District Administration August 2018 - 25
FRESH MINDSET-Students at Glenbrook High Schools District 225 near Chicago have begun to use design thinking as
teachers adopt the philosophy that encourages both educators and learners to be in the moment, to work together, to be
human-centered and to explore new ideas.
a greater level of collaboration, critical
thinking or other soft skill.
"We talk about failing forward and
all these different buzzwords around failure and learning-'growth mindset,' for
example," Mann says. "That's all well and
good, but until we think about how we
redesign the actual infrastructure of learning and how we measure learning, a lot of
that is just not going to come to pass."
Getting teachers to use this level of creative problem-solving-let alone getting
them to teach concepts like creativity, ideation and empathy-can be a big ask. But
the more they practice design, the stronger
the required mental muscles become, says
The d.school offers in-person and
online trainings in design thinking, including a 90-minute "crash course" webinar-
enough to get an educator excited about
the new approach.
But, Seidel adds, teachers will need
more exposure than the crash course to use
the process with students in a meaningful
way. That exposure can come through formal training, seeing the process in action
or through real-world practice.
The furniture formula
It is not just students who can benefit from
exercises in design thinking. Glenbrook
administrators got their own crash course
three years ago, when the 5,000-student
high school district set out to buy new
Officials surveyed teachers, flipped
through a catalog and weighed choices
such as tables versus desks, and chairs that
swivel versus seats with four legs.
"It failed miserably," Bretag says.
"When you run a traditional process, often
preference supersedes purpose."
So they tried again, this time using
design thinking, and ended up reimagining the problem. The question went from
"What furniture should we get?" to "How
can we improve the student experience?"
They spent more than a year talking to
students and observing how they sat in
their chairs. New questions that arose
included "What does it mean when they
can't fidget, or when they can't stand up or
move around while they work?"
The district also consulted neuroscientists, social psychologists and experts in
well-being and creativity.
"We said 'OK, how might we build
spaces that foster this degree of well-being?'
And that was the eye-opening epiphany
moment," Bretag says.
Next came four rounds of prototyping,
testing and redesigning classrooms. It was
a longer process than anyone intended,
but Bretag says the results were better than
Instead of trying out furniture types
they thought might work, the end result
was classrooms designed to promote wellbeing and active learning.
So far the design thinking is not taught
explicitly in Glenbrook's classrooms. But it
is included in new teacher orientation, and
the district encourages teachers to draw
on elements of design thinking every day:
to be in the moment, work together, be
human-centered and be open to new ideas
rather than accepting something simply
because that's how it has always been.
If teachers can embody those principles, Bretag says, that's how design thinking can reach students. DA
Abby Spegman is a freelance writer in
August 2018 25
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration August 2018
District Administration August 2018 - Cover1
District Administration August 2018 - Cover2
District Administration August 2018 - 1
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