NZC and Design Thinking Part 1

NZC pg 16

NZC pg 16

My job over the past 2 weeks has been to explore, deconstruct and reconstruct the New Zealand Curriculum. The incredible thing about this process has been how clearly a Design Thinking process emerged from the curriculum.

We started by investigating the Achievement Objectives of our own Learning Areas so, for me, Social Sciences. The other Specialist Learning Leaders are from Art, English and Maths so we quickly gained a good coverage of the learning areas. In this investigation we were specifically looking for the threshold concepts, skills and tools or strategies required at each curriculum level. Our Social Sciences area is very concept based so this part was easy to find information for but there was a real lack of skills specified compared to the other subjects. I added to this section by using the Social Inquiry book and ended up with a planning sheet that looked like this:

Social Sciences Iteration 1b

Social Sciences Iteration 1b

After also spending some time investigating another learning area, we met to discuss how we were finding this process. It had been really interesting to compare the different Learning Areas and how some like Social Sciences were very concept based whilst others such as English were incredibly skill based. All of us had struggled with the Tools and Strategies part as the curriculum doesn’t specify much in this regard and the tools and strategies can vary so much from one teacher to another.

Our next task was to explore the essence statements from the NZC. Di and I wrote the essence statements out on Post Its and then extracted the key words and phrases from each.

The Essence Statements NZC pg17

The Essence Statements NZC pg17

Initially planning to place these under the same headings as our earlier task (Concepts, Core Skills, Disciplinary Skills and Tools and Strategies) we soon realised that this was not going to work. There were however, clear groupings of the words which were really about the How (learning process words) the What (Concepts and Contexts) and Dispositions. The clear links between the Learning Areas emerged quickly as the same core words were in each essence statement: explore, action, society etc. Our end product of this exploration looked like this:

Essence of the NZC

Essence of the NZC

Although this looked great and extremely manageable we really did have to add some depth to it so as a whole team we shared out the Learning Area explanations on pages 18-33 and extracted the key words and phrases. Now we were faced with a wall full of post-its so had to make some more sense of it. The words describing how learning should occur were in a linear arrangement and post its describing examples of how this could occur were grouped under these. The headings of our learning process that emerged from this deconstruction of the NZC were:

  • Exploring
  • Making sense of learning
  • Thinking (critical, creative, conceptual…)
  • Generating ideas
  • Refining ideas
  • Taking action
  • Evaluating

Discussing this we realised that it was looking very close to a Design Thinking process that emerged naturally out of the New Zealand Curriculum. We also discussed that effective learning will happen in cycles and that learning is not linear. I really liked Di’s explanation of learning being cyclical but not circular (otherwise you aren’t progressing anywhere!). So we ended up with the first iteration of our Hobsonville Point Learning Model looking like:

HPSS Learning Model Iteration 1

HPSS Learning Model Iteration 1

The sheets in the middle are the essence statements and some touchstone/learning design filters such as “increasing sophistication of texts” and “future focus”. These are our Remember the Why type statements.

The rest of the key words and phrases were grouped under Concepts and Contexts for us to explore further next week once we have refined our Learning Process further. A pleasing side note: the dispositions that emerged from this process were a close match for our Hobsonville Habits developed previously – resilience, curiosity etc.

The similarity of our Learning Process to Design Thinking meant that our next step was to investigate some other Design Thinking models to test ours against and see if we are missing anything that should be added in.

IDEO’s Design Thinking for Educators has become very well known and is helping teachers and schools all round the world to implement design thinking in their classrooms. There are, however, a lot of other iterations of this process out there when you start investigating further.

One of my favourites that I had been using to improve my practice earlier this year is a process that merged Carol Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry with Tim Brown’s Design Thinking, read more here. But I soon discovered all kind of iterations from liner 4 step versions through to motorways:

The process that really resonated with me the most was from Kim Saxe at Nueva School as seen below:

I really like the non-linear version of this which fits my complexivist views of education. Students (and teachers) can move back and forth across this process as the situation unfolds. This really seems to take it to the point where Design Thinking is a mindset rather than Step A, Step B, Step C, done.

Other awesome resources I found on Design Thinking that you should check out are iDesign which has every kind of resource you could imagine on Design Thinking (educational theories supporting this, learning tools, assessments…) and the open source Collective Action Toolkit by Frog Design which once again has piles of resources for free. Another amazing tool I came across during this was Erin Quinn‘s Creativity Assessment Wheel:

This is something that will definitely be in our thoughts when we get to the point later in this process where we need to develop a toolkit to help our teachers with our Learning Process. Thanks Erin for sharing this!

So, where to from here???

This week we will be coming back together as a team and share what we have found and see if any adaptation is required of our model before investigating the concepts and contexts in depth. Some changes to our process have been shared here.


23 thoughts on “NZC and Design Thinking Part 1

  1. Thanks for sending the link to your thinking blog. Had fun reading it and exploring the various links you included. A lot of hard thinking going on – guess finally you have to put something into action and then apply enlightened trial and error.

    Pleased you enjoyed the Charity James blog I wrote – shows thinking about transforming secondary schools is not a new problem.

    Her book was based on pilots programmes so has reality about it – poor timing due to conflicting political pressures in the UK. I bet there are no copies available these day – bout might a long, long time ago

    A good books to explore are Smart Schools by David Perkins which focuses more on learning and Google ‘The Big Picture Company’ by Dennis Littky. Also a great book by the same name – more about alternative secondary education.

  2. Me again. Meant to say that the key phrase for me in the NZC ( on pages 6/7) is for ‘lifelong learners’ to be ‘critical and creative thinkers’ and for students to be ‘active seekers, users and creators of knowledge’ in the process of developing students’ ‘identities, languages, abilities and talents’. Unpacking the ‘seeking, using and creating’ phrase is worth consideration. Following this how to develop engaging learning tasks that , in turn, develop key competencies and learning areas content.

    • Thanks for these comments Bruce. The senior leadership team visited one of the Big Picture Schools earlier this year, The Met School in New York, (see Claire’s blog about this ). We have one of his books and are taking turns working our way through it as we recognise the lessons it has for us.

      I’m hoping that the work we are doing this week on refining our model will answer your comments about pages 5 &6 of the NZC, I will blog about this once we have completed the next steps.

      It is great having the opportunity to transform the way secondary schooling occurs so all the ideas are very useful for us to test ourselves against. Over the next couple of weeks we will be testing our system by running some topics/themes/issues through the process to see how it works.

      Once again, thanks for the comments, I really look forward to continuing our discussions, including hopefully a face to face in a month or so 🙂

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  21. Thank you for taking the time to share your thought process. This post is a treasure trove of valuable ideas and helpful as I’m only just beginning to learn how I want to teach Design Thinking in my school district.

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