Five Tips for Facilitating a Design Thinking Workshop

We hosted our first TD4Ed kickoff workshop for our Rhode Island pilot last weekend, and we can finally breathe a sigh of relief. All the work we’ve been doing over the past few months paid off. Our four teams of teachers left exhausted but excited, with important design challenges to tackle over the next six weeks. The TD4Ed team left with direction, vision, and excitement - along with many insights on how to iterate the curriculum, website, and workshop program for the next two pilots.

TD4Ed WorkshopHosting a workshop takes a lot of time and planning, and even then, something is guaranteed to go differently than you expected. Since one of our principles for TD4Ed is transparency, here are a few important learnings we gleaned from our experience over the weekend.

  1. Break up the days. We originally wanted to hold the workshop over a half day and full day, but that time commitment proved too much for our teachers. So we decided to keep it short and punchy by having a two-hour “introductory” session on Friday and a six-hour “deep dive” on Saturday. Breaking up the workshop that way worked in our favor, since we avoided giving too much information and everyone was able to regain their energy after Friday and start fresh on Saturday.
  2. Give homework. On Friday, we had everyone go through a “quick and dirty” design thinking exercise, based on Stanford’s d.school Crash Course. We thought this would be enough to ground teachers in what design thinking is - which we achieved. But we missed a very important aspect that helps set the stage for the rest of the activities - the tangible value of design thinking. Providing readings or videos beforehand - such as case studies and examples of design thinking in action - would have prepped the teachers and better set up our subsequent activities.
  3. Find ways for people to connect and collaborate outside of their team. We asked our pilot teachers to provide feedback after each day of the workshop. One of the top improvements they suggested was more time to talk with other teams. Since part of our mission of TD4Ed is to connect teachers, we loved hearing this! We had built in an icebreaker activity on the first day and had teams share their findings with each other on the second day, but we could have worked in more cross-team activities. We are now planning more time for teachers to connect during our second workshop, including cross-team brainstorming and ideation activities.
  4. End on a high note. During our workshop session on Saturday, teams chose a design challenge that they would tackle over the next six weeks and completed some activities that would set them up for the next phase. During this time, the teams had some “aha” moments and some “how are we going to do this” moments. We didn’t want anyone to leave feeling overwhelmed and anxious, so our last activity was creating a personal pitch to introduce the power of storytelling and help the teachers center their thoughts and feelings around what this challenge means to them. It provided a much-needed moment of reflection for the teams to refocus on why they were here.
  5. Take time to reflect. One of the most valuable experiences for our team happened after the workshop ended - when we debriefed on what we heard, saw, and learned throughout the two days. It allowed us to share our personal thoughts around improving elements of TD4Ed, while everything was still fresh in our minds. It also provided the time and space to share our appreciation for our own team. We each left with a clearer picture of what needs to get done, and some warm and fuzzy feelings about what we just accomplished - together.
  6. So, we’ve shared our tips. Do you have any you would like to share with us?

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