6 Social Studies class to create a board game incorporating Ozobots to show their understanding of the geography concepts they’d learned before. While the design process was excellent, the actual level of geography understanding in their games was lacking. The class was much more interested in the robots than in the Social Studies. It was great to see them engaged, but it didn’t really fit our intention of bringing the academics alive.
We decided to shift away from the robotics and focus more on the design process. We came back as a team and decided to each do a different project with our classes, but use the design process in the project. One teacher focused on global perspectives, another on business education (ethical sourcing of materials), and another on clean water. We also split our focus from just looking at engagement to also bringing out empathy in our students.
For the global perspectives project, the teacher pre-taught about conditions for garment factory workers in India and Bangladesh. She created a profile of a typical Indian garment factory worker and posed the challenge to “Create a product or service to make her life easier.” The students worked through the design thinking process to create prototypes and pitch them to the class. The rest of the class gave feedback to help make the products better.
For the business ed class, the teacher also focused on the garment industry. He pre-taught about the conditions in Southeast Asia, Africa, and North America and then set the class a challenge to source and price a new spirit wear T-shirt for our school, and design packaging to show off their choices. The students created prototypes of their packaging and shared them with the rest of the class.
The clean water project began with character profiles for each student. The teachers then put the class into family groups as their characters and asked them to pretend to pack for a family vacation. The plane in the simulation then crashed and the family groups were tasked with creating a shelter and a water filtration system using the items they would have packed for their trip. The class built prototypes and shared them with the rest of their peers.
The level of empathy that we saw as the students were working through their projects and then offering suggestions for improvement on other groups was exceptional!
Checking: It’s difficult to measure engagement and empathy on an empirical scale, but anecdotally and observationally, we noticed a difference in our students. We asked for written feedback on their levels of enjoyment and whether they felt like they were “in the flow” during the projects (a condition in which time seems to slip away because you are so focused in what you are doing), and we had a majority say they experienced flow in the project.
As for the empathy piece, we noticed improvement mostly in the feedback portion of our projects. Students were recognizing the work that their classmates put into their projects and gave helpful, constructive feedback, trying hard not to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Reflections/Advice: We learned to be okay with changing up our goals and focuses based on the results we had with our students. We really went through the design process ourselves in the inquiry process and designing these projects for our students, going back to our “iterating” stage and changing up our strategies. Advice for other schools who are interested in the design process would be to really focus on the empathy piece in your projects. It was incredible to see how far the kids were able to grow.