Changing the shape of teaching

Jo Chandler from the University of Melbourne writes about Professor Wesley Imms most memorable experiences at school which sparked his great interest in seeking the potential of learning spaces to motivate the learner.


Learning Curve

Last week I participated in a one hour SKYPE training session with a very patient tutor. During this session I was introduced to the key features of NVIVO – a qualitative data analysis computer software package. A great introduction and good reference points. Here are a few for later on.

Qualitative Research Articles

Qualitative Data Analysis Books

  • Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (eds) (2008) Collecting and interpreting qualitative materials. Thousand Oaks, Ca: Sage.  – Includes a wide range of discussions on the art and practice of interpretation, including narrative, ethnography and text analysis. It starts from the premise that inquiry is not value free but occurs within a moral and political framework, and to “reengage the promise of qualitative research as a generative form of radical democratic practice” (p. ix).
  • Gibbs, G. (2007) Analyzing qualitative data. London: Sage Publications. (This is avolume ofThe SAGE Qualitative Research Kit). – Focuses on the analysis of verbal data, the use of computer assisted qualitative data analysis and the role of writing.
  • Saldana, J. (2009). The Coding manual for qualitative research. California: Sage Publications, Inc. – Brings together a wide range of ideas about data analysis. Organised into 29 different approaches to coding with examples and an extensive list of sources.
  • Silverman, D. (2006). Interpreting qualitative data; methods for analysing talk, text, and interaction. London, United Kingdom: Sage   Publications, Inc. (3rd ed.). London: Sage Publications, Inc.  – Discusses approaches to analysing different types of qualitative data – interviews, texts, naturally occurring talk, etc. Provides examples of analysis and discusses issues of interpretation.

Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Books

  • Bazeley, P. (2007)  Qualitative data analysis with NVivo. (2nd ed)  London: Sage Publications.  – Organised in the sequence in which a project is undertaken. Applies to NVivo 7, so some features are out of date. Updated to NVivo 10 to be released in 2013.

Qualitative Research Methods Books

There are a large number of general texts on qualitative research. The following titles contain substantial discussion of qualitative data analysis.

  • Bickman, L. (2008). The SAGE handbook of applied social research methods. (2nd ed.). California, United States of America: Sage Publications, Inc. – Included in the list as it has a useful section on integrating qualitative and quantitative approaches.
  • Bloomberg, L. & Volpe, M.F. (2008) Completing your qualitative dissertation: a roadmap from beginning to end. Los Angeles, Sage. – Provides summaries, checklists and lists of sources. Generally well reviewed although one reviewer notes that “it is underpinned by an unarticulated, positivist approach to qualitative research, and presumes readers will at least be familiar with the system of doctoral dissertations undertaken in the United States of America”. Young, J.R, McGrath, R., & Filiault, S. (September 2009)  FQS Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10 (3) article 16
  • Creswell, J.W. (2009). Research design: qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches. (3rd ed.) California, United States of America: Sage Publications, Inc. – Little discussion of data analysis but includes a useful discussion of how to express purpose statements and research questions in qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research projects.
  • Creswell, J. W. (2007) Qualitative inquiry and research design; choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, Ca: Sage Publications, Inc. – This text is useful for showing how approaches to data analysis align with approaches to qualitative inquiry. It focuses on narrative research, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography and case study.
  • Denzin, N.K., & Lincoln, Y.S. (2005). The SAGE handbook of qualitative research. (3rd ed.). California, United States of America: Sage Publications, Inc. – Individual chapters illustrate approaches taken within different research traditions. This handbook focuses on American traditions in qualitative research, in contrast to the work by Flick (below) which includes European traditions.
  • Flick, U. (Ed.). (2007). The SAGE qualitative research kit. California, United States of America: Sage Publications, Inc. – Each volume has a section on data analysis. A discussion of the kit can be found in the September 2008 issue of FQS Forum: Qualitative Social Research 9 (3), Article. 28
  • Volume 1: Flick, U. Designing qualitative research. – Discusses what is qualitative research and outlines each stage of the research process, including qualitative data collection and analysis
  • Volume 2:  Kvale, S. (2007). Doing interviews
  • Volume 3: Angrosino, M. Doing ethnographic and observational research.
  • Volume 4:  Barbour, R. Doing focus groups.
  • Volume 5:  Banks, M. Using visual data in qualitative research.
  • Volume 6: Gibbs, G. (2007) Analyzing qualitative data. London
  • Volume 7: Rapley, T. Doing conversation, discourse and document analysis
  • Volume 8: Flick, U. Managing quality in qualitative research. – Includes several chapters on triangulation
  • Flick, U. (2002). An Introduction to qualitative research. (2nd ed.). London, United Kingdom: Sage Publications, Inc. – This edition includes newer topics such as the use of internet surveys and the increasing attention paid to ethics in research.
  • Flick, U., von Kardorff, E., & Steinke, I. (Eds). (2004).  A Companion to qualitative research.  London, United Kingdom: Sage Publications, Inc.  – The section on analysis, interpretation and presentation includes chapters on hermeneutics and discourse analysis.
  • Maxwell, J.A. (2005). Qualitative research design. An interactive approach. (2nd ed.). California: Sage Publications, Inc.  – The section on data analysis is quite brief but this book is helpful for beginning researchers. Firstly it takes a practical question and answer approach (e.g. What do you want to understand?). Secondly it includes a useful table which shows the relationship between questions such as “What do I need to know” and “What kind of data will answer the questions?”
  • Myers, M.D. (2009).Qualitative research in business & management. London: Sage Publications, Inc.  – The section on data analysis compares the coding approach to data analysis with other approaches such as analytic induction. It provides an overview of approaches commonly used in business and management and then focuses on hermeneutics, semiotics and narrative analysis.
  • Schwandt, T.A. (2007). The SAGE dictionary of qualitative enquiry. (3rd ed.). London: Sage Publications, Inc. – This volume expands on the 1997 edition. Rather than giving definitions, the 380 entries comment on the often contested meanings of qualitative concepts. The entries are listed alphabetically but a reader’s guide also groups them into broader topics such as Analyzing and Interpreting, Epistemology etc. Each entry also provides a list of key references.
  • Seale, C., Gobo, G., Gubrium, J.F. & Silverman, D. (Eds.). (2004). Qualitative research practice. London: Sage Publications, Inc.  – Data analysis is discussed by several authors in relation to different analytic frameworks (e.g. narrative research, feminist approaches and ethnomethodology).
  • Silverman, D. (2005). Doing qualitative research: a practical handbook. (2nd ed.). London, United Kingdom: Sage Publications, Inc. – A comprehensive guide, with a short section of data analysis. In chapter 14 Clive Seale discusses using computers to analyse qualitative data.
  • Silverman, D. (2007). A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about qualitative research. London: Sage Publications, Inc.  – An easy to read, entertaining and sometimes challenging book which summarises Silverman’s ideas about what is important in qualitative research.
  • Wolcott, H.F. (1990). Writing up qualitative research. Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications, Inc.  – A practical guide written in simple language. Note: The discussion on analysis and interpretation is not very clear. Analysis is represented as “rigorous, agreed upon and carefully specified procedures” (p.30) for “observing, measuring … what is “there” (p.29). Many qualitative researchers would dispute this view. Interpretation, on the other hand is represented as a sense-making activity which cannot be “proved” (p.30).
  • Yin, R.K. (2011). Qualitative research from start to finish. New York,: The Guilford Press.  – Includes a long section on getting started and emphasises choices in research design and methods.


  • Kvale, S., & Brinkmann, S. (2009). InterViews: learning the craft of qualitative research Interviewing. (2nd ed.). London: Sage Publications, Inc.  – Focuses on conceptualising the interview – and discusses epistemological and ethical issues. Also discusses interviewing different types of people (young, elites, etc)
  • Rubin, H.J., & Rubin, I. (2005). Qualitative interviewing : the art of hearing data. (2nd ed.) San Diego United States of America: Sage Publications, Inc.  – Discusses how to structure interviews, to follow up topics and links interviewing to the other stages of the research project.

Useful websites

Many universities provide online resources for their students. The following websites represent some of the major academic and industry organisations interested in qualitative research. As well as providing a variety of resources they indicate the employment and research opportunities available to qualitative researchers.

The ESRC National Centre for Research Methods

  • A network of research groups conducting research and training in social science research methods. Provides access to a wide range of resources including eprints, research publications and secondary data.

University of Surrey CAQDAS Networking project

  • Provides “practical support, training and information in the use of a range of software programs designed to assist qualitative data analysis. We provide platforms for debate concerning the methodological and epistemological issues arising from the use of such software packages and conduct research into methodological applications of CAQDAS”  It includes an extensive bibliography, downloadable working papers on major CAQDAS and slides on presentations such as “Analysing Open-ended Survey Question Responses in CAQDAS’.

Online QDA (University of Huddersfield)

  • “Online QDA is a set of learning materials which address common issues of undertaking qualitative data analysis (QDA) and beginning to use Computer Assisted Qualitative Data AnalysiS (CAQDAS) packages. We aim to complement courses run by, for example, the CAQDAS Networking project, many independent trainers and the large number of undergraduate and postgraduate social sciences research methods training courses.” It gives links to a wide range of resources in more than 20 methodologies, and is updated regularly.

Association for Qualitative Research

  • A UK industry focussed organisation, which aims to “develop understanding of the commercial value of qualitative research”. This site is mostly interesting for the directory of companies which carry out QR and the indication of the range of non academic employment opportunities.

 International Institute for Qualitative Methodology

  • An interdisciplinary institute that aims to facilitate the development of qualitative research methods across a wide variety of academic disciplines. Based at the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Publishes the free online journalInternational Journal of Qualitative Methods

General links

Coating Lenses in Empathy

I have been introduced today to the fascinating world of Chicken Glasses. Yes, these are an actual product and were  small eyeglasses made for chickens intended to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism. One variety used rose coloured lenses as the colouring was thought to prevent a chicken wearing them from recognising blood on other chickens which may increase the tendency for abnormally injurious behaviour. They were mass-produced and sold throughout the United States as early as the beginning of the 20th century.

In her blog, Brianna Crowley reflects on her recent attendance at a professional learning session aimed at building empathy in students, and facilitated by Kevin Honeycutt titled “Chicken Glasses.”

Building Empathy From The Start: A New First Day Tradition

26 August, 2015  Blog posted by Brianna Crowley


I’m not one for speeches. It’s been a really long time since I stood at the front of my classroom and lectured for longer than 5 minutes. My classroom is perpetually involved in an ongoing conversation.

Yet, I recently attended a Kevin Honeycutt session titled “Chicken Glasses.” Yes, these are an actual product, but, as you might guess, they were the hook, not the subject of our discussion. What we discussed was bullying, meanness, and empathy.

Honeycutt described how his son was bullied, and how he observed kids hurting other kids instinctively in schools. His answer? We need to build character education intentionally into our educational system. We need to have explicit conversations with students about the consequences of behaviors that isolate, belittle, and harm their fellow students. We need to name bullying and call it out of the darkness where it thrives. As teachers, we have a hugely important role in protecting “the least of these.”

Although I work hard to cultivate an atmosphere of mutual respect, safety, and kindness in my classroom, I had never explicitly set expectations for how my students should treat each other. Because I teach high school, I felt like this was understood and would only address it if those unspoken expectations of respect and kindness were not met. However, Honeycutt’s challenge had me mulling about ways I could be more intentional to address, prevent, and stop bullying among my students this year.

The next day in the car, I dictated the following into my iPhone. This message will open our school year, and establish the norms of my classroom:

In this class we are all equal. Anyone can write a brilliant poem that moves us to tears. Anyone can share a personal story that inspires us to change the world. Anyone can ask a question that makes us pause and re-examine everything we we thought we knew. So this is a safe place. No matter who you hang out with outside of this room, no matter how much money your parents make, no matter where you go on vacation, no matter what your GPA is, no matter what kind of music you listen to: you are as valuable as the person beside you. You have infinite potential to become whoever you want to be, yet you are inherently valuable because of who you are right now.

So I want you to know that I expect kindness from each one of you. I expect you to prioritize empathy in your interactions with each other. When we mess up, I expect you to take ownership and sincerely apologize. 

I cannot force you to be a kind person–the only person any of us can change is ourselves. But I can hold up mirrors and remind you of your potential. I can ask you to define who you want to be, and then hold you accountable for becoming that person. I can remind you of who your parents believe you are and I can remind you that you can impact this world positively. It is my job to hold you accountable for becoming the best version of yourself. I will accept no side glances, no eye rolls about another’s appearance or ideas, no exclusionary body language, and no terms that teardown another person.

We are all a complex mix of insecurities fears hopes dreams and strength. We will all disappoint ourselves and each other at some point. But we will all hold ourselves to a standard of kindness and respect. We will return to this standard even when we fall off the path.

I want you to know how I see you. I see you first as a human being with unlimited potential to do great things. I see you secondly as a learner with a curiosity about the world. Next as a reader and writer, a communicator with ideas that should be shared for others to hear, see, and understand. Finally, I see you as an English student. This is the priority structure. I care about your mental, physical, and emotional health first. Your intellectual growth and your curiosity next and finally your ability to demonstrate important communication skills identified by learning standards. This is what is important for me, and this is how I will make decisions in our classroom. You matter more to me than a grade, and our classroom culture will be steeped in kindness. No one should feel alone here, and all should be accepted.

I hope you help me create this culture because I certainly cannot do it alone. 


Originally published in Edutopia on May 21, 2014 and updated June 16, 2015, this curated compilation contains a range of resources on integrating science, technology, engineering, and math or on infusing the arts to transform STEM into STEAM, that will help you strategise around different approaches to integrated studies.

STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math

STEAM: STEM + Arts, Design, Humanities

STEAM and Maker Education

Additional Resources on the Web

Students as Makers

The last decade has seen a move towards increasing student’s active engagement in learning.  In her article featured in Edutopia, Vicki Davis sums up the trends associated with the Maker movement, and discusses how the maker movement is moving into classrooms.

The Maker movement is a unique combination of artistry, circuitry, and old-fashioned craftsmanship. Certainly, learning by doing or “making” has been happening since our ancestors refined the wheel.

Don’t treat making as a sidebar to an already overtaxed curriculum. As you investigate the principles behind teaching STEAM via making, you’ll see sound research from many educators throughout history, including Jean Piaget who, in 1973, wrote:

[S]tudents who are thus reputedly poor in mathematics show an entirely different attitude when the problem comes from a concrete situation and is related to other interests.

In 1972, Seymour Papert predicted what many complain is the state of today’s apps and programs for modern students:

[T]he same old teaching becomes incredibly more expensive and biased toward its dumbest parts, namely the kind of rote learning in which measurable results can be obtained by treating the children like pigeons in a Skinner box.

Indeed, many of us go on first our first techno-rush as kids playing with erector sets, Legos, and the Radio Shack electronic kits. In a day when everyone thinks, “There’s an app for that,” many educators believe that we’re missing the point of technology if we think its best use is programming kids to memorize math facts. Students don’t want to use apps — they want to make them.

Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager write, in Invent to Learn, a book that some call the “Maker in Education bible”:

Maker classrooms are active classrooms. In active classrooms one will find engaged students, often working on multiple projects simultaneously, and teachers unafraid of relinquishing their authoritarian role. The best way to activate your classroom is for your classroom to make something.

A new generation of inventors is surfing the tide of the Maker movement. These classrooms emphasize making, inventing, and creativity. Let’s look at the terminology and trends that will help educators understand the Maker movement.

Society’s Move Toward Making

Here’s a quick overview of history and terminologies.

Make Magazine

This bi-monthly magazine was first released in January 2005 by Dale Dougherty. It focuses on the Do It Yourself (DIY) and Do It With Others (DIWO) mindsets. Every issue features step-by-step projects that often use household materials to make complex gadgetry and inventions.

Maker Faires

These massive events were initially created by Make Magazine to “celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects,” and DIY. The first Maker Faire was in April 2006 in San Mateo, California. Dozens of Maker Faires and mini Maker Faires have become a worldwide celebration for makers everywhere.

Makerspaces, Hackerspace, FabLab, or TechShop

While some use these terms interchangeably, many say they are different. Some say hackerspaces focus on the technology aspect, while makerspaces are broader, including many kinds of artistic endeavors not necessarily technology-related. TechShops are run by a for-profit company, and FabLabs are a loose spin-off from MIT’s center for Bits and Atoms led by Neil Gershenfeld.

Indeed, many communities have a new form of nonprofit called a makerspace — a “community center with tools” where members share things they could not afford as individuals, including 3D printers, metalworking tools, vinyl cutters, laser cutters, and more.

Design Thinking

This term alludes to the specific cognitive activities that occur during the process of designing something. While design thinking in schools transcends the Maker movement, it is becoming part of the curriculum in many schools with makerspaces. As some schools innovate, they are using resources like the Design Thinking Toolkit to involve stakeholders in redesigning the schools themselves.

Tinker, Create, Modify, Design, Hack, Build, Invent, Fix, Make

As you read about making, you’ll hear many terms. In my classroom, one of the most important verbs is “tinker.” Some might call tinkering experimenting, but it’s more than that.

For example, when my son was making a robot out of a Hummingbird Robotics Kit, he tinkered with several motors and input devices to determine which he would use. He experienced a lot of failure, but we called that tinkering. We celebrate tinkering because there are times you may sit down to “make” with literally nothing more than the knowledge in your brain. Tinkering is a celebrated part of making because it is part of the invention process.

Making in Education

Invent to Learn by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager

In my opinion, this book does a masterful job of connecting education research and the Maker mnovement. Tightly tied to the constructivist movement, Invent to Learn gave strength to the anecdotal evidence mounting from school design labs and makerspaces that students were becoming highly engaged learners.

#geniushour or 20 Percent Time

The practice of Google employees spending 20 percent of their time tinkering has led to some of that company’s biggest innovations, including Gmail and Google maps. Some schools have worked toward this approach, while others have spurred toward #geniushour, ignited by Angela Maiers‘ book The Passion Driven Classroom.

While proponents of each will argue the merits of the names and what you call them, you’ll see that in both cases, student-driven project-based learning and tinkering with STEAM tools are a big part of the practice.

Learning Commons

In many places, libraries are evolving into learning commons. Based upon the work of David Loertscher et. al in the 2011 book The New Learning Commons, libraries are becoming more comfortable spaces for collaboration and connection as well as common areas for tools and resources. This makes them a perfect place for makerspaces.

Makerspaces, Hackerspaces, and FabLabs in Schools

The FabLab at Kentucky Country Day School in Louisville (see the video above) has all kinds of tools from a 3D printer to a laser cutter and vinyl cutter. Third graders are taught to build robotics using Lego NXT kits, and older kids build and program their own robots using Arduino boards and all kinds of tools. Older students complete design challenges and build using every tool in the area, including items like sanders and drills, usually found in woodworking shops.

Research and Development Departments in Schools

You can even prototype and adopt this mindset in your school. Shabbi Luthra from the American School of Bombay has created a seven-person R&D department. This entity is commissioned with prototyping and reimagining educational experiences at the school and sharing what they learn. (Follow them on Twitter @asb_research.) As a form of “disruptive innovation,” you can tinker with school itself — and certainly progressive schools are doing this.

The Maker movement is moving in. How do your students make and create? Please share in the comments.

The Creative Schools Revolution

According to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia in their report Australia’s future workforce? released today, 40% of current jobs in Australia have a moderate to high likelihood of becoming obsolete in 10-15 years due to technological advancement. They suggest we are “on the cusp of a new and different industrial revolution. School systems and educators around the globe are being challenged to consider how best to prepare and support students to participate fully in the future workforce.

Modelling of the probability of job loss through computerisation is indicated in the Figure 3.


In his latest book Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution that’s Transforming Education, Ken Robinson points the way forward to assist schools as they consider a move away from industrial education style education systems. Filled with anecdotes, observations and recommendations from professionals on the front line of transformative education, Ken proposes a highly personalised, organic approach that draws on current thinking about how we learn. The challenge for  educators and school systems is to consider how to redesign current learning models that enable major transformative shifts rather than small incremental changes as a way to engage all students, develop their love of learning, and enable them to participate in unprecedented technological change.


Design Thinking and ‘Thinking Inside the Box’ (Part 2)

An Introduction to Design Thinking (Part 2)


June 7, 2015

In the constructivist-learning model, engagement and experience combine with immersive environments and self-organisation of knowledge to establish a context in which learning occurs naturally. Constructivism has since the time of Dewey become closely affiliated with Project Based Learning and yet despite years of efforts to refine the process the result does not always match the promise (Scheer, Noweski and Meinel. 2012). Scheer et al. argue that ‘Design Thinking’ is capable of providing the structure required for successful constructivist learning and the development of skills required for 21st century citizenship. ‘We want to fill that gap by proposing ‘Design Thinking’ as a meta-disciplinary methodology which offers teachers the needed support through a formalised process. Teachers, as facilitators of learning need to be equipped with up-to-date skills and tools to actually practice on the needed key competence learning.’ So where should a school start and what does it mean to implement ‘Design Thinking’?

For schools in Australia, ‘Design Thinking’ needs to be on your radar thanks to the ongoing implementation of the National Curriculum. The ‘Design and Technologies’ curriculum incorporates ‘Design Thinking’ principles from Foundation to Year Ten with statements such as ‘As design skills and design thinking develop, students should have greater input into the development of design briefs for specific identified needs or opportunities.’ and ‘In Design and Technologies, in the early years, students are actively involved in projects.’ The curriculum requires students consider the ethics and sustainability of their solutions in their marketing; ‘Students become more enterprising in developing and promoting designed solutions. Marketing increasingly draws on social and sustainability considerations, recognising wider societal acknowledgement of ethics and futures thinking.’ and will require collaboration on a scale that will be new to many schools ‘They coordinate teams and collaborate with others locally and globally.’ This syllabus is available for use by States and Territories and its influence can be seen in document such as the NSW Science K-10 syllabus that incorporates Science and Technology.

An alternate approach for any school seeking support in implementing a ‘Design Thinking’ approach would be to match the description and requirements of critical and creative thinking provided with the Australian Curriculum against the benefits of design thinking. One statement seems most appropriate for this purpose ‘Critical and creative thinking are fostered through opportunities to use dispositions such as broad and adventurous thinking, reflecting on possibilities, and metacognition (Perkins 1995), and can result from intellectual flexibility, open-mindedness, adaptability and a readiness to experiment with and clarify new questions and phenomena (Gardner 2009).’(Australian Curriculum) It would not be unreasonable to restate this with ‘Design Thinking’ in place of ‘critical and creative’ as it is these opportunities that occur within such a framework.

For a school wishing to implement ‘Design Thinking’ the first step needs to be understanding that it is a process which should become entrenched into the broad approach of the school. If the desire is to add pieces of a ‘Design Thinking’ approach then it is unlikely that the full benefits will be achieved. Situated within a culture that allows learning from failure, encourages a growth mindset, values creative and critical thinking and places a high value on learners finding questions that matter ‘Design Thinking’ can be the process that consolidates the schools learning platform.

One starting point for a school wishing to build a culture that supports ‘Design Thinking’ should be the writing of Carol Dweck and the conceptual framework that is embodied in ‘Growth Mindsets’. Beginning with a ‘Growth Mindset’ will allow learners to see mistakes and failure as an opportunity to learn. New research by Melles, Anderson, Barrett & Thompson-Whiteside (2015) found that attitudes to risk-taking played an important role in the success of ‘Design Thinking’ endeavours and that Australians were particularly risk averse. ‘In order to support design thinking in Australian schools and higher education, we need to consider what constitutes a nurturing and supportive environment for creative and innovative thinking. (Melles et al 2015 p200)

When extended to a ‘Design Thinking’ approach a growth mindset will allow each iteration in the design process to be seen as one step closer to a workable solution. Learners with a growth mindset will fear neither feedback nor sharing their ideas in a process of collaboration. The process of giving and receiving feedback is a key piece of ‘Design Thinking’ and one that is well supported by a growth mindset. To learn more about ‘Growth Mindsets’ visit Carol Dwecks website – or read her book – ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’. Resources for promoting a Growth Mindset are abundant on the web and a quick search will reveal a wealth of ideas. On Twitter try #growthmindset It is easy to take the approach of placing posters on walls and doing little else but this will only introduce the idea. To genuinely develop a ‘Growth Mindset’ takes time and a concerted effort in shifting the way individuals and groups think and talk about learning. Subtle changes to the way feedback is provided, the nature of conversations around success and the attribution of achievement to characteristics within the individuals control all play an essential role in shifting mindsets.

Promoting a Growth Mindset

Good to Great Advice for Growth Mindsets

Having established a ‘Growth Mindset’ the next step for a school might be to develop the question asking capacity of its learners. ‘In design thinking significant time and energy are dedicated to the problem finding phase’  ‘where as in problem-based learning, students follow accepted theories and principles to solve a clearly defined problem given by the teacher.’ (Melles et al. 2015 p193 & 190) Just as with a ‘Growth Mindset’ establishing a culture that values asking and seeking questions that are worth answering will establish the environment necessary for ‘Design Thinking’. It is quite likely that this will be the first tension point as ‘Design Thinking’ is implemented as there needs to be ample opportunities for learners to seek questions and this is counter to the ‘command and control’ model of teaching and leadership that continues to permeate many institutions. The key is to see the importance of the skill set required to ask quality questions. Fortunately just as with ‘Growth Mindsets’ there are numerous resources to draw on. One of the best is the writing of Warren Berger in his book ‘A More Beautiful Question’. The reader of ‘A More Beautiful Question’ will discover how innovation leaders utilise their ability to ask questions as the starting point of a process for discovery and change. The way a question is posed, the value it is given and the openness in which alternative questions are pursued can have a significant effect on an organisation and a learner’s ability to innovate.

One-way of identifying the type of question most appropriate for ‘Design Thinking’ is embodied by the term ‘Wicked problem’. Richard Buchanan who borrowed the idea from Horst Rittel expanded on the idea of ‘wicked problems’. A ‘wicked problem’ is one with ill-defined terms, confusing information and many conflicting demands that conspire against simple solutions. If there is a single reason for the broad adoption of ‘Design Thinking’ it is the ‘wicked problem’ as it is this class of problem that most confounds traditional problem solving pathways. ‘Design Thinking’ with its focus on solutions suits the demands of ‘wicked problems’ by allowing the learner to concentrate on finding satisfactory solutions rather than needing to find optimum solutions. (Cassim. 2013) In an increasingly complex world the ability to solve problems that do not have one single correct answer is an increasingly valuable skill.

In previous posts I have explored the questions we ask and the utility of allowing students to pursue questions of their own.

The Questions that Matter most

What Questions shall we ask?

 Questions that encourage deeper thinking

Having established a culture that will allow ‘Design Thinking’ to thrive the next phase is selecting the process or framework that will facilitate the desired results. A ‘Design Thinking’ frame should allow individuals and groups to function in a productive manner that promotes collaboration and engages users in a process where ideation, sharing, iteration, reflection and evaluation combine. From simple models to highly evolved multi-phase processes there is likely to be a framework that works for your particular goals. For the ‘Design Thinker’ the framework provides a scaffold for their thinking and allows them to engage with collaborators in a more productive manner. For the teacher this structure can remove some of the fear that comes from throwing the class open to the students. While chaos at times can produce results it can also consume large quantities of time. A well selected or developed design process should allow time for creative chaos but include time for evaluation of the results and provide steps along the way for the consideration of alternatives.

When getting started you will probably want to use a ‘Design Thinking’ process that has been tried and tested. There are numerous options and most are supported with easy to follow graphics. The importance of a cyclical, iterative process should be clear in any model selected with opportunities for the learner to enter and exit the cycle at the appropriate point. This cyclical process sets ‘Design Thinking’ apart from linear design patterns where the designer moves from one phase to the next and onto a clear conclusion. While a linear design process may be appropriate for traditional graphic or product design where one solution is prepared for consideration by a client, it does not serve the multitude of purposes that ‘Design Thinking’ may be adapted to serve. The one danger with this cyclical process is that some learners may never feel they are ready to exit the cycle of evaluation and refinement. An understanding that needs to be built into the ‘Design Thinking’ culture is that ideas need to be shared and in the end a result should be achieved; endless refinement without sharing is counter productive.

Regardless of the model you choose you will most likely have four to five main phases in your Design Cycle. Fatima Cassim distilled one model of the ‘Design Cycle’ from academic writings on the topic. Cassim identifies the key phases as: Formulating, Representing, Moving, Evaluating Reflecting

Adapted from Fatima Cassim (2013)

Adapted from Fatima Cassim (2013)

For added detail at each phase of the cycle you may find the Design Cycle developed for the International Baccalaureate useful. It has four main phases with up to three distinct steps within each.

Image courtesy of IB World School -

Image courtesy of IB World School –

 Other options for a Design Cycle include the excellent model developed by Dr Charles Burnette available online at or the detailed process developed by the Nueva School. An extensive set of resources and professional development is offered through including tools for planning and strategies such as ‘Hexagonal Thinking’ that will encourage learners to make connections between ideas. For schools wishing to apply ‘Design Thinking’ as a strategy for solving problems and not just as a teaching tool the experts at IDEO have produced a toolkit for educators called ‘‘Design Thinking’ for Educators’. This resource provides a set of tools that can be adapted to solve many of the problems schools are likely to face from reimagining spaces to developing new learning programmes. Stanford’s dSchool is a highly respected leader in the field of ‘Design Thinking’ and share many valuable resources through the web. For any school looking to implement ‘Design Thinking’ their Bootcamp Bootleg is a valuable set of resources that can be tailored to individual needs. While some of these resources are aimed at users beyond the classroom, the ideas can be modified to suit a classroom setting with a little creative thinking. To this end dSchool has a site dedicated to the K-12 environment and provides a wealth of tailored resources based upon the programmes developed for University students.

Hexagonal Thinking courtesy of NoTosh -

Hexagonal Thinking courtesy of NoTosh –

As you delve deeper into ‘Design Thinking’ you may wish to build a model of the ‘Design Cycle’ that suits your needs as a school and body of learners. Taking this step can be a learning experience and the result is a device that is understood more deeply than if you borrow a process from elsewhere. This is the thinking behind the ‘Creative Process Planner’. It was developed with ideas borrowed from many other ‘Design Cycles’ and is aimed at serving the needs of students as they approach their ‘Genius Hour’ projects. It includes a range of sub-steps and gives just enough advice to help students move ahead with their projects. It was developed initially in ‘Inspiration’ the well-known mind mapping software and gradually adapted to be used on the web. It is presented here with an open licence for schools to adapt to their needs.

Once you have the foundations of a ‘Design Thinking’ culture in place, you may like to explore providing a space for it to occur within. ‘Even more so, they need space to try out different mental models and methods to connect abstract knowledge with concrete applications and thereby, being able to convert and apply abstract and general principles (acquired through instruction) in meaningful and responsible acting in life (acquired through construction). (Scheer, Noweski and Meinel 2012 p10) ‘Design Thinking’ is a philosophy that fits nicely alongside the ideals of the Maker Movement and providing a space for ‘Design Thinking’ that is flexible and encourages collaboration can do much to legitimise the endeavour.

by Nigel Coutts

Read Introduction to Design thinking (Part One)

Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked Problems in ‘Design Thinking’. Design Issues, 8(2), 5-21

Cassim, F. (2013). Hands On, Hearts On, Minds On: ‘Design Thinking’ within an Education Context. International Journal Of Art & Design Education, 32(2), 190-202.

Gardner, H. 2009, 5 Minds for the Future, McGraw-Hill, North Ryde, Sydney.

Melles, G. Anderson, N. Barrett, T.  & Thompson-Whiteside, S. 2014 Problem finding through design thinking in education Chapter in Innovations in Higher EducationTeaching and Learning –

Perkins, D. 1995, The Intelligent Eye: learning to think by looking at art, Getty Centre for the Arts, California.

Scheer, Andrea, Noweski, Christine, & Meinel, Christoph. (2012). Transforming Constructivist Learning into Action: ‘Design Thinking’ in Education. Design and Technology Education, 17(3), 8-19.

Design Thinking and ‘Thinking Inside the Box’

Making time this morning to dig deeper into design thinking. The IDEAS blog shared on “The Learner’s Way” site ( shares the story of one of the pioneers of design thinking … Stanford University’s dschool. 

An Introduction to Design Thinking (Part 1)




May 31, 2015

‘Design Thinking’ might just be the next ‘new’ old thing in education. In her recent address to the National Press Club, Catherine Livingstone of The Business Council of Australia included ‘Design Thinking’ amongst the critical STEM skills required for Australia’s future. But what do we mean by ‘Design Thinking’ and why should educators be interested?

Stanford University has been a pioneer of ‘Design Thinking’ since founding its dSchool in 2005. Founder David Kelley explains that ‘the central tenet of Design Thinking, isn’t one of aesthetic or utility, but of empathy and human observation’. It is a process for finding new ways of solving problems and for identifying problems worth solving. It is much more than a process of design and it provides a structure in which critical thinking, reflection and evaluation is the key. Seen in this way it is what 21st century teaching and learning is all about.

“We moved from thinking of ourselves as designers to thinking of ourselves as design thinkers. We have a methodology that enables us to come up with a solution that nobody has before.” — David Kelley

In a traditional problem solving model the solution is derived to solve the problem that has been presented. ‘Design Thinking’ begins a step before this with the identification of the problem a subtle but important difference. The problem identification process is critical as it at this point that we begin to evaluate why problems need a solution. According to Kelley the measure is empathy or ‘needfinding’ a process in which ‘ it was just important to worry about figuring out the kind of human needs that were worth working on and then doing the problem-solving’. ‘Design Thinking’ is not something that happens separate to humanity it is a core response to the needs of people and it begins with asking questions about making the world a better place.

The methodology of ‘Design Thinking’ is the key to its value. It provides a structure and language for collaborative problem solving that allows teams to be more powerful than they would without it. Ewen McIntosh of ‘NoTosh‘ describes it as the box that gives you a place to work within. ‘You want to think creatively, you NEED the box to think inside of. You need a common process to go into new places.’ Rather than throwing out the box, ‘Design Thinking’ turns the box into a worthwhile process that facilitates problem solving and ideation. In this model the box is not a constraint but a structure that enhances creativity.

‘Design Thinking’ engages learners in a highly iterative process grounded in evaluation and critical reflection, both highly valued processes. Research by Looijenga, Klapwijk and de Vries titled ‘The effect of iteration on the design performance of primary school children’ explored the benefits of a highly iterative design process for young students. They found that ‘Effective knowledge expansion comes by thinking about already acquired knowledge and also by searching for definitions and explanations of not yet understood knowledge. Both activities are practiced during design activities.’ This study used simple design tasks with young learners, not the more involved and student driven tasks typical of a ‘Design Thinking’ process and yet the results showed that the iterative process of design tasks required high order thinking skills that could be transferred to other learning contexts. ‘Design concepts emerge and become complete through iteration of analysis, synthesis and evaluation’. For schools using Bloom’s taxonomy the evidence here is clear that ‘Design Thinking’ will not only target the high level thinking skills which are so desirable but will require them to be used over and over again by the students as they evolve their ideas.

For advocates of a ‘Genius Hour’ approach ‘Design Thinking’ is unlikely to be a knew idea. The research by Looijenga et al. adds validity to such an approach ‘Our case study shows that iteration, freedom of choice, collaboration and presentation improve the effectiveness of design and technology activities.’ The beauty of ‘Design Thinking’ is that is a highly collaborative process that leads to the presentation of ideas that are evolved through iteration. That the process begins with the identification of the problems and needs that will become central to the project adds further values as learners are allowed to develop ideas with both personal and broad meaning.

Central to the iterative process is ongoing evaluation of ideas. Allowing students to experience an environment where learning occurs from self-identification of what works and what does not has great value. In ‘Design Thinking’ failure is part of the process that leads to learning. Each time an idea is found to be lacking the learner moves one step closer to a plan that has a chance of working. In the world of start-ups and tech companies this mentality is given voice in catch cries such as ‘fail fast’ or ‘move fast and break things’. Students learn to evaluate their ideas and learn from each iteration. If our goal is to develop a ‘Growth Mindset’ where failure is viewed as a positive learning experience ‘Design Thinking’ provides an ideal process and opportunities to develop an attitude that can be readily transferred beyond the design project.

A “‘Design Thinking’’ approach will also ensure students are engaging in a process of critical reflection and metacognition. ‘Effective reflection for learning through experience requires a capacity for understanding one’s thinking and learning processes, critical self-awareness of values, beliefs and assumptions, and an openness to alternative, challenging perspectives.’ according to Debra Coulson and Marina Harvey of Macquarie University. Their research focused on the role of reflection at three critical points in the learning cycle and which occur repeatedly within a ‘Design Thinking’ process. ‘Reflection for Action’ can occur for students as they consider the nature of ‘Design Thinking’ and use scaffolds for their collaboration which will support reflective practice. ‘Reflection in Action’ is part of the culture of ‘Design Thinking’ in which learners are constantly engaging in a process of questioning, evaluating, testing and refining their ideas based on their observations and analysis. Including a formal reflective process into this mix can add structure and refine the process while recording the thinking that is taking place for later analysis and review. ‘Reflection on Action’ occurs at end points in the ‘Design Process’ but as in many respects the end point is the start of a new cycle the reflective process has greater meaning than it may otherwise. In a “‘Design Thinking’’ model this ‘reflection on action’ is what spurs the learner onto more action and continued learning. ‘Reflection and learning may continue long after the experience and the academic requirements are complete, particularly if scaffolding has been effective in supporting the development of reflective ability and agency.’

Observe a group of students engaged in ‘Design Thinking’ and you will see similarities to the way students play. Unsurprisingly Looijenga et al. noted this in their study. ‘Playing includes experimenting with the same thing, with small variations, over and over again. Every repetition of the experiment gives improvement in performance.’ This sort of constructive play according to John Dewey, amongst other skills and dispositions encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning. What you are also likely to see is learners engaging in a process of self-explaining in which they describe their thinking to themselves or share their ideas with collaborator or teacher. ‘Eliciting self-explanations clearly enhances learning and understanding’ states Chi, De Leeuw, Chiu and LaVancher in their study on the effect of self-explaining. Chi et al. found that self-explaining is a constructive activity and it occurs frequently within the ‘Design Thinking’ process. Further they found it encourages integration of new learning with old and as it is a continuous process where partial explanations are evaluated and added to ‘self-explaining’ can manage conflicts and misunderstandings between new and old knowledge. ‘Design Thinking’ encourages this sort of iterative self-explaining and constructive play.

In Part Two of ‘An Introduction to Design Thinking’ explore how ‘Design Thinking’ can be implemented by schools and discover a range of resources from experts in the field that can maximise its benefits for learners while making the process easy for teachers to embed.

Coulson, D., & Harvey, M. (2013). Scaffolding student reflection for experience-based learning: a framework. Teaching In Higher Education, 18(4), 401-413. doi:10.1080/13562517.2012.752726

Chi, M., De Leeuw, N., Chiu, M., & Lavancher, C. (1994). Eliciting Self-Explanations Improves Understanding. Cognitive Science, 18(3), 439-477. doi:10.1207/s15516709cog1803_3

Dewey, J. (1899/1976). Play and imagination in relation to early education. In The middle works 1 (pp. 339–343). Carbondale & Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press.

Looijenga, A., Klapwijk, R., & de Vries, M. (2014). The effect of iteration on the design performance of primary school children. International Journal of Technology & Design Education, 25(1), 1-23. doi:10.1007/s10798-014-9271-2



Connecting Arts with Real World Learning
Image Credit: Artful Mayhem Studio

Carol Morgan,the Deputy Director for Education at ArtsConnection writes about the strengths of connecting Art through inquiry with other areas of learning.

The artists and staff at ArtsConnection have engaged in inquiries for well over a decade into the nature of teaching and learning in the arts and their influence on other areas of learning. Most of our practitioner research has focused on dance, theater, and their influence on literacy and language acquisition, especially among English-language learners.

Inquiry and Experience

We have identified two ways that learning in the arts has a profound influence on language development:

1. It is inquiry based. The artistic process is one of exploration and making artistic choices that require using imagination and higher-order thinking skills.

2. It is experiential and kinesthetic, which makes learning memorable.

While authentic arts education experiences incorporate embodied cognition (, the purpose of teaching and learning in the arts is to help students learn to work and think like artists.

Our colleagues Jessica Nicoll and Barry Oreck — who are dancers, researchers, and educators — describe working and thinking like artists as “learning to pose meaningful questions, discover interests and pursue provocative problems, and work collaboratively in the unknown territory of artistic creation.” So how do children learn to work and think like artists?

Artistic creation in all art forms is an iterative process: collaboration, critique, and revision are essential especially in the performing arts. Formative assessment is intrinsic to artistic creation in all art forms: making artistic choices, giving and receiving feedback, and revision. This fundamental of teaching and learning made visible in the arts is key to the procedural knowledge essential to student achievement of the Common Core State Standards.

In the Loop

The artists and staff at ArtsConnection have articulated a process that has been useful across disciplines: The Creative Learning Loop, a feedback loop that helps students improve their work in the arts.

1. Establish Clear Criteria

First, provide opportunities for students to observe and describe artistic work before peer feedback begins. Help them use specific language to describe the artistic choices that made the work “successful” or effective at communicating an idea or feeling. Then use this student-generated language in an assignment for small-group work, where students have the opportunity to make their own artistic choices and share their work-in-progress with other students.

2. Facilitate Peer Feedback

First, develop two things with students: a protocol and sentence starters. We use protocols adapted from the Making Learning Visible work ( at Harvard’s Project Zero and David Perkins’ Ladder of Feedback ( Always begin with compliments, i.e., describe what is strong in the work. Then offer suggestions that — from the point of view of the audience — would help the work communicate the idea or feeling even more effectively. Again, language use (“I wish. . .” or “Maybe you could. . .”) lets the performers know that they are in charge and that they own their artistic process.

3. Provide Opportunities for Revision

Give students time to reconsider their choices, make changes, and rehearse before sharing their work again. It is most useful for student learning if their time to revise immediately follows the feedback process.

Creative Learning in Action

These steps are deceptively simple and, like all good teaching, require practice. The rewards for both students and teaching artists, however, have proved well worth the investment of time. For a variety of examples on the Creative Learning Loop in action by teaching artists go to For  an in-depth example of an entire dance residency at The Earth School in New York City with links to videos including interviews with students and teachers go to

Engaging Kids with Technology and Finding “The Sweet Spot”

SAMR and TPACK are two models of technology integration
SAMR is a model of technology integration comprised of four levels, two enhancing levels:  substitution and augmentation, and two transforming levels: modification and redefinition.  Technology can be integrated at all of them; technology used at the transformational levels transfers into a positive effect on student learning in other areas.  SAMR can also be used to differentiate instruction within the same unit.

TPACK is a framework for integration which combines knowledge in content areas with pedagogy and technology.  It provides a structure to identify how technology, content and pedagogy combine to support a variety of learning opportunities and to help educators choose the most effective combinations.Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) attempts to identify the nature of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge. The TPACK framework extends Shulman’s idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge.