Part 2 – Design Thinking and the Bendigo TECH School

  • On 2017-08-04
  • design thinking, STEM, teaching

How we used the Design Thinking process to empower teachers to come to a deeper understanding of the design process and to come up with their own ideas to embed Design Thinking in their school.

This is part 2 of the thinking and planning that went into creating a 90 minute design challenge that would authentically lead students and teachers through the design thinking process for Bendigo Tech School, last month. The creative thinking and innovation from both groups was fabulous and quite inspiring!


Embedding the Design Thinking Process into Schools

Learning in its essence is about enriching and developing the cognitive schemata that each individual uses to interpret the world. Our goal as educators is to have students follow the same processes of thinking that scientists, writers or designers do. When students have internalised the design thinking process into their cognitive schemata they will ACT like a designer.

My goal in the two sessions I had with teachers was for them to experience the process embodied in the design thinking framework and have them think from them as they explored both an authentic design challenge (Aged Care Design Challenge) as well as understanding the design brief that is embedding the Technologies Curriculum and design thinking into their school. Along the way I would show videos of the teachers from around Australia who have begun embedding the Technologies Curriculum into their schools.

The following is a summary of what I covered and the challenges I posed to the teachers. The videos that were shown can be accessed via our YouTube Channel.



In this stage our job is to develop a deep understanding of the challenge. This is the stage most of us do NOT spend enough time on but it is at the heart of problem solving. By getting as much information as possible at the start – with the aim of understanding the challenge – we can formulate potential solutions that actually meet the needs of the clientele. This stage involves asking lots of questions, observing, listening, and empathizing – being in the world of the situation.

  • Empathise Stage for Embedding Design thinking in Your Schools
    • We unpacked the current reality of design thinking in the teachers’ schools, what were the possible causes for the way it was, and the future they desire it to be
    • We then spent some time exploring a range of hidden influences on schools and learning so as to deepen the understandings that teachers have about the constraints on causing change in their schools. We covered
      • The power of habits
      • Effective Teams and I.D.E.A
      • Tribal Leadership (David Logan et al)
      • Developing Self-Regulated Learners and what that means
      • The impact of unexamined beliefs and mindsets. During this section we looked at Hattie’s research on the influence of teacher and student beliefs and conceptions.

The discussions began to paint a picture of the aspects we would have to consider if we are to meet the needs of preparing students for an ever-changing future.



In this stage our job is to clarify and define the ACTUAL problem we are taking on. The problem or situation we often begin with is ill-formed or incomplete. This is a major issue in a lot of areas of life. WE create solutions to problems without identifying and getting clear about the underlying causes and consequences and thus can exacerbate the situation (e.g. cane toads). This stage is about re-formulating and defining a meaningful and actionable problem statement.

  • Define Stage for Aged Care Design Challenge
    • Develop a clear and focused problem statement
      • What information is important?
      • What type of person are you designing for?
      • What needs are important to fulfil?
      • What insights have you gained through synthesizing the date?
    • I shared a video of a teacher from Clontarf Beach State High School where he shared his thinking and approach to defining a design challenge he was setting for his Year 9 – 10 students.
  • Define Stage for Embedding Design Thinking in Your Schools
    • What skills, attitudes and practices would we need to develop in our students?
    • What could be a clear and focused problem statement that captures the intent of embedding design thinking in your schools?


In this stage our job is to come up with a wide range of possible ideas from which we can select. This is about divergent thinking and allowing wild imaginative ideas. We would use language such as “what about”, “how about if”, “we could try”. It is about deferring judgement and not evaluating ideas because evaluation shuts down the entire process.

  • Ideate Stage for Aged Care Design Challenge
    • Brainstorm at least 10 ideas that could address the situation
    • I shared the Design Variation video from the teacher at Clontarf Beach SHS
  • Define Stage for Embedding Design Thinking in Your Schools
    • What activities, habitual practices and processes could we put in place to develop the skills, attitudes and practices we identified?


In this stage our job is to give students sufficient time and specific feedback so they can build, test, fail quickly, and learn. It is all about developing perseverance and learning quickly. Teachers would need to train students to give each other effective feedback because otherwise the teachers become the bottleneck. This stage is critical to developing students to be self-regulated independent learners.

I recommended a number of anchor practices I would have them use in their classes including:

  • Having the design thinking framework visible in their classrooms and constantly referring to it as the students work on design challenges – regardless whether it is Food Tech, Metal Work, Wood Work, Ceramics, Maths, Science, English, etc
  • Design consistent templates that are used in a gradual release of responsibility model. I showed an example of a Year 7 Rube Goldberg Design Booklet that the amazing Design and Technology teachers at John Curtin College of the Arts created.
  • Teachers reflecting and being action-evaluators themselves of their projects / units.
  • And finally taking on developing learner centred learning across the school

Next Steps

If you are interested in exploring the thinking and process more then we recommend attending one of upcoming workshops or contacting Adrian at







Leave Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This

Share this post with your friends!