Often when schools implement a new innovation they will use pilot testing as a way to do it. However an alternative to this, part of the design thinking process, is prototyping.
The concept of prototyping has a number of purposes which include:
1. Fast cycling of ideas – prototypes are basic and quick to ‘assemble’, whether it be a physical object or process. This means feedback and ideation is efficient leading to many generations of new iterations in a relatively short period of time.
2. Physical action – ideas are not just talked about but they are put into action by either making a physical prototype or doing a physical action such as role playing or going through the process to see what it’s like for a customer/client/user.
A major benefit of prototyping over pilot testing is that it is much faster and cheaper allowing for ideas to be refined before implementing a major process change or infrastructure into an institution. Undertaking such a process minimises the risk of wasting large amounts of capital and time on projects that end up not working out and being abandoned or sticking with a project because of the physical and emotional investment even though it is not right to do so.
In terms of designing spaces it is beneficial to first prototype it before constructing a permanent building that is difficult to change. A brilliant example of this is the prototyping of Christchurch, New Zealand, with its billion dollar health infrastructure rebuild after the devastating earthquake. Setting up a warehouse to test out the design of the future hospitals physical layout and processes means that once built it will be less likely to need costly adjusting and retro fitting and it will work much better.
Considering the design of learning spaces is important as research by the Design council in the UK in 2005 low quality standardised classrooms: reduce the range of teaching and learning styles; hinder creativity; are inefficient wasting time.
There is no perfect classroom design as every group is different however here are some general strategies of creating flexible learning spaces include:
· Adjustable and moveable school chairs & desks so they can change height and easily be moved between lecture mode, group mode, and individual work mode.
· ‘Break out’ spaces for students to work in small separated groups: An L-shaped rather than rectangular space my assist with this.
· 3 or more ‘points of focus’ to reduce the predominance of lecture style teaching
· Ability to accommodate up to 3 teachers with more than the standard 30 students for team teaching, project based scenarios.
This leads to another very important consideration in order to implement both spatial and pedagogical innovation – a common vocabulary. One of the biggest roadblocks to innovation is a lack of a common design vocabulary in an organisation (Nair & Fielding 2005).
I teach in a Pre-K to year 12 School and in order for innovation to be collaborative then all stakeholders must speak a common language. To be able to do this they need to be exposed to what the language is and structures that support this. The only way for the stakeholders to truly own and understand the common language is to work with them to develop it.
Finally, it must be remembered that innovations are usually found in solving the present mundane problems that no one else has solved (McIntosh, 2014) or even recognised yet.
This is where the design thinking process comes in as outlined in the previous post “Core Capacities of Design Thinkers”. As summarised in the diagram below.