Experiential Design Thinking in the Classroom: “Why? Why? Why?”

It’s only day one, and things are already getting exciting. After spending the afternoon at the Design School (d.school) at Stanford University, I find myself re-motivated to tackle some big problems in my school. The team at Stanford put a huge emphasis on the importance of empathy and the human experience. Through their experiential framework, we learned to apply design thinking to problem solving. We engaged in learning tasks to develop products and experiences to improve life in our setting. Our hosts, Katie and Gabrielle, pointed out that when you ask someone what they need to make their life in their city better, they probably don’t know. However, if you start in a different place—asking them to describe a time they were new to a place—you’re able to dive to the things that are truly important them about how they experience the city. From there, you can determine how create products and experiences to improve their life.

In education communities, we spend a huge amount of time pouring over mountains of data. We pride ourselves on using proven materials and being the most data-driven teachers. Data is important, but somewhere, in the midst of all the spreadsheets, we’re missing something. What if, rather than collecting and analyzing months of data on student progress and engagement, I asked my kids how they experienced my classroom? When do you feel successful in school? Why? What’s the most fun part of school? Why? When do you feel bored? Why? Why? Why?

By engaging my students in conversations and connecting to what’s important to them about their learning, I can more effectively design a classroom to meet their needs.

Kate O’Connor, 2015 Education Innovation Fellow
E.L. Haynes PCS


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