Designing the Ultimate PD Experience

March 15, 2017

What could professional development look like if teachers were involved in the design?

Using design thinking, we can further engage teachers and administrators in conversations around adult learning and the needs of educators in specific contexts. Through design thinking, we are able to create an experience that is truly collaborative and encourages people to share their ideas and receive feedback immediately. For our purposes, we use the Stanford Design Thinking Model and our focus is on K-12 educators as the user. It’s important to remember that there are other models out there, those of which may be better suited for your learning community and that a school is full of a wide variety of users – teachers, students, parents, administrators, support professionals, community members, and so on. So, shake off what you have come to expect from professional development (PD) and let’s think radically about what it could be!
Designing the Ultimate PD
Empathize: Describe the user and their current PD experience.
Define: Define a problem statement.
Ideate: Generate radical alternatives.
Prototype: Build and test your radical idea.
Test: Share your solution with users and get feedback.

Ideas for Implementation

If you are interested in running a similar design challenge in your district or school, here are some pro tips and things to consider:

  1. Will the design team include administrators and teachers? If so, how will you form groups so that you can leverage the variety in perspectives?
  2. Think through the flow between partner and group discussions. You’ll notice in our presentation and guided worksheet, each person was assigned a letter: A, B, C, or D.
  3. Set up the space so that is conducive to partner and group work. Clear table-tops for prototyping and open wall space works well for generating ideas on sticky notes. Be sure to have open walking spaces for the facilitator to move around the room and for participants to view prototypes from other groups.
  4. Stick to the time limits and explain to the design team ahead of time that you will be holding them to these limits.
  5. If this is the first time that your colleagues will participate in a design challenge, make sure to debrief about the experience. You’ll find some questions at the end of our presentation to prompt this discussion.

Where should you get started? You may need to modify these materials for your purposes, but check out the presentation that we created and use to facilitate design challenges around this topic. In addition, here is the guided worksheet which the design challenge participants use.

Design Thinking Resources

What is Design Thinking?
Stanford’s Reading List
Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking
An Educator’s Guide to Design Thinking
Design Thinking for Educators by IDEO


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