A Cog in a Large System!

My place of work is a cog in a large system. Our work is heavily influenced by ‘filtration’, aka directives, from the hierarchy. This stems right from the top to all members of the school community, as everyone works towards meeting the schools goals, which in turn, meet the system goals. With a limited number of school goals approved by system leadership, effectively local innovations are difficult to realise. From this course, I am beginning to understand there is now an avenue to instigate a meeting other needs at a local level which would meet system goals as well as community needs: the answer – design thinking.

As directed by senior system leadership, professional learning across the system’s school is centred on implementing Hattie’s Visible Learning (2012), following the implementation of Putting Faces on the Data. (Sharratt, 2012). Add to the mix, EMU maths, Focus 160 and Project Based Learning!  It’s busy and it’s exciting!

Our major [re]building programme is underway. Our local involvement in the design of the learning spaces has not involved all the leadership team, just senior leaders. The Leadership Team was asked for brief feedback and the plans were shown to the full staff. Our opportunities for feedback [Hattie!] were non-existent, or at best, limited! Students and teachers, who are the users of the space, and who are the centre of design thinking (Brown, 2009 … and others) have not been given a voice. The architects during the tender process, were not visible in classrooms for extended period – just to wander around possibly to gauge classroom dimensions and student numbers? The architect did listen to some concerns by senior executive, changes to the master plan were made, only to be overridden by head office.

Stage 3 of the [re]building involves my workspace. I am determined not to be without a voice, and since I have some time [a usual constraint] to prepare, [end 2015 is a possible start date]I am preparing to utilise my developing design thinker skills. Once I have done this, regardless of the outcome, I know I have done my best. Furthermore, I know I will have the support of school based leaders and senior leaders. By involving the community in the process and utilising the ideas from students (Patsarika, 2014, and Plemmons, 2012) and parents, I am anticipating a positive outcome.

Project Based Learning is another area of pedagogical ‘tweaking’ for classroom teachers at my work.  This is another area for design thinking, to provide a framework for designing the curriculum and framing the questions, developing the curiosity as teachers are generally more focussed on content rather than process. Immersion and empathy (Brown, 2009) is often lacking because of the time constraints; designing the learning activities is often facing time constraints. As well, teachers often don’t see their work as a prototype, and are prepared to utilise the same lesson design for another group without recognising or acknowledging the limitations/failures/successes of the first. [Is this the result of time constraints too?]. This is another area where I believe I can be more effective and play a role to engage learners in developing creativity and entrepreneurship. (ATSIL [Zhao], 2012 and Robinson, 2011).

Another area of my role is working with the Kindergarten team.  The students have a dedicated space for playing during recess and lunch. This area has limited ‘hand-me-down’ play equipment, consequently behavioural issues are arising a the young children have a limited repertoire of games. Along comes design thinking! I have been able to ‘hold-off’ the quick fix suggestions, and am excited by the possibilities of applying my developing design thinking skills to this project….with it’s budget constraint.

Certainly no lack of ‘things to do’! […ummm, what about a kitchen garden?]


Brown, T. Change by design: How design thinking transforms organisations and inspires innovation. New York: HarperCollins.

Designing with Children. (2014). Retrieved from http://designingwithchildren.net/about

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Abingdon: Routledge.

Patsarika, M. (2014, August 26).  What architects can learn from designing with children. [Web log post.]. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/what-architects-can-learn-from-designing-with-children-29664

Plemmons, A. (2012). Opening the space: Making the school library a site of participatory culture. Knowledge Quest, 41(1), 52-55. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/kq

Razzouk, R. & Shute, V. (2012). What is design thinking and why is it important? Review of Educational Research, 82(3), 330–348. DOI: 10.3102/0034654312457429

Sharratt, L. & Fullan, M. (2012). Putting faces on the data: What great leaders do. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

SLANSW. (2014). Words: The magazine of the School Library Association of NSW, 1(2)

Zhao, Y. (2014, July 2). College ready vs. out-of-basement ready: Shifting the education paradigm. [Web log]. Retrieved from http://zhaolearning.com/2014/07/02/college-ready-vs-out-of-basement-ready-shifting-the-education-paradigm/


About plee

I am a Teacher Librarian and Learning Technologies Co-ordinator at a Catholic Primary School in Sydney's Hills District.
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