Professionals share their views in an interview with Brainfeed on how efficiently can design thinking be incorporated into the present educational sector.
Fostering a Generation of Problem-Solvers
Ajay Aggarwal and Hiral Gala, Design Thinking – Practice Lead, together share their experiences at KPMG India.
How do you incorporate design thinking process within the curriculum?
Design Thinking is being incorporated in school curricula at various levels. We have been working with schools to run standalone Design Thinking courses with their students. This has been aimed to help develop empathy and also build creative confidence in students. These sessions are delivered as structured yearly interventions starting right from the KG level and with increasing difficulty levels moves up to the 10th standard.
The 2nd level that we have been working on is to help develop the skills of school teachers through structured teacher training programs. These interventions are aimed towards enabling teachers to use the design thinking approach in designing foundational skill programs for children. These programs are targeted to bring sustainable change in the school curricula and ecosystem.
How has design thinking helped resolve issues within the school system?
During our design thinking interventions at various schools some changes that we were able to make:
- Student level: One of the challenges we tried to address at a school was ‘how to strengthen and sustain the feeling of empathy in older children’ the key objective was not only to strengthen the art of empathy but also to help the school to reduce instances of ‘BULY ’. We introduced certain systemic level changes wherein structurally the senior student from standard 1st / 2nd / 3rd standard were induced into helping (taking them to class from school gates, leaving them to school gate from class etc.) the students at the KG level.
The result of this has been that these students who have helped the younger children during their foundational years have stayed the same way when they went into higher classes and instead of becoming a bully they have not only become more empathetic towards the younger children, teachers, and school’s staff but also for their general surroundings, thus becoming better citizens of India.
- Parents, Teachers and school staff: In quest of solving the challenge of ‘How might we design a learning experience for students to build strong foundational skills’ we found parents, teachers and school staff as the key stakeholders. We conducted structured design thinking interventions that facilitate collaboration between these stakeholders. This has not only led to better curricula design but also has given all these stakeholders a chance to understand each other’s challenges which has resulted in a more harmonious atmosphere leading to better student experience and development.
Empathy is an important aspect of design thinking. Share with us incidents where it has helped build stronger relationships with the school stakeholders.
During one of our engagements with a school, we found that most of the children studying in that school were from an underprivileged background. These children not only had a weak financial condition but also most of the times also had strained parental relations (divorced parents/drunkard parents/parents’ fights etc.). This was resulting in a whole lot of behavioral issues with children. We took this as a design challenge ‘How might we design an intervention for the parents and children to help improve their relations.’ We organized short two-hour design based workshops wherein children and parents had to work together to solve their life challenges (Example. How might we design a communication campaign for our home to motivate father to leave drinking habit” / “How might we reduce the fights between mom and dad” / “How might we design a framework to ensure education for every child” etc.). Further, we also involved the school’s teachers to deliver short storytelling sessions for both children and parents. During these activities, we sometimes saw parents crying and also venting out their problems and feelings. The impact of this was that the understanding between the parents and children improved. Teachers were also able to explain to the parents that how their behavior at home is impacting their child’s behavior and future, which made a big impact on the overall situation.
This process requires immense one-on-one engagement with students. How to ensure quality in a country like India which faces the challenge of inadequacy in a number of teachers?
Qualified teachers are hard to find and so is delivering a world-class education within a complex set of constraints. Working collaboratively by leveraging technology and developing new learning methods can be an appealing solution. For example, at Innova School in Peru, it quickly became apparent that while many teachers lacked the qualifications to teach to an internationally competitive level, they had a strong desire to support the young people and improve themselves. Hence, they identified peer to peer learning and blended learning to address this problem. For a part of the day, students worked on a group project guided by teachers. For the rest of the day, they worked in self-directed ways using digital tools such as Khan Academy.
Getting ready for 2030!
Sandeep Hooda, Co-Founder, Vega Schools
How do you blend design thinking with your own curriculum?
Design thinking is at the core of our unique PBL (problem-based learning) method of enabling teaching and learning. We have a proprietary process called iLead that is entirely based on design thinking. We enable learning for all our students in the same way in which great companies around the world to conduct projects and solve problems.
How do you ensure innovation?
We incorporate the six steps of iLead in every aspect of teaching and learning at Vega. These are ‘Getting in the zone’, ‘iThink’, ‘iPlan’, ‘iLearn’, ‘iLead’ and ‘iReflect’. The learning outcomes, too, are based on how we solve problems in the real world. Our learners not only learn content but also develop skills of using the content to find new and better ways of doing things. This, after all, is the real definition of innovation.
Please share the examples of implementing design thinking.
Our children have helped solve real-world problems by doing projects ranging from Waste Management at Vega, Change to Change (solving global warming), Working well with others, Development without destruction, Dream India 2030, to name a few.
Our major initiative, The Shram Programme is a Social Responsibility Initiative at Vega that offers Vega learners an opportunity to make a difference to the life of the people around them. We believe that it is important for our learners to become mindful of their own environment and think beyond themselves to their immediate community (family) and society at large. This thinking feeds directly into Vega’s PBL pedagogy of taking a driving question or challenge (such as lack of clean water/ hygienic spaces for storage etc) and creating a product that can be used by those who need it (e.g. a homemade water purifier etc)
How should we prepare children for the real world?
By the time our learners will go into the real world (around the year 2030), it will require a completely new set of skills that will include resilience, problem-solving innovation and so on. Therefore in order to survive and to thrive in that world, our learners will need to develop design thinking principles in everything they do. Similarly schools are evolving, however, they need to evolve very quickly since they are educating for a very different world.
How do you manage the efficient implementation of design thinking technique when there’s a dearth of teachers?
At Vega, we deploy various unique methodologies such as cohort teaching where 5/6 learning leaders work with 50-60 learners. We also have multi-age and peer to peer learning wherein our learners learn from each other. Quality teachers also are extremely important for a technique like this. Our hiring process is very thorough and unique. We use techniques such as BEI wherein we like to understand the belief system and competencies of people we bring on board. After that, we spend enormous time training them through our internal training academy. There is no shortcut to hard work.