Final Reflection

design

Once again the MAET program at Michigan State University has challenged me to think outside of the box.  Design thinking is a wonderful process to help us solve any difficult problem inside or outside the field of education.  Here is a reflection and synthesis of what I have learned about design and the design thinking process.

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Problem of Practice Final Report

Problem of Practice Final Report: The Design Thinking Process

Introduction

As a high school special education teacher, I am often faced with the problem of students not completing their homework.  I have a caseload of 17 students in addition to four co-taught Geometry and Algebra classes.  I am busy printing out the names of missing assignments and hounding students to get their assignments turned in.  Sometimes I meet with them individually or remind them of assignments daily when I see them.  It is a lot to keep track of with my caseload and remembering which teachers have late policies or accept late work.  Missing assignments is a huge problem because for many of them turning in just one more may be the difference in them passing or failing the marking period.  Many of my students do not test well so getting their assignments turned in is important.

This is a complex problem I face because there is no clear-cut solution that will work for every student.  Through the design thinking process I found that there were a number of reasons that my students were not doing their homework.  As I moved through the stages I came up with a potential solution to the problem that found some success.

homework-meme

Empathize

For the empathize stage of the design thinking process I used my caseload of students for my group of users.  I decided it would be best to employ two different techniques for gathering information through methods of empathy.  First, I checked their grades from the first semester and made notes about missing assignments.  For many, there was a correlation between the two.  The more missing assignments they had, the lower their grades were.  I pulled their IEPs, reread what teachers and parents had reported in terms of homework completion, and tried to draw some conclusions.  I have held twelve IEP meetings either this fall or winter.  Therefore, I have built some strong relationships with my students and parents already.  I reflected back on how those meetings went and if there was any conflict between the parent and child in terms of why homework was not being completed.  I used this information to help create the five-question survey that helped me narrow down my problem and focus for my questions, especially in giving my reasons as to why the homework was not getting done (survey question 4).  Each student is unique and has their own home situation, class schedule, level of organization, motivation, and knowledge of the material.  That is what made narrowing down this issue so difficult.

The results of the survey were pretty interesting:

Question 1: Question 2: Question 3: Question 4:
Always: 5 Always: 7 Multiple times/day: 1 I forget I have it: 9
Most of the time: 10 Most of the time: 8 Daily: 4 Don’t have time: 6
Seldom: 1 Seldom: 1 Weekly: 8 Don’t understand: 4
Never: 0 Never: 0 Rarely: 3 Forget materials: 4
    Never: 0 Forget to turn in: 6

 Define

The define stage helped me come up with a more specific solution for my problem.  I took my broad topic of students not completing their homework and narrowed it down to some possible solutions.  It was interesting to use the five whys analysis and the why how ladder because I feel that I am always asking myself why?  Asking why allows us to gain new information and this stage helped me gather more ideas about my students as they were the topic of my questions.  Ultimately, I concluded that there were two root causes including students forgetting that they have homework and students saying that they did not have time to complete their homework.

5 Whys?  Root-Cause Analysis

First Scenario:

  • Why are students not completing their homework?
    • Because they forget they have it.
  • Why do they forget they have it?
    • Because they don’t have it written down.
  • Why do they not have it written down?
    • Because they don’t like using their student planner.
  • Why do they not like using their student planner?
    • Because it is big, bulky, and not convenient.
  • Why is it big, bulky, and not convenient?
    • Because that is the planner the school provides and the student handbook is printed in the front of it.

Second Scenario:

  • Why are students not completing their homework?
    • Because they don’t have time.
  • Why don’t they have time?
    • Because they have activities (practice, band, choir, clubs, etc.) and do not manage their time wisely.
  • Why do they not manage time wisely?
    • Because they do not know how to manage their time.
  • Why do they not know how to manage their time?
    • Because they are not used to having this much homework every night.
  • Why are they not used to having this much homework every night?
    • Because they didn’t have this many homework assignments in middle school.

 Why-How Ladder

why-how-ladder

Ideate

Ideation is a process that occurs in stages.  In order to produce a number of ideas you need to spend time with others collaborating and being creative.  When I first started the brainstorming stage, I was a little frustrated.  I am a very analytical thinker and did not want to write some of my ideas down at all because I thought they would not work.  I struggled through this and appreciated ideas that others provided me.  I also learned that it was important to give my brain a rest.  There is value in taking a night off and re-visiting a topic the next morning.  I discovered some new perspectives and thoughts during my “incubation” period journaling that I would not have had if I stopped working after the brainstorming stage.  This really brought to light how many different solutions there could be for my problem.

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Prototype

During the prototype stage I decided to continue with my spreadsheet sketch from my ideation.  I used Google Sheets to create spreadsheet that I could use to track my students’ grades and missing assignments.  I love to make lists and organize my thoughts so I really enjoyed this stage of the process.  I played around with different layouts and changed around my ideas a few times before finalizing my prototype.  I put the student’s classes on the left side with columns set up for letter grades and missing assignments.  If the student has a C or better I highlight the box green, D is yellow, and an E is red.   Our district uses Skyward as a system for grades and it is hard for my students to see where they need to improve.  I thought that the color coding system may motivate some students and give them a feeling of accomplishment.  They will also be able to see their growth and how grades change over time.

studentA

 Test

The test stage was the longest in my design thinking process.  I wanted to gather as much information as I could in testing my prototype and our school schedule was hectic due to spring break and state testing.  I focused on five students on my caseload that struggle with assignment completion.  The group was composed of two juniors, two freshmen, and one sophomore student.  I created a Google Sheet for each student I was testing which listed all of their classes on the left-hand side with rows for grades and missing assignments.

After checking in with my students, I individually interviewed them regarding the spreadsheet.  I chose to use this method of receiving feedback from my students because I have strong relationships with them and felt that they would be comfortable telling me the truth.  The feedback I received from 4/5 students was that they really liked using the Google Sheets.  A couple of them noted that they really liked the color coding system because they could see that they were improving by turning things in.  In addition to hearing back from students, I gathered feedback from a colleague in the special education department at my school.  It was amazing to hear about one of my students raving about the spreadsheet to her and hear her support of my prototype.

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Design Thinking Reflection

This design thinking process was an overall great experience for me.   The biggest take away that I had from the process as a whole was that it is a continuous cycle.  The process is never really finished because after testing you want to go back and improve anything that needs fixing.  As a special education teacher, I have never thought of myself as a designer.  I did not think that a lesson was a product to be used; however after completing this problem of practice I recognize that teachers are designers.  Designers are actively problem solving and trying to find solutions to difficult problems which is what we are constantly doing in the classroom.  Designing is being empathetic, brainstorming, collaborating, analyzing, incubating, and testing your ideas.  Designing takes time and perseverance in order to find success.  I am happy with my results from this project and I will continue to use the prototype that I have implemented in my classroom.  I can also see myself using this design process to help improve my teaching skills and strategies in the future.

stanford-model

Problem of Practice: Test Mode

After completing the Prototype Mode of Design Thinking for my problem of practice, I decided to test my prototype with a specific group of my students.  I focused on five students on my caseload that struggle with assignment completion.  The group was composed of two juniors, two freshmen, and one sophomore student.  I created a Google Sheet for each student I was testing which listed all of their classes on the left-hand side.  This would be used to track their grades and missing assignments.  I met with each student individually and went over the spreadsheet, how it was set up, and why we were using the spreadsheet.

Upon returning from spring break our schedule was hectic with the SAT, ACT Work Keys, and M-STEP testing so finding time to test my prototype was a little difficult.  I took my tablet to my co-taught classes and checked in with three of the students during class at the beginning or the end of the hour.  The other two students I would pull in during passing time or the last five minutes of one of their classes.  I observed their responses and noted any improvements in their grades and missing assignments.  When I checked in with my students in my classroom it was very easy to switch back and forth between screens on the computer and fill in the spreadsheet.  With the tablet, our spotty wireless internet would exit me out and I would have to log back in repeatedly to check their grades.

After at least three check ins using the prototype, I began to individually interview my students regarding the spreadsheet.  I chose to use this method of receiving feedback from my students because I have strong relationships with them and felt that they would be comfortable telling me the truth.  I asked them questions such as: do you think this spreadsheet helps you, what do you like about this, what do you not like about this, and how can we make this better?  The feedback I received from 4/5 students was that they really liked using the Google Sheets.  A couple of them noted that they really liked the color coding system because they could see that they were improving by turning things in.  I thought it was interesting that the younger freshmen students were more excited and the upperclassmen had fewer opinions on the tracking system.  One suggestion for improvement that I received was noting the name of the missing assignments in the spreadsheet.  We discussed how that could be possible, however with each check in I had the list of missing assignments opened up with their grades broken down in Skyward.  One student was brutally honest and said that using the spreadsheet didn’t make a difference because he was not going to do his homework no matter what.

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In addition to hearing back from students, I brought my tablet to the leader of the special education department head and spoke with her about my prototype.  I wanted to hear her thoughts and any suggestions that she had.  I was surprised as she went on to tell me a story about one of my students in her co-taught class.  When she reminded him of a missing assignment he responded, “Oh Ms. Masserant already went through my grades with me”.  He went on raving about my spreadsheet system and how much he loves the color coding.  He even suggested that she start using it with her students.  This was amazing to hear!

Studentgrades

This student raved about how he was out of the red zone

This design thinking process was a great experience.   After the test mode, I was very happy with the feedback I received.  It was interesting to see how it helped some of my students.  I did not have an expectation that it would work for everyone and it didn’t.  With that said, I am excited about the improvements that were made.  For some students this just makes them more aware of their grades and now they are logging in on their own more frequently.  This may be the end of my problem of practice journey with CEP 817, but I will continue to use this tracking system with this group of students.  I will still be going back to my prototype because I have a few ideas on how I can revise my spreadsheet and make it even better.

Testing Lab Activity

I created an informational video using Screencast-O-Matic.  I came across some technical difficulties with my microphone while recording, so I had to switch to my old laptop.  My slow computer took a while to upload the video to YouTube, but eventually it was a success!  The video gives background information on the Stanford Design Thinking School’s design thinking model and describes the test mode.  I wanted listeners to understand what testing is before getting into my problem of practice.  I explain what the test mode is, why testing with users is important, and tips for testing.  Lastly, I give details on my prototype and how I am testing it with my users and colleagues.  Due to the timing of Spring Break and the state testing at my school, I am still in the process of testing my prototype.  I will continue to test with my users and gain feedback from my colleagues.  I look forward to reflecting on the results from this test mode.

Problem of Practice: Prototype Mode

For my problem of practice, I have started to work on creating a spreadsheet to track my students’ grades and missing assignments.  In the previous ideate mode I came up with a quick sketch of how I wanted it set up.  I decided to use Google Sheets so I can access the spreadsheet on any device.  I can check in with my students on my computer in my classroom or my tablet that I bring to my co-taught classes.  I am still debating if I want the students and/or their parents to have access to the spreadsheet.  I played around with different layouts and came up with the screenshot below.  I have the student’s classes listed on the left side with columns set up for letter grades and missing assignments.  If the student has a C or better I highlight the box green, D is yellow, and an E is red.  I think students will like checking in with me this way because the colors help narrow your focus when you look at it.  Our district uses Skyward as a system for grades and when I check them with my students, it is hard for them to see where they need to improve.  The color coding system may motivate some students and give them a feeling of accomplishment.  They will also be able to see their growth and how grades change over time.  I set goals with my students regarding grades and missing assignments and this spreadsheet will allow us to track them closely.  Some goals we can set could be staying out of the red in all classes for the marking period or keeping missing assignments to under five.


 

tracking sheet

Prototype Lab Activity

prototype lab

The Meaning of Life Prototype

This lab activity was definitely a challenge for me.  I decided to choose the topic of my view of the meaning of life.  Constructing that complex idea into something physical was a difficult process.  I kept second guessing the topic I chose when I was looking around to gather my items.  I thought there was no way I could get my idea across.  I piled up some items on the floor and played around a bit.  Some of my ideas changed as I built as far as what I wanted to use and how I wanted it to look.  The picture above shows my final prototype.  My view of the meaning of life is simple, follow your passion.  Everyone always says do what makes you happy and do what you love, but not many actually follow their passion.  I have a cross on top made of pencils with six paper clips around the edge of the cup.  The three pink paper clips represent my mom, my sister, and myself.  The blue clips represent my brothers and my dad.  Faith and family should always be your focus so that is why they are on the top of my prototype.  Underneath the cup is a dollar bill and around it are pictures I drew on the paper plate.  There is a car, diamond, house, and airplane.  These are all on the bottom because they should not be your focus in life.  If you follow your passion and spend your time building strong relationships, those things will follow.  We should not stress over such materialistic things, they are not what is most important.  This whole activity made me realize how much I struggle with not having “the right answer”.  There is no answer to the meaning of life, nor was there a right or wrong way to construct the prototype.  I am glad there was a note that it should take about an hour, because I could have wrestled with ideas and constructed all day.  Prototyping is doing, making, constructing, and building.  No time for analyzing and overthinking.

Problem of Practice: Ideate Mode

Brainstorm Session

Incubation Journal

Reflection

Throughout my work in this module, I realized that ideation is a process that occurs in stages.  In order to produce a number of ideas you need to spend time with others collaborating and being creative.  When I first started the brainstorming stage, I was a little frustrated.  I am a very analytical thinker and did not want to write some of my ideas down at all because I thought they would not work.  I struggled through this and appreciated ideas that others provided me.  I also learned that it was important to give my brain a rest.  There is value in taking a night off and re-visiting a topic the next morning.  I discovered some new perspectives and thoughts during my “incubation” period journaling that I would not have had if I stopped working after the brainstorming stage.

My ideas are continuing to evolve in my Problem of Practice.  The ideation mode really brought to light how many different solutions there could be for my problem.  I am still wrestling with what will work in the real world with my students.  I keep evaluating from prior experience what has not worked in the past.  Each student is different and I think my next steps may involve a combination of different solutions.  With that said, I really like the idea of have a spreadsheet check in system to use with my students.  I am looking to pursue using this and maybe some other technological tools in the future modes of this design thinking process.

Ideation Lab Activity

My initial Problem of Practice idea notes from Part 2 are the black text and my ideas for Part 4 revisiting the topic are the purple text.

Idea Notes

Questions you are struggling with:

  • This Problem of Practice is complex with many different variables, how do I narrow my focus?
  • Each student is different, how do I find one solution that works for everyone and every learning style?
  • How can I track their improvement or progress?
    • Maybe an color coded Excel or Google Spreadsheet shared with parents and students
  • How do I get students to buy into using my solution and follow through with it?
  • What can I do to foster more independence in the student?
    • Teach them the skills to use
    • Build strong relationships with the students and be there for support
    • Constant communication and check ins
  • How to I motivate students to do this when they aren’t motivated to do the homework in the first place?
  • How do I get other teachers and parents on board?
    • We could meet together and set up the plan together, like an IEP meeting
    • What do I do if there is no follow through at home or support?

Issues or variables that present a problem for you:

  • Narrowing my focus
    • Maybe focus on one class at first and see how that goes after one marking period and then start using in all classes
  • Variables outside of my circle of control- home situations, technology issues, schedule changes, family or work responsibilities, etc.
    • Social worker or counselor to help with this?
  • Cultural differences, age groups, course load, learning styles, motivation, and type of special education qualification (LD, OHI, EI, ASD, etc.)
    • With so many differences how can I keep up with giving every student what they need?

Thoughts you are kicking around in your head on your problem:

  • Are there too many uncontrollable variables?
    • There are a lot of variables, but I think taking those into account as best I can when coming up with a solution will help the student be successful. Some things are unpredictable and there is nothing we can do to avoid them though.
  • Is this Problem of Practice too big?
  • How will I come up with a solution?
  • Ask other teachers for their opinions

Possibilities, ideas, or solutions that have entered your mind:

  • Explicitly teaching organizational strategies
    • How and when? Cougar hour?  Maybe the freshmen orientation?
  • Alarms or reminders on phone to write down the homework or turn in the homework
  • Using remind/email to send out missing assignments to students or remind them to turn things in
  • Creating videos that focus on organizing assignments or time management skills- stress the importance of taking breaks, show students a sample schedule or map out how they should spend their time on homework
    • Explain how to disconnect themselves and free themselves of distractions (turn off phone/TV)
    • Importance of sleep
  • After school study sessions
  • Google Docs/Sheets
  • App for a smartphone
    • Research some options, wunderlist could be one
  • Daily planners
    • Only works for students who remember to get it signed and parents that support this routine
  • Weekly check ins
  • Creating a webinar
  • Session at the freshmen orientation meeting
  • Parent informational night
    • Advertise, send out reminders, parent confirmation
  • Resource website for help with organization or time management skills
  • Study buddy system within their classes
    • Set up with gen. ed. teacher or co-teacher at the beginning of the semester. Try to get a friend of the student.
  • Solutions cannot just be teacher focused, students need to buy in and take responsibility for their work. We want them to be working towards independence.  Maybe a scaffolded process within the solution would work?  Different solutions for different ages?

Explanation

Throughout this ideation process, I had a number of questions that I wanted to answer.  I jotted down everything that came to mind.  Some ideas or questions I had sparked multiple bullet points and I just kept going with as many details as I could.  When I finally ran out of ideas it was time to take a break.  I listened to country music on my way home from my parents’ house which is about 30 minutes away.  This break was very refreshing and calming for me because I knew I was going to come back to my ideas.  At one point in the drive my friend called me to make plans for next weekend and my mind was completely off of my Problem of Practice.  This experience allowed me to deepen my thoughts and grow more ideas than I would have with just the first brainstorm.  I wrote all of my new ideas in purple and I was impressed by all of the things I added.  I can only imagine how many creative ideas would come from a group going through this process.  I connected to the article, “The Creativity Hack You Can Do in Your Sleep” because many of the facts proved to be true in my life.  I was a collegiate athlete and practices were my break from my studies.  After hours of school work and then practicing I felt rejuvenated.  The article said it best, “Our brains get tired; we get stuck; we let our brains rejuvenate; we make progress again. We can call this the ‘Rest Hypothesis’” (Stone 2015).  Our brains work better with some time off, therefore resting them is important.  Without proper rest our brains wear down and do not work as efficiently.  Sleep and breaks when the brain can rest allow time for incubation and are critical for creative thinking.

Problem of Practice: Define Mode

5 Whys?  Root-Cause Analysis

First Scenario:

  • Why are students not completing their homework?
    • Because they forget they have it.
  • Why do they forget they have it?
    • Because they don’t have it written down.
  • Why do they not have it written down?
    • Because they don’t like using their student planner.
  • Why do they not like using their student planner?
    • Because it is big, bulky, and not convenient.
  • Why is it big, bulky, and not convenient?
    • Because that is the planner the school provides and the student handbook is printed in the front of it.

Second Scenario:

  • Why are students not completing their homework?
    • Because they don’t have time.
  • Why don’t they have time?
    • Because they have activities (practice, band, choir, clubs, etc.) and do not manage their time wisely.
  • Why do they not manage time wisely?
    • Because they do not know how to manage their time.
  • Why do they not know how to manage their time?
    • Because they are not used to having this much homework every night.
  • Why are they not used to having this much homework every night?
    • Because they didn’t have this many homework assignments in middle school.

Why-How Ladder

why-how-ladder

Point of View Madlibs

Sean needs to use an organizational system for homework assignments because he needs to reduce his number of missing assignments that are bringing down his grades.

Sam needs to use an organizational system because she needs to take responsibility for her academics.

Sally needs to find ways to focus her study time because this will set good habits for her in college in the future.


Define Mode:

My problem of practice is high school special education students on my caseload not completing their homework.  It seems that there are two root causes for this problem including students forgetting that they have homework and students saying that they did not have time to complete their homework.  I strongly believe that students should be completing all of their assignments in their classes because they have a large impact on their grades in their classes.  Many students on my caseload are freshmen and are not used to the workload of a high schooler.  The main goal of high school is to prepare students for their futures.  By completing their homework they are building strong study habits and taking responsibility for their academic success.   I see my project headed towards more strategies and techniques to help organize these students.  Since every student is different, I look forward to coming up with solutions to this problem for my students.

 

Sniglets & Reframing

Sniglets

A sniglet is a word that does not have a dictionary meaning.  Two sniglets that I use often with my students are quest and tuiz.  These are both summative assessments that are longer than a quiz, but shorter than a test.

Here are a few sniglets that I came up with:

Excusababble: (noun) When a student give a reason or explanation for not having his or her homework done.excuses

Froggerama: (noun) The six minute passing time when one must weave through crowds of people to get from one classroom to another.

Queentee: (noun) A nickname given to a person, mostly teachers, who can complete multiple tasks at the same time.

Snapaholic: (noun) A person who is addicted to using Snapchat.

Sniglets are a wonderful way to emphasize a situation that regular words cannot.


What’s the Problem Really?

During my first year of teaching, I was the varsity basketball assistant coach.  After weeks of practice and going through our new offense we finally had our first game.  The girls were prepared, nervous, and excited to get on the court.  Despite a hard fought battle on the court, our team ended up losing the game.  I remember at halftime the point guard telling the head coach in the locker room that the wing players were not getting open. She had no one to pass the ball to and kept turning the ball over.  The head coach and I were telling the other players to get open on the wing, set screens, and move without the ball.  We had gone over these things in practice, but thought that this was the problem.

The next day we watched the film of the game and saw that the guards getting open was not the real problem.  The point guard was dribbling right into the trap on the press break and dribbling around the three point line on offense.  The guards were open on the wing right away, but she was waiting too long to pass the ball.  By the time she passed the defense shifted and stole the ball.  When we showed her the film she began to realize what we were talking about.  The next few practices we focused on getting her to look up the floor and pass to the open players right when she sees them.  The number of turnovers decreased in the next game and we had more fast break opportunities off of the press break.

It is crazy to see the difference in what we thought the problem was and then watching the film back, what actually occurred.  Watching film is key in any sport and can highlight mistakes and make them more obvious for players to see.  It also displays great plays and gives them context to determine the difference between turnovers and scoring possessions.  Through this example of redefining this problem in coaching I learned that it is important to look at a problem through different lenses.  We need to consider the situation from different perspectives before jumping to conclusions and defining what we think is the problem.  Once the problem is reframed, it is easier to come up with a successful solution.