The Design Thinking School

Our design thinking for educators coaching provides process through which to learn anything from Shakespeare to Social Science.

Design Thinking can be a powerful vehicle for deeper learning of content, more divergent thinking and building the thinking skills capacity of learners. Key to the process's success in learning, is that it provides the platform for learners to become problem finders. At a time when design thinking tends to come across as "shop" class and post-it notes, NoTosh have spent four years developing medium- and long-term professional development programmes with schools around the world, which marry design and education research with classroom practices that work in any part of curriculum. We've seen schools increase student engagement, content coverage and attainment thanks to the challenging way we frame design thinking and formative assessment, together, as a vehicle for creative and robust learning.

What is design thinking?

In schools, we use design thinking as a framework onto which we hang specific thinking skills to achieve specific learning tasks. The thinking skills are those identified by ongoing education research as having a more-than-average impact on student learning and outcomes. Teachers already practice many of these skills - so we help find consistency, share more internally, and identify what skills work best at which point in learning. Often, we work with schools to develop their own language to describe the design thinking process.

  • Immersion: a deep and divergent period of research, observation and understanding issues from different perspectives. The resources, experiences and activities are initially curated by the teacher, and students take on independent and collaborative roles in bringing prior learning and experience to further deepen the context of learning. The concentration here is on transferring work and thinking normally done by the teacher - defining success criteria and learning objectives - to share it more with the student him- or herself.
  • Synthesis: students deduce interesting gaps to explore, problems to solve or opportunities to solve, using the information they have gathered from the collective research of the class, and specific thinking skills, with an emphasis on making their thinking process visible.
  • Ideation, Prototyping and Feedback: this cyclical process helps students create and test many potential ideas for showing understanding or solving a problem, rather than settling too early on "the right answer". This part of the design cycle help them to 'hold their ideas lightly' in order to solicit and receive early feedback. The emphasis is on thinking skills and mindsets that allow students to create early and often, adjusting the course of their learning with feedback from peers and the teacher.
  • Implementation or Display: how do we celebrate the thinking of students in school - not just the finished products of learning, but the process that went into it? Here, we explore the role of sharing, not just setting, success criteria, and the scope for adjusting those criteria upwards as students progress in a project.

Why design thinking?

NoTosh was a company born of the frustration that teachers were constantly being told to "be more creative", yet few people suggested how, or why being more creative might have an impact on learning. On the design front, the domain of design thinking has been developed since the late 1950s, leading to those organisations which are 'design-aware' achieving more success than the average. On the education front, we felt there was a need to help educators prioritise which of the many things we can do, we might do first. By bringing a degree of process thinking from the design world together with proven practices in learning and teaching, we help educators on that journey. We ask the educators who work with us not to take our word for it, but to continue testing these hypotheses, through a professional development programme based around teacher action-setting, changes in practice, reflection and evidence of impact, and sharing.

How do you work with schools?

Our programmes are tailored for each school, group of schools or district that gets in touch with us. After finding out where you're at currently, and what your 'why' is for wanting to engage in design thinking as a framework for learning, we will develop a programme outline. Generally, such an outline will include face-to-face whole-school masterclasses, to get people on the same page, followed up with online coaching of smaller subject- or age-specific teacher groups. We can also help teachers record their progress as they attempt new teaching and learning strategies, pinpoint areas for future development, and help build a culture of sustainable teacher communities of practice within the school.

In order to do this, we use existing professional development time in the school calendar, and use our NoTosh OnTap retainer fees to bring the greatest value to schools - note that NoTosh never charge for transport or accommodation.

What inspirational stories are there so far?