We have recently made two ten step guides available on our website to help design and technology teachers run engaging design workshops for students. One guide caters to primary school teachers while the other is focused on secondary level teaching.

Both guides include advice on what materials may work well in your workshop, how to push your students to see the bigger picture and how you can best adapt your workshop to fit the time you have to spare.

Based on the information in the guides, I’ve chosen my five ‘top tips’ that will help to inform the quality of your teaching when leading a design workshop, whether you teach primary or secondary:

1. Establish the context

This is crucial to the success of a design workshop as it is all about framing the background for your pupils, so that they can fully engage in and understand what you are aiming to do. Ideally, this means putting your pupils into groups and taking them on a field trip, so that they can identify design problems others may experience.

You should also take the opportunity to explain to them that during the workshop they will be learning a range of design skills, including user research, creating user personas and brainstorming.

If it’s not possible to leave the school, encourage your pupils to seek out design-related problems in the classroom or wider school environment.

2. Make clear that empathy is crucial to a good designer

Get your pupils to imagine what it may be like to be someone else experiencing a design problem.

To help your students understand the point of view of the people who are experiencing a problem, get them to talk to these people and find out what affects their point of view. Then have them create user personas, even if these are very simple, so that they can start getting a feel for how designers think.

3. Brainstorm together – it’s key to the process

Brainstorming is an important part of design as it can lead to unexpected outcomes and changes in thinking which can then impact on what is ultimately designed.

Keeping user experience in mind, get your students to work in their groups and brainstorm solutions to the problems they saw people encounter during the initial exploration process.

4. Get your students to refine their ideas through modelling

Get your pupils to create 2D or 3D models - this will be a useful way for them to try out and visualise their ideas. The models will act as a prompt to help them consider and examine how their design meets user needs.

Make sure you provide lots of different materials to enable the students to create their models. They will be able to see the creative potential in even frivolous seeming objects.

5. Highlight the importance of iterations and improvements

Having had the opportunity to step back and appraise their final designs, the students now need an opportunity to make improvements.

As they make their final improvements, ask each group to write down their thought process and communicate this to the rest of the class in a two minute presentation that will help them all give feedback to each other.

The class can then vote to decide which final product is the most user focused and the best response.

For further tips and suggestions, download the ten step design workshop guide for either primary or secondary school level teaching.

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