Design Thinking for the WHOLE School #PedagogicalMasterPlanning

How might schools use design thinking for the WHOLE school?

In the NAIS Commission on Accreditation report A 21st Century Imperative: A Guide to Becoming a School of the Future, we can read:

Perhaps it is time for us to rethink our models and our assumptions about school and about teaching and learning. What should future learning environments look like? How should we organize time to learn? What

types of relationships and communities will nurture our students? What tools do they need? The schools based on industrial and agrarian models that have existed for

centuries may not be the schools that we need for tomorrow. What might we imagine as a different model? And how might the accreditation process serve to mobilize

schools to create a new model or models?

That’s from the National Association of Independent Schools, so I am making an assumption (that I believe in strongly!) that if one is a member of that organization, then one has accepted and embraced the notion of “being on that team” – believing that one is a willing follower of that leader.

So how are our independent schools responding to that call… those questions? How is your school contemplating, or even planning, or even implementing, for such a reimagining and remodeling of “school?”

Many independent schools are buying into design thinking for their students. That’s a great thing! I am a huge and genuine fan of design thinking. As a teacher and administrator, I was a practitioner of design thinking.

But I wonder why more schools and school leadership teams are not actually practicing what they are preaching and teaching – on their entire school. I don’t mean that in any sort of accusatorial way. I’m genuinely curious and wondering why.

How might schools use design thinking for the WHOLE school? To explore as a community the charge and challenge issued by the NAIS COA. If a school committed to such an exercise and process, prototyped several possible new models for school, and then decided that its current model is far superior to any of the other models designed by the community… then, the school could confidently stick with its existing model. But, what if… What if the process reveal new possibilities? Dare I say it… better possibilities.

“Different is not always better, but better is always different.” – Marshall Thurber

Here are just three links to using design thinking with students.

Do you know of any examples like the three above, BUT geared toward an entire school redesign? (If so, please share them with me/us in the comments.)

Now, I would challenge any school leadership team to devoting AT LEAST a meeting to discussing how the school might engage design thinking, not just as a curricular and instructional methodology, but also as a fun, participatory, community-engaging and solutions-oriented means to living an examined life as a school and a leader of adult and child learners.

And I’ll put some more of my cards on the table – the typical strategic planning processes used in indy schools are NOT design thinking.

I believe we need “strategic planning illustrated.” I believe we need the spawn of design thinking and strategic planning. Our design thinking methodology here at Unboundary has produced such a spawn…


[Disclaimer: I think this post, as a thinking and doing prompt, applies to all schools. However, I did write this post specifically with independent schools in mind.]

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