Announcing Teachers Design For Education: A teacher-driven innovation platform to put design-thinking in the hands of teachers

BIF receives grant to support professional development for improved teacher experiences from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A teacher’s effectiveness has more impact on student learning than any other factor controlled by school systems. Today’s teachers are being asked to adapt at an unaccustomed rate and implement a crush of policies and initiatives into their daily practice in practically real-time.

Recognizing that there is simply no room in the current teaching schedule or process for initiative and innovation and few channels for fielding ideas and know-how, the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) is creating — through the generous support of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant — a bottom-up innovation platform that reframes education challenges and needs in a generative, future facing way. The hands-on platform will allow educators to innovate, test and validate various solutions with the intent of creating real-time, on-the-ground resources that will inspire (not crush) teacher inventiveness and creativity with students.

We call it Teachers Design for Education, or TD4E for short.

Through TD4E, we seek to teach more teachers how to take the initiative and promote change from within. In return, the teaching community will develop a sense of agency and ownership in their own profession, providing a pathway to continued growth of teaching expertise and innovative capacity.

We believe the best route for achieving this change lies with design-thinking — a proven process for identifying opportunities, creating new ideas and accelerating change through experimentation.

Why TD4E Matters

BIF’s Student Experience Lab began exploring the teacher experience in 2012 with its Feedback For Teachers project. We learned that teachers consistently struggle to:

  1. Maintain a sense of autonomy and feeling of agency over their classrooms and teaching efforts.
  2. Coordinate teaching and learning in a collaborative way amongst fellow teachers, advisors and support service providers.
  3. Balance the external factors of a student’s life while providing a stable, safe place for children to learn.
  4. Find outlets of expression and feedback that are tied to self-assessment and growth.
  5. Take control of their professional growth.

To solve for these challenges, we need to look at the problem differently; we need to shift our thinking about what teaching and learning means and what it should enable. We must provide teachers with their own higher-order learning model in which they participate in their own cycles of learning, discovery, application and feedback.

After all, teachers are learners too.

TD4E will provide a design-driven model of learning and professional development that is collaborative and inquiry-based so that all teachers, regardless of need, issue or circumstance, are able to sustain a deep sense of commitment and connection to the work they do despite ever-changing conditions and increased stress and pressures.

In addition to playing an active, purpose-driven role in the innovation of American schools, teachers participating in TD4E will also gain knowledge of the design process through first-hand experience while inspiring other teachers to apply their time and talent to understanding and proposing solutions to improve student outcome.

How TD4E Will Unfold

Through TD4E, BIF seeks to create a viable and sustainable engagement model that fulfills our mission of promoting innovation in districts, schools and classrooms across the country. TD4E will rely heavily on BIF’s deep understanding and empathy of the student experience and design-thinking methodology

During the next several months, a group of teachers will be recruited to help us co-create the engagement model. BIF’s design-thinking approach will be developed into “flipped” video-based curricula. With engagement support of community partner Highlander Institute, three locations will be selected in the U.S. to pilot the program. And finally, a digital platform will be launched to document – through the voices of participating teachers - the challenges, best practices and lessons learned throughout the initiative; sharing meaning, inspiration and how-to’s from the experience.

We are grateful for the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to continue BIF's exploration of the teacher experience with the design and development of an authentic, teacher-driven innovation platform and can't wait to engage with the BIF community on this important work. Ultimately, by putting teachers in the driver’s seat to connect, co-learn and act in purposeful ways, we believe we can harness the know-how and expertise of our nation’s educators to design and develop new school and classroom approaches to improve (or dare we say transform?) student outcome.

Stay tuned!

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