Mount Vernon Presbyterian School’s mission…
We are a school of inquiry, innovation, and impact. Grounded in Christian values, we prepare all students to be college ready, globally competitive, and engaged citizen leaders.
Mount Vernon has become a destination for families seeking a school preparing and positioning this generation of students to be college ready, globally competitive, and engaged citizen leaders. As a school of inquiry, innovation, and impact, we are designing innovative programs of study that allow students to explore their questions, passions, and interests in a hands-on, experiential learning environment.
A 21st century framework for designing student success and demonstrating student mastery requires Mount Vernon to develop a rigorous, relevant, and innovative learning and assessment map for each student; recognizes the critical process of employing a variety of approaches and methodologies in order to engage and motivate students of this generation; and prioritizes the training and development of the faculty and staff in a fast paced digitally-based global marketplace. The most important relationship for programmatic excellence–academics, athletics, arts, and Christian studies–is the relationship between a teacher and a student, both actively involved in a state of continuous learning. Therefore, the School seeks to design engaging, challenging, and applicable learning opportunities for all students and to assess the quality of student work demonstrated through a variety of quantitative and qualitative experiences including the evaluation from external experts.
What was your original HMW (How Might We) question coming out of the January 14th Design Workshop?
How Might We… enhance our school environment to nurture innovators because the needs of the future demand it (and the next generation deserves it)?
Tell us about your team's experience with the Empathy phase and the biggest surprises and unexpected insights you found.
Emily: I think we are uncovering and discovering the complexity of designing in a school environment in which stakeholders--students, faculty, administrators, and parents--all have different but overlapping and often intertwining needs, perspectives, and desires. It has been a challenge to zero in on a specific user because we are so keenly aware of the systemic impact of any prototype we work through.
Alex: We interviewed a wide range of people from faculty to students of many different age levels. It was surprising for me to realize when unpacking our interviews that although each different user had specific and unique needs, there were connected underlying tones with each user that related back to a need for time and space. They were different users with different needs, but my mind was forming connections, and this made it sometimes difficult for me to focus on each unique user during our narrowing users process.
Kristyn: The Empathy mode reinforced for me how critical empathy is for the Design Thinking process. So often we jump to assumptions about what someone needs and wants, and the deeper we dug into our users the harder it was to isolate just one need. I echo the challenge of the inter-connectivity of our users’ needs, and it is also hard for us as designers to put our own needs aside because we are all so passionate about this work! I think it will be extremely important for us moving forward to continue to empathize with our users as we iterate and get feedback to ensure that we are moving forward in a meaningful way.
Mary: The unpacking of our interviews proved invaluable and a positive experience. Creating our POVs in a collective and highly focused manner provided a richer and more connected outcome in understanding our users.
The biggest surprise for me was the range of needs we discovered. And when we zeroed in on two users to design for, one user was in need of time and space to feel innovative while the other user was in need of time and authentic moments for learning outside the bubble of school for herself and her students.
Tell us about your team's experience with the Design Summit. What stands out most? What will you take with you?
Emily: It was incredibly refreshing to carve out time and space to focus and to have the freedom to shift between the maintenance and task work of team-based design.
Mary: We had a wonderful experience at the Design Summit. Two days of immersive design thinking and active learning and collaboration. Any chance to be part of a DT experience is an opportunity for growth and connection. What stood out most for me was my teams resilience and thoughtful nature. It was a real bonding experience. I will take with me the fact that we as a team were able to pause, reset, regroup, and go forward without falling apart. #FailUp
Alex: I loved every aspect of the Design Summit. It’s always nice to have a change of scenery, and being in a room with so many passionate people who truly want to make an impact was refreshing and inspiring. What stood out most for me was the diversity of the needs and users each team is designing for. It was a great reminder that we are all coming from unique backgrounds with diverse users who have real needs-and our users should stay at the focus of our design. I most enjoyed the sharing of the prototypes and feedback sessions that we did for each team at the end of the Summit on Saturday. In giving others feedback, and hearing their stories, I gained new insights for our prototype and the directions we could move as well.
Kristyn: I loved the Design Summit because it brought such a unique group of people together that wouldn’t normally be sitting around the same table - both within our own school communities and beyond our own school communities. It was energizing for me to feel that we were collectively doing work that matters, and getting outside of the sometimes restrictive time and space of school allowed that to happen. I think it’s really important to see the work that other schools are doing because that is at once affirming and constructive. We know we are doing meaningful work, and the feedback we received from other groups was invaluable. I wonder how we can set the same norms within our schools that we operated by at Dobbs.
What POV (Point of View) statement did you settle on at the Design Summit (at least for now)?
We met Holly, an energetic, caring teacher in an innovative environment.
We were amazed to learn that Holly is frustrated because her students don't seem to care- they can't see connections to the real world.
It would be game-changing if Holly's and her students' experience of school more closely resemblled the "real world".
Tell us about the prototype you built at the Design Summit. What was it? How did it address your POV? In the testing you did with users, what did you learn?
Emily: We tend to vacillate back and forth between concern over whether we have bitten off too much with our prototype and feeling like no one piece of our prototype would or could function without the other components.
Meg: Our prototype was bold! I loved the ideas we built into the prototype and our desire to match the needs of our user. We learned that our vision still needs to become a shared vision and something that our entire school stands behind. There are still people, and the summit highlighted this for us, that may not see the relevance or the need for our solution.
Kristyn: Our prototype was bold and complex. We are a team of passionate ideators, and as a result it is hard for us to focus on one small piece of the puzzle because our heads immediately go to the puzzle as a whole. It’s clear to me how important the WHY is in our narrative so that all stakeholders can see the value of our proposed solution. I also think based on our experience with various users that whatever solution we end up with needs to be so simple that the form and function of it is obvious.
Tell us about what you're going to do next to continue iterating. What's your action plan? What are you doing on Empathy? What are you doing on Define/POV? What are you planning to do on your prototype?
Our current action plan is to test out our solution with MV users. We are also narrowing down on our pilot group that we will go full throttle with in August. Over the summer, we are going to continue advancing the work through a series of faculty summer grants. The grants will focus on different aspects related to nurturing innovators and advancing our School's mission. In DEEPdt, designers are in constant back and forth between the modes, Discover, Empathize, Experiment, Produce. Currently, we are in Produce mode as we are testing and collecting feedback on our prototypes, yet we will be moving back into Experiment mode to iterate and refine our prototypes. Here is a link to our Action Plan http://bit.ly/1fxukxg
What other reflections on the process to date and the collaboration with other schools would you like to share?
Meg: I love going through the DT process...each time I go through that process I learn something new.
Mary: In reflection, I cannot underestimate the power of the HMW…? (Not the HMW… statement). We utilize the HMW… Question and/or What if? as our bridge between the Empathize and Experiment mode of #DEEPdt. On Friday, our team jumped from the carefully crafted & meaty POV statement right into brainstorming. It was not until the drive home that evening did it dawn on me why something felt off with our transition, process, volume & quality of ideas… On Saturday morning, the MV d.Team made a calculated and collaborative decision to pause, regroup, and go back into Empathize mode (even when we were instructed to continue iterating on our prototypes, test, and create action plans) In DEEPdt, the process is nonlinear and our decision to jump back and forth between modes puts us on a better course to connect with our user as well as spark our brainstorming abilities and building on the ideas of each other. We took our “meaty” POV and riffed HMWs…? with ease, dare, and a what if? attitude…. And we created a curation of some powerful questions in need of solving for the future.
The decided upon HMW…? was
How might we… restructure the school day to feel more like a real world day and then monitor and visualize student progress?