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design-thinking-flow-chartWe attended the Leading Schools Summit created in Partnership with the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation and OETC in August 2017 and are very excited about the Design Thinking component. Design Thinking draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be—and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user.  We were asked to think of a challenge we were having in our positions as leaders. 

The process we used for the Design Thinking was:

  • Discovery
  • Interpretation
  • Ideation
  • Experimentation
  • Evolution

This exercise took about 2.5 hours in total over the course of 2 days. We started with defining a problem for which we had a hard time finding a solution, and walked away 2.5 hours later with 4 possible solutions and a slide deck containing the pitch for presenting the final solution to our team.

leading-schools-notebookThe design of the Summit was phenomenal – we started by hearing from leaders who had attended previous Summits. They described how they made substantial changes in their schools or districts utilizing the techniques introduced at the Summit. We learned to focus on building a strong team with a foundation of trust and respect, examples of how to begin this process were introduced as we formed our Summit teams. The presenters modeled the team building process so we were prepared to immediately go back to our Districts and begin to introduce Design Thinking to our team.

The powerful part about experiencing Design Thinking in this format is that, as leaders, we could imagine the applications in many different areas of education. We used it as school and district leaders working on our own challenges. This process can be taken back, adapted and used in the same way with leaders in our districts. It can also be used with teachers as a professional learning and growth opportunity. Teachers can present a challenge they are having in the classroom to each other and go through the same process.

design-thinking-tips

The most exciting prospect is that it can be used with students. It takes minimal facilitation and resources, all you need is a process, a partner, a pencil, and paper. Students can use Design Thinking to present a personal or academic challenge and gain insights from peers, they can also use it in the classroom on projects they are working on. Design thinking really allows students to feel empathy for a peer, as empathy is what drives the conversation.

Written By:


Director of Professional Services

Angela Burke is the Director of Professional Services at The Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton, Massachusetts.


Manager of Instructional Technology and Digital Learning

Sarah Kyriazis is the Manager of Instructional Technology and Digital Learning
Worcester Public Schools in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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