Designing stakeholder engagement: How experiential workshops create space for teachers to question, propose and share narratives around innovative learning environments.

Year: 2017

Author: Tuckwell, Dion, Edwards, Alison, Grocott, Lisa, Mahat, Marian, Imms, Wesley

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Design thinking is a general term used to describe creative, collaborative and exploratory activities that open up spaces for disclosing new ways of seeing possibilities. Design thinking workshops directly engage stakeholders through ambiguous prompts and tangible materials, promoting divergent and convergent modes of thinking to make sense of the emerging situation at hand. As a participatory method, design thinking in a research context presents a mode of working with the community, co-creating a better understanding of the research landscape. As part of the Innovative Learning Environment and Teacher Change (ILETC) project, a series of research-led workshops in Australia and New Zealand were built on the principles and attributes of design thinking, aiming to capture rich data from teachers' lived experiences and their insights on teaching in innovative learning spaces.

The workshop format provided a reciprocally useful experience for participants by structuring activities that provided insights into the experiences of others, enabled playful individual reflection and prompted further contemplation of problems/solutions through group discussion and rumination.

Strategies designed to address the ILETC objectives synthesised C (concept) - K (knowledge) theory with the research aims of the ILETC project. C-K theory identifies the many 'actors' involved in a process of generating new concepts and knowledge, and is a model for understanding innovative processes. In C-K theory, there is a distinction made between knowledge, which is seen as things that can be known or found out, and concepts, which are ideas untethered from formal knowledge, which do not have the status of being true of false (Kimbell 2015). C-K theory aided with the initial conceptual mapping of design-led interventions, providing a theoretical outline to the expansion of possibilities that occur when new concepts are generated.

This paper reports on the initial development and broad findings of five research-led workshops to investigate teacher practices and student learning in innovative learning environments. As Australian and NZ schools continue to move from traditional classrooms to ILEs, it is important to build a picture of the impact of this transition in order to make direct, meaningful and sustainable improvements in teacher practices and student learning. This paper responds directly to the 2017 AARE's conference theme of "Education: What's politics got to do with it?" by providing a better understanding of the landscape at the coal-face, and data-driven evidence that enables policy makers and practitioners in schools to change practices that can better accommodate the needs of '21st century learners'.