Within Project Based Learning units, we often find that the middle section of a project (the time between an engaging entry-event and the presentation of the project to an authentic audience) can be a veritable no-man's land - one where if as an educator you do not have enough tools and strategies in your hip pocket to guide students, time (which we all know is hard to come by within the classroom) can easily be sucked away.
We have found that Design Thinking, specifically what we refer to as the Creative Sequence, provides just the right amount of structure for both educators and students during the research and development phase of a Project-Based Learning unit. In the Creative Sequence, there are six different phases that can be described in the following way for use within the classroom:
While this sequence was presented in a linear fashion, one could always go back and forth between stages (i.e. - if you realized that you did not have viable solutions you could go back to the Investigation Stage to collect more research).
The nice thing about utilizing this sort of a framework within the classroom is that it gives clear guidance to students while they are working through a project ("For the next two days we will be working through the Incubation Stage of the project and coming up with ideas based upon the research we uncovered.") and it helps educators get a better handle on how to allocate their all too precious face-to-face time with students.
The Creative Sequence and Collaborative Student Work
You may of thought as you read through the descriptions of the different stages of the Creative Sequence, "I really do (or do not) like this part". That sort of reaction is natural. Personally, if I could exist in the Investigation and Incubation Stages everyday, all day at my job, I would be in heaven.
The students within our classrooms have similar reactions. While some could come up with crazy and tangental ideas all-day, every-day, others just want to get to the solution that they had in their mind the second that the educator posed the driving question. The issue arises in collaborative work when students do not realize that they have these prebuilt dispositions toward different portions of the Creative Sequence that conflict with other team members (i.e. - I want to brainstorm while others just want to get to a solution).
As educators/facilitators, if we help students to uncover these dispositions for various phases of the Creative Sequence, share them with their team mates, and view them as strengths ("You know Jose, we are really going to need you for this part because you really like and are good at the Ideation Stage.") versus weaknesses ("Jose would you please stop wasting time coming up with ideas.") then collaborative group work can only be more effective. Likewise, by doing this students' understanding of and confidence in themselves only stands to be greater.
So, this begs the question, how as educators can we help students do this? One new tool that we just developed (we will be trying it out with students at the orientation for our summer programs next week), is a "Creative Sequence Scenario Assessment". This collection of six scenarios
gives students a chance to think through what they would do in different situations (including completing a project) and self-assess which sections of the Creative Sequence they are the most drawn to. Hopefully it will spark some rich discussions in groups as to what areas team members are strong in and where there might be some gaps within the group.
To download a copy of the booklet, click on the image below. As you look it over and/or utilize it within your school, classroom or wherever, let us know what you think.
(Click on the Picture Below to Download a Copy)
About Jason Pasatta
I am passionate about learning, design, and the potential that we all possess. Currently I am the Director of Innovation Services for the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District in West Michigan, where I the lead the development of new and innovative educational programs, supports, and systems.