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Design Thinking Crash Course

Our Design Thinking Crash Course for secondary school teachers in Dundee and Angus was a successful initiative that aimed to embed design thinking in Scotland’s broad-based Curriculum for Excellence. Over two evenings, thirty teachers across a range of disciplines were introduced to the methods, perspectives and tools of design thinking. As one teacher wrote afterwards: “Thank you for organising such a fantastic event on Wednesday – we all went back to school buzzing and we were using the new techniques first thing on Thursday morning.”

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The event was part of V&A Dundee’s first Schools Design Challenge, targeting S1 pupils to use design to change their educational experience by asking them ‘How could you improve your school or school life?’ Eighteen schools have signed up to the challenge, which will culminate in a large-scale design jam, working with professional designers and a filmmaker to bring their ideas to life. Joanna Mawdsley, Learning Manager at V&A Dundee together with Sandy Hope, a senior teacher on secondment to the V&A, are behind the initiative. My role was to equip the teachers with the know-how, the confidence and the tools that would enable their pupils to rise to the challenge set.

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DJCAD students Rachel Lees and Roma McCook provided excellent support for a two hour session that provided the following elements:

  • An overview of design thinking and service design highlighting its value across a range of problem domains.
  • An ice breaking session to emphasise how, as a collaborative process, design requires interventions to aid interaction, trust and familiarity.
  • A teacher challenge, identifying pain points in their professional work – issues and problems that get in the way of the school learning experience and/or the teacher experience.
  • Introduction to affinity mapping – making sense of complexity using easy to apply methods that move people rapidly and fairly to a decision.
  • Overview of ideation methods – demonstrating how they can be enabled with a range of different methods and can involve structured thinking and the use of random elements.
  • Use of the Rip + Mix method.
  • Introduction to mapping – demanding an empathetic mindset to see the impact of services on people, and focusing on the need to communicate the value of change in a jargon free, clear way.

The session also provided considerable opportunity for group working, and the presentation of ideas back to the whole group.

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The feedback we gained from our Check Out sheets included the following:

“Fab CPD. Thank you. Great content, good laugh!”

“I liked the group activities and the exchange of ideas”.

“I’ll pass all of this onto other staff and encourage the same thinking.”

“My key takeaway is: add some fun and make these challenge lesson different!”

“The Rip and Mix was brilliant!”

We provided teachers with a pinterest board of resources that they could use with their pupils, including some material to build on their understanding of design thinking.

Overall the two hour session demonstrated the key methods and value of design thinking, and provided the teachers with tools that they could apply immediately in a teaching context. As most of the teachers came subjects other than design, this was a very beneficial outcome, and is part of our mission to show the value of design to other specialists, to build design capacity, and to point towards new applications and methods.

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Great venue: The Red Box at the High Mill, Verdant Works.

Brilliant photography: Erika Stevenson

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