That “Problem Space”

“A well designed artefact is embraced by its audience where as bad design leaves the user confused on uninterested” Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). Feedback from users of the “problem space” are that they are confused, uninterested and enjoy their learning more in another space.

The “problem space” is 200 metres of (not quite) open learning space. Really, it is 4 x 50 metre square classrooms combining to become an open learning space. Specifically, this area has been targeted to assist the accelerated delivery of a HSC Subject from two years to one year, using a team of four teachers to deliver the course to approximately 80 students. Teaching strategies include whole group lectures, optional small group tutorials and access to ‘quite spaces’ within the larger space to engage students in independently learning. All content is accessible via an online learning management system.

Too Much LightLine of Sight 2

Essentially, through the redesign of a new course we have enabled students to sit the HSC one year earlier in one subject. The use of Moodle and Google Docs ensures an interactive, reliable and collaborative virtual space. However, only fleeting consideration was given to physical space. In Year 1, we delivered the new course in the Resource Centre. This year, we did a ‘bit-part’ conversion of the “problem space”.

The space would benefit from some thinking because, for 18 months now, there has been little thought given to how the space can best support this new and exciting learning initiative. However, teachers have expressed concerns with the “problem space”; some being, shape of the space, inflexible furniture and line of site to screens. This has resulted in teachers utilising another space in the school for two thirds of face to face delivery time. This clarifies for me that we need a design process to develop a space which will support the effective delivery of this subject.

20140911_110216Line of Sight

Therefore, the changes to this “problem space” are unknown. In order to create a better space, I am not thinking small and immediate, but I am thinking longer term. What I would like to do is engage the teachers and a sample of students in a design thinking process using some of the principles and readings encountered in this course. In a sense, I would be inviting people to work in a team because design is inherently human and done best with teams of people (Razzouk and Shute 2012). I would be encouraging the team to ‘design for education’, and have a shared ownership of the solutions so the teachers and students have both the incentive and desire to use the space (Pilloton 2010).

Tim Brown states, “Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional meaning as well as functionality, to express ourselves in media other than words or symbols” (2009). These are the capacities I would be seeking in team members engaging in the design thinking process. Along with these capacities I would introduce the team to the elements of deign thinking (Kuratko, Goldsworthy et al. 2012) including flexibility, focus, inspiration, proactivity, humility and the understanding that constraints are a part of the process. In the end, it may just be that by immersing the team in principles and elements of deign thinking that they end up doing amazing things and surprise themselves about just how innovative they really are (Kelley 2012).



Kelley, D. (2012). How to build your creative confidence, Youtube. 2014.

Kuratko, D., M. Goldsworthy, et al. (2012). “The design-thinking process in Innovation acceleration: transforming organizational thinking.” pp.103-123.

Pilloton, E. (2010). Teaching design for change., Youtube.

Razzouk, R. and V. Shute (2012). “What is design thinking and why is it important?” Review of Educational Research 82(3): 330-348.


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6 thoughts on “That “Problem Space”

  1. Greg, your school has designed a wonderful virtual space in terms of this HSC acceleration by the sound of it. Your physical space sounds like it will really benefit the students and teachers involved in this accelerated course. You are very lucky to have a space available to work on this process. It would be great if you could involve the teachers and students who are undertaking this learning program in the design process. Certainly the use of those involved gives ownership. It may also be advantageous for the future to have a few random thinkers of any age or background so that the brainstorming part is enhanced. Prototyping of anything that is cheap and relatively minor in terms of installation will allow some concepts to be assessed in a real format.
    Good luck with it all. I will be interested to see how it goes.

  2. I agree that sharing some of the readings from this course, especially those around putting design “into the hands of everyone” (Brown, 2009) and creative confidence would be a really valuable step in involving the users of the space in the design process and giving them the confidence to be critical users of the space – I think this will also form part of my own approach. It sounds like you have already agreed on the educational philosophy behind the space – team teaching, cooperative learning, innovative delivery – I think you will have a great time developing the space and I will watch your journey with interest!

    TEDGlobal – Tim Brown (2009). Designers – think big!. [Online Video]. Jul 2009. Available from: [Accessed: 26 July 2014].

  3. Hi Greg. Thanks for the good read. I was particularly interested in what you said were the problems the teachers had with the spaces – inflexible furniture, sight-lines to screens, shape of the space. I was wondering if you could post up some photos so we could see the actual space? I can’t quite picture it!

    Somewhere in the readings it says that Design Thinking is not just about physical spaces – it can also be applied to virtual spaces as well as systems (and a whole bunch of other things, I’m sure!). I’m interested in your “systems” that run in that space with 4 teachers and 80 kids, as you have nearly the exact same ratio as our place. Some questions I have in this regard are: (and NB, these are just random prompts I thought while reading – not something you really need to answer, I’m just curious!)

    – How do 4 teachers track the progress of 80 students? Do some teachers have oversight over particular kids?
    – You have 4 teachers so how are you being “smart” with the delivery of your curriculum? Is there any overlap in lesson content between teachers?
    – How are you allowing for kids which need more / less support?
    – To what extent are kids allowed (for lack of a better word) choice, voice and self-direction during their time in class?

    Cheers Greg! All very interesting stuff.

    • Hello Matt,

      I will try to line up the next time the students are in the space and using it for this lesson. They only use it once a week so, I will aim to get in there to next time.

      Also, thanks for your prompting questions. They will assist as we go through the design thinking process.

      Teachers are allocated time to meet and plan for the coming fortnight. Teachers do not take individual classes. Students gather as a class of 80 in the one space with four teachers. One may lecture to all while the other 3 ‘look on’. For other lessons, one may offer a tutorial and two or three teachers may wander supervising quiet time and accessible to support students one to one. Students make a choice of which ‘space’ to go.

      Thanks for your interest and input.

      The virtual space supporting the program is excellent. It is attractive, engaging, supports collaboration and can be accessed 24/7. There has been a lot more time, effort and energy gone into this and it is now time to pay some respect to the process of developing a space which better supports the excellent efforts towards virtual space.

  4. Hello Greg.
    I too was impressed with the concept of an accelerated learning program utilising virtual spaces. A bold program that I hope is being successful for you and the students.

    I have seen spaces like the one you have describe work very effectively. The space (in fact the whole school) was purpose built for an open and collaborative learning structured senior school. The teachers at this school did not have input into the design and felt that there was some aspects that needed changes. They also commented on how they had to change their teaching style to suit the environment, while students new to the school suffered a bit of ‘culture shock’ in the early stages. The adoption of an online learning system had some issues for them but I understand it eventually provided what the school required.

    Involvement of the concerned staff and students in the design of the space is going to be an interesting process for you. What a great way to learn more about this subject.


  5. Thanks for this post – the strategy being used here is replicated in so many schools, so the lessons you could share will be applicable to many. I’d also love to see some photos of the space, or a sketch. Above all, though, even if the overall ambition for change is BIG, I want to see a SMALL change with immediate impact made now. Would you be able to take one of the smaller elements, make a small change, and see what impact comes from it? I’d love to see how this progresses in the weeks to come!

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