How I’m Using Design Thinking to Develop a Free Resource for New Teachers

I need your help. In the next few weeks, I plan on creating a free resource for new teachers. I plan to use the LAUNCH Cycle (the design thinking framework that A.J. Juliani and I developed) to move from empathy and awareness into research and ideation, before eventually creating a beta concept.

I want to create something that new teachers will actually use.

And that’s why I need your help.  I’m starting with a general needs assessment survey. As a cohort leader, I have interviewed a few pre-service teachers to get a sense of potential topics, needs, and approaches that they would prefer. However, it would mean the world to me if you also took this survey and shared it with any colleagues.

You can find the survey here or access it below:

Using the LAUNCH Cycle to Design Resources

Design thinking is a flexible framework for getting the most out of the creative process. It is used in the arts, in engineering, in the corporate world, and in social and civic spaces. You can use it in every subject with every age group. It works when creating digital content or when building things with duct tape and cardboard.

Although there are many great design thinking models, A.J. Juliani and I created a model that addressed some of the areas lacking in other models: a more flexible starting point, an inquiry piece, a phase for research, and a final deliberate launch. So, even though we developed this framework for students, it’s an approach I use all the time in my own creative work.

Here’s what it looks like for this new teacher resource:

Look, Listen, and Learn: Right now, I am trying to build empathy with my audience. I want to listen closely and learn about their frustrations, successes, and needs. I also want to get a sense of their preferences for formats. What do they need and what would they find most helpful?

Ask Tons of Questions: After the interviews and surveys, I will jot down questions I have. These questions will fuel the research phase.

Understand the Process or Problem: I want to get a deeper sense of the larger problem (what new teachers need) but also make sense out of certain processes or systems. I will spend time looking at how new teachers access media and resources. I’ll spend some time doing market research and checking out what approaches others have used to solve these problems.

Navigate Ideas: I will most likely start with a series of sketch-notes and flow charts that I create. I will sketch things out on a whiteboard and allow it to evolve over a few days. Afterward, I’ll create a short project plan with goals, tasks, and deadlines.

Create a Prototype: Here’s where I start creating my finished product. It might be a blog, a podcast, a video series, or a private Facebook group. It might be a mix of platforms and formats.

Highlight and Fix: I plan to invite new teachers to test out the “beta version” of my resource. Here’s the chance to get feedback from people who are actually going to use what I create.

Launch it to the World: At some point, I will do an official launch. When that happens, I will move back into the first stage, where I will gain a deeper empathy with my audience and start refining what I create based on the feedback I receive and the observations I make.


Why Such a Long Process?

This probably looks like a cumbersome process. Why don’t I just start a new teacher blog and run with it?

I’ve learned that those previous stages are valuable for gaining a deeper understanding of what it is an audience actually needs. I could skip the phases and end up creating something nobody wants. I could avoid the ideation phase and miss out on that mental slack that often leads to innovative ideas.

If I’m going to spend months creating and adding to a resource for new teachers, I should probably spend a few weeks ahead of time making sure that it’s actually what new teachers want and need.


This post is also available on my Creative Classroom podcast. If you’re someone who enjoys listening to podcasts on the way to work, this might be a great way to “read” my blog. (Note: if you enjoy the podcast, please feel free to leave a review on iTunes or Google Play). You can also listen to it below:

John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.

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