Collège Notre-Dame: a design thinking school

Rivière du Loup, Québec, Canada

NoTosh Team

Ewan McIntosh, Geraldine de Fazio

Design Thinking for Learning Incubator

Curriculum design that centres on student engagement

Collège Notre Dame, Rivière-du-Loup, Québec, partnered with NoTosh to launch a design thinking for learning incubator at the school, that has inspired teachers to design curriculum in an entirely student-centred way.

The first Francophone school to focus on this innovative approach, Collège Notre-Dame adopted the NoTosh Design Thinking Process to transform teaching and learning practice. They dedicated eleven teachers to an in-house Design Team to lead the process of change across the whole school.

We worked through a host of provocations and a hot-housed existing best practice, to build on it and create next steps for the teaching staff.

Despite some initial hesitance and fears over the ground being shaken beneath their feet, the NoTosh Design Thinking Process provoked a positive change in mindset for the members of the design team. We saw an immediate shift from largely teacher-led teacher talk to more collaborative learning, that pushed students out of their comfort zone.

“The design team members understood that the work with NoTosh was an opportunity to take themselves out of their comfort zone in a ‘safe’ experimental environment. They developed a strong sense of empathy for themselves and others. They had a mountain to climb but they wanted to climb it,” says Jacques Cool, founding Director of partner organisation Cadre21, based in Montreal.

From first steps of small changes, the open and positive working relationship between NoTosh and the design team brought with it a great sense of trust.

The CND team realized that the endpoint was not the same for everyone - that simply, the Design Thinking toolkit was not the answer alone: rather, what mattered was their ability to judge which tools would work with which learners, and when.

Design Thinking tools drive interdisciplinary thinking.

As the team reached the second ‘sprint’ of the Incubator, with confidence and aspirations high, NoTosh encouraged a move from single disciplines working in isolation to greater collaboration across divisions and subject areas. As the tough work continued, the team was pushed to seek out patterns and opportunities to create a smooth flow through a child’s progression as they move through their school career.

With initial ideas and changes being trialed by many of the group, the Design Team was encouraged to pursue and undertake even more ambitious changes to the way they plan and create programmes of work

The school timetable committee has addressed the timing issues that got in the way of collaboration between disciplines.

Others have taken elements to trigger and engage discussions around pedagogy and teaching approaches. For example. Catherine Bruneau of the Language Arts department in the Secondary School, was keen to open up lines of communication. She put forward an idea to focus on improving relationships with students. Focused on building storytelling techniques, Catherine worked closely with a range of students, of varying ages, to create a greater sense of empathy in her classroom. The impact of this quickly became clear - students felt more comfortable sharing their work more publicly and telling their story.

As a result, each individual is in a position to take more responsibility for their learning journey.

“The creative confidence has grown in the group across the past year," notices Jacques Cool, Cadre21. "From the front runners through to those who were more cautious, the design team realised it was ok to be open to change and see where it takes them."

“It would have taken us three years to get to this point without the NoTosh process.”

Stéphane Brodeur, History Teacher, Collège Notre-Dame.

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