Do More of This

My “Human Centred Design” course finishes off with each student presenting a section of a workshop on human centred design/design thinking/creative problem solving that they have developed over the course of the semester for a client of their choosing. The goal of the course is to evolve their own take on these practices through an intense study of exemplars in the context of the history of design practice.

The workshops are developed over the course of five drafts each of which is presented to a group of classmates for critique during the semester (using a technique we call pitch and catch) usually, of course, in person. Today, because of shelter-in-place and work-at-home we had the first round of final presentations – 32 forty minute sessions in which one student facilitated a section of their workshop for an audience of seven or eight classmates – online. Over the course of three hours we have four rounds of eight sessions running in parallel. The interesting tools they deployed to simulate an interactive workshop online will be the subject of another post; the subject of this one is a tweak to the feedback protocol that I tried out today.

While roaming from one online meeting to another (over the course of 40 minute sessions I typically visit each one twice for a few minutes) I jot down things done well on grids on big tabloid-size sheets of paper – an especially coherent explanation, a highly professional demeanor, a very clever use of technology to facilitate interaction among attendees, a remarkable performance as a workshop attendee.

My old technique was to pass these along to the student in question as a comment in our LMS. My new technique is to assemble the entire list and send it to the entire class. Students always ask for examples of good work and today they saw some together. When they look over the distributed comments they’ll sometimes recognize themselves, they’ll sometimes recognize something a presenter did in a session they participated in. Either way, at semester’s end we can celebrate together all the positive modeling of good professional performance and exit the course with our heads full of “what to more of” and “what to strive for.”

  • “nice report on iteration from dress rehearsal and acknowledgment of colleagues’ contribution”
  • “good stage presence”
  • “excellent: using google form with results to capture input!”
  • “great job getting folks to contribute onto a slide”
  • “very cool use of slide deck as interactive tool – giving me ideas!”
  • “smart: calling on people by name instead of ‘anyone want to say anything?'”
  • “nice use of handouts as background images on slides over which folks could put text – smart idea”
  • “good idea – designate ‘tables’ at which participants are sitting”
  • “nice job with the verbal instructions – good facilitation style”
  • “loved the very calm walk through – comes across as mature, knowing one’s stuff.”
  • “nice use of slide as whiteboard”
  • “what a fine tone and ‘owned’ explanations – workshop comes off as very much an original concept”
  • “very nice example slides showing participants what each exercise produces”
  • “awesome verbal instructions”
  • “great templates for p.o.v. and other” 
  • “what a delightful wrap up at the end”
  • “really got folks thinking and producing good ideas – so highly interactive”
  • “super comfortable remote interactive presence, could feel presenter connecting with participants – make a note of how to be so personable over the video connection”
  • “So thought-full”
  • “What a good job of interactively thinking with participants – really solid thinking on her feet and engaging with the ideas participants contributed”
  • “very nice control of what’s going on – good facilitation and stage management”
  • “_______ is a good participant every time”
  • “really good prep materials and clear, easy to follow posting of them on Quercus”
  • “strong sense of her own workshop, what she wanted to do, really knew she had something she wants to teach folks”
  • “nice job putting folks in breakouts and getting the reports-back after”
  • “nice job calling on people and getting them all to contribute/participate”
  • “wow, what an engaged audience! nice job with the ask ’em a question, elicit an answer”
  • “very cool use of interactive whiteboard tool”
  • “loved the nice, patient explanation and setup of what we’ll do today in the presentation”
  • “great poise during technical difficulties – ‘OK, we’ll just switch to text chat for that’ – without missing a step”
  • “managed to create  a really friendly and comfortable ambience – tricky to do over video chat”
  • “elicited a really great crop of ideation ideas”
  • “really confident and professional way of saying ‘here’s what I’d do in a real workshop but we’ll do this other thing for the sake of time.”
  • “effective setup of chat interviews and role playing”

Author: Dan Ryan

I'm currently an Academic Program Director at I've been a professor at University of Toronto, University of Southern California, and Mills College teaching things like human centered design, computational thinking, modeling for policy sciences, and social theory. I'm driven by the desire to figure out how to teach twice as many twice as well twice as easily.

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