Teaching is designing. If we take John Spencer’s design cycle as a starting point, consider how teachers demonstrate awareness, inquiry, research, ideation, planning, prototyping, testing and revising, and launching/marketing. For example, when a teacher is working on creating a new problem-based lesson/unit, they might first do some research on possible problems to pose (awareness/inquiry/research), start planning how to implement the problem-based lesson/unit (ideation/planning), run some ideas past a colleague (prototyping), give the problem to students in first period and make revisions before second period (testing and revising). Finally, when teachers feel they hit on something unique and/or useful they might seek to publish the activity in a journal or blog (launching and marketing). Of course, we could argue about which aspects of teaching align to which parts of John’s design cycle, but I think we’d be missing the point.
If teaching is designing, then we ought to be able to gain insight about how to improve our teaching by understanding how engineers and designers work. Yet, we should move forward with caution. Designers and engineers are often after efficiency. Because learning is inherently inefficient, we may want to resist the designer bias of efficiency in certain circumstances. Furthermore, designers are often trying to make their products intuitive. That is, they want very little thought to be required to use their products. However, if we remove the thinking from learning we end up with thoughtless doing. I dangerous place indeed.
So, based on the learning I did when creating and refining a new course called “Methods of Engineering and Technological Design”, I’m going to take the next few posts to explore how design principles might inform our teaching. I hope you’ll join me.