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Design Thinking for Learning

At Christian College Geelong, we continue to pursue improvements in our teaching and learning framework for the direct benefit of our students. In February this year, I made a submission to Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) for our College to be included in a program to explore ‘Design Thinking’ as a model of inquiry and project-based work in the classroom. I am pleased to communicate that Christian College has been selected as one of only six schools throughout the state to participate in this action, research-based project, providing a wonderful opportunity for our Staff to become adept at using Design Thinking within our College context.

This project has been offered by ISV and in partnership with ‘NoTosh’ – a global consultancy led by Ewan McIntosh, the Founder and CEO of NoTosh. This organisation has a passion for learning and a conviction that innovation and creativity can change the way people think, the way they learn and the way they work – as individuals, teams, organisations and communities. Learning, and learning to think differently, sits at the heart of the NoTosh strategy. The pedagogy effectively and creatively engages students in their learning, whilst at the same time develops skills pertinent to their future learning and ‘work’. Design Thinking involves a five-step ‘process’ that can be applied to a ‘problem’ requiring solutions with real-world applications.

A brief overview of the process our students will work through is outlined below in the ‘NoTosh’ image accompanying this article.

The Design Thinking team from Christian College is made up of staff from the Senior, Bellarine and Middle School campuses, comprising of Rick Geall (Team Leader), Nicola Morrish, Michelle Williams, Ingrid Staggard and David Hatswell.
The group has already attended ISV for ‘incubator workshops’ with the NoTosh team, a video briefing with Ewan McIntosh, onsite coaching, as well as scoping the work for an ‘exemplar’ unit of work to be delivered to our Year 7 cohort in Term 3, based on the Design Thinking process.

We are hoping that through our participation in this project, we will not only be offered expertise and coaching in Design Thinking but also the opportunity to test, trial and implement this process, with a view to this process being adopted across our campuses when new units of study are planned and developed. Furthermore, this process provides a framework for us to continue our pursuit of developing 21st century (future) learning skills for our students. This also supports the learning dispositions adopted through the ‘Building Learning Power’ language, already being implemented across the College.

Our team have been meeting regularly and thus far have established a number of key outcomes for the Year 7 project; that will require varying integrated input from a range of different subject and faculty domains:

  • An overarching big idea of ‘Sustainability’ that delivers a real-world outcome.

  • A unit sequence that follows the Design Thinking process: Immersion, Synthesis, Ideation, Prototype, and Feedforward.

  • A potential to focus on three particular 21st century (future) skills suited to the theme and real-world outcome: examples may include ‘Collaboration’, ‘Problem Solving’ and ‘Self-Regulation’.

  • A commitment to both formative and summative assessment.

The Design Thinking process is a valuable tool that we hope our students will be able to use when trying to solve various ‘problems’ – and not just at school. The NoTosh organisation works with schools, the business sector, healthcare, industry and enterprise. We want to equip our young people with the skills that will best prepare them to complete ‘good work’ in the future, regardless of what that future might look like!

I can personally confirm that the Design Thinking process really does work and elicits some deep and creative thinking. At a recent professional learning team meeting with my colleagues, Mr Rick Geall ‘stepped’ us through the Design Thinking process as we explored and collaboratively engaged with a ‘problem’ to scope a project to be implemented next year. Using this process to guide our work and the subsequent discussion proved incredibly valuable, and allowed us to wrestle with various prototypes to ‘feedforward’ to our anticipated end goal. You will have to wait until next year (as will we!) to see this particular project come to fruition. Indeed, through the adoption of this process, Design Thinking has wonderful scope to further benefit our staff and broader College.

This is an exciting opportunity. I believe it is an integral component of our teaching and learning framework. I am most grateful to the staff who have actively embraced the Design Thinking project and are investing great time, energy and passion to plan and provide the very best learning opportunities for our students.

Scott Elliss



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