Beckman and Barry’s (2007) Innovation as a Learning Process: Embedding Design Thinking (2007) is a great resource for understanding the history and current direction of design theory. The authors describe three broad stages of development that represent a move from design as a top-down process of cause and effect analysis and linear improvement to design as an organic, iterative, and fundamentally democratic process by which communities organize to make meaning together.
This first phase of design theories and methods was focused on optimization and systematic problem solving. Beckman and Barry describe this approach as rooted in “machine thinking” and focused on rigid methods for breaking down complex tasks or operations into discrete problems and solving each one in a logical and linear order. In these practices, designers were often laboratory scientists, studying problems from afar, deconstructing and then reconstructing them for greater perceived effectiveness. Designers believed that their own aesthetic and practical understandings could effectively determine both utility and significance in design processes and methods. This early phase of design practice was premised on the modernist belief in the unifying progress of humanity towards a more ideal society. Designers were seen as heroic figures of the modern world, raising society to a more ideal state (Buchanan, 1998) and designers themselves generally believed that part of their role was providing a unifying vision of progress that would drive society along the path of human improvement (Beckman & Barry, 2007).
This initial understanding of design theory as a process by which a few experts solve the problems of society was strongly repudiated in its second wave. Buchanan (1998), a design theorist and historian, asserts that the modernist “unifying” vision is oppressive as it imposes one definition of utility and significance for all people regardless of culture or context (Beckman & Barry, 2007). Buchanan (1998) writes:
No one possesses all of the knowledge and wisdom required to understand and act responsibly in this world. We need diversity and alternative perspectives to keep alive the ongoing inquiry into ordering, disordering, and reordering that is the central enterprise of human culture. We need the diversity of many personal visions to avoid entrapment in narrow thinking. (p. 16)
My academic research (and Claire’s as well – @ClaireYates3) over the last few years has focused on the interaction between the literature of design thinking and the literature from the field of education that supports the design and creation of new schools.
Today I am going to start by taking a quick look at the field of what is called Design Thinking. In upcoming posts I am going review a bunch of literature and also do some sorting and aggregating of the field in general.
First, my long and inclusive definition of design thinking:
Design thinking is a way of approaching planning using a non-linear process of learning and experimentation that engages community members and their needs in formulating problems and creating purposeful solutions that are rooted in utility and significance and adapt over time.
The design thinking approach is an iterative process of knowledge building and knowledge using. It is frequently described in four non-linear stages—discovery, creation, modeling, implementation/production (Ackoff, Magidson, & Addison, 2006; Brown, 2010; Beckman & Barry, 2007). In addition, many authors identify a fifth state focused on organizational learning and evolutionary change although some see this as simply a continuation of the iterative process of learning, creating, learning more, and recreating (Brown, 2010; Beckman & Barry, 2007; Owen, 2007). (more…)
I am pleased to announce that School For Real is getting a bit of a refresh. We are tweaking the look (still in progress) with a focus on separating out the different themes we explore and giving school design itself its due place in both the metaphoric and visual heart of what we do.
The impetus for this in part the return of some wayward writers, but it is also a long needed change that reflects the current state of our organization which is really a loose consultancy and think tank.
I am excited to share, on a personal and school design note, that I have spent the past year working for Building21, a start-up, competency-based high school model opening as a Philadelphia School District school partnership in the fall of 2014. Their work is extremely interesting and represents a significant advancement in the field. I will write more about it in upcoming posts. In the meantime, check out the building21 blog, which is in itself both interesting and important. See for example, the thoughtful work they are doing with the language of competency and mastery.
Finally, I am very excited to share the research on school design I have been doing over the past five years. I am going to publish an overview of design and reviews of a wide range of school design texts. I hope it will prove a useful tool for school designers and researchers.
Send us your thoughts!
I have copied it here for you exactly as I received it from Ms. Fleck. I think the similar themes across everyone who knew him are evident. Mikal was an excellent human being and a roll model for all of us.
I could start by trying to describe Mikal, but how do you describe the wind when you know it best by the way it changes the world around it? I could begin by telling you how I met Mikal, but as we all know, you don’t really “meet” someone like Mikal in the same way that you don’t really “meet” the wind. Mikal engulfed people with affection, optimism, high expectations, and an astounding amount of generosity. Mikal was a force of nature and we are all better for being swept up in his wake.
Mikal came to me because he was having some trouble with his writing. He was supposed to write three sentences in response to some question, so I asked him to read me what he had. Scrolling down his iPhone, Mikal probably rattled off about twelve sentences before I asked him, “is there going to be a period in here at some point?” That’s where we started: with periods, the most basic way to divide one idea off from the next one. Because he’s so smart, Mikal didn’t have much trouble figuring out how to punctuate his sentences and, after we reviewed the rules, he announced that he was going to come to me every week for help. Later, he enrolled in my writing class. (more…)
Rest in Peace my friend, please know that the world was better for you having been here.
Please know that you changed my life. That you taught me important things about being a grownup, a guide, a teacher, a leader, and a friend.
Please know for sure, that I am not the only one. Know that your friends, classmates, peers, teachers–that all of us–were blessed to have known you. You were a young man who could push us to our limits and far beyond.
I cannot speak to the specifics of your passing, which was a tragic accident regardless of the details, but I can speak to your life and in your honor, try to speak the truths, and the be the man, I think you would want me to be.
Before I begin telling your tale my friend, I want you to know that Val gave birth to a beautiful baby girl this week, and that we are giving her the Hebrew name Michaela so that we will always remember and be inspired by you and our time together. Val told Rue and Nate that you passed–you were always so awesome with my kids. It was an extreme week in our house full of sadness and joy, but in my family’s traditions it is considered lucky to bring a baby to a funeral to help carry on the spirit of the the departed.
I also ask your friends, teachers, and supporters to please feel free to post their love and remembrances as well (feel free to send them to me if you have any trouble posting or just want me to do it). Click on the title to view the post with Mikal’s friend’s comments.
(A letter that will now only be sent to the winds and be carried only in the hearts of those who come after).
It is certainly no secret that you and I love each other and I think anyone who knows us knows that it is tough love. You have often told guests about how we would yell at each in my office. In answer to my, “Mikal, you are yelling at me,” you shouted back, “Well if you are going to be in my support network, you are going to have to deal with me!” I know I am not the only member of your team to take some heat. (more…)
Dear friends and colleagues, It is with sadness that I share that I stepped down from my position as CEO of Arise Academy Charter High School in June.
I want to say that my students are incredible and I believe in them. I was truly blessed and privileged to have been able to spend time with them, learn from and with them, and share in their lives. There was never a day, not one day, that I went to work sorry to be serving the young people we served. Fighting for the students I worked with at Arise has been one of the great honors of my life.
I also want to thank and appreciate the incredible hard work being done by so many in the human service field supporting youth in care. I particularly want to note and point readers to the work done by the Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN to locals), the PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (their child welfare research is excellent), and the Support Center for Child Advocates.
I wish Arise Academy and its students the best and I hope deeply and I will continue to advocate strongly for our city, state, and nation to invest real resources youth in care need to be supported and successful.
Thank you for your support.