Design thinking starts with the idea of understanding people. According to *Donald A. Norman in his book Living with Complexity “We must design for the way people behave, not for how we would wish them to behave”.
In an education context an understanding of how learners behave is crucial to the process of designing for learning. The quantitative data such as that collected by learning analytics tools, learning management systems and other online platforms provides information about how learners behave within those systems and platforms.
The University of Adelaide defines learning analytics as:
“ The practice of developing actionable insights through the collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs.”
Learning and learning environments can be optimised by designing for learning based on the answers to questions raised by analysing data. This requires data-informed conversations.
*Donald A. Norman also considers that “Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating” (The Design of Everyday Things). This suggests that designing for learning also requires a deep understanding of the learner.
How do we, as enablers of learning in the University of Adelaide environment, communicate with learners to develop a deeper understanding of them?
Talking to people for 5-10 minutes does not result in understanding them. Neither does having them answer a list of questions. Understanding involves active listening which takes a lot of practice. It involves listening deeply without having in mind the purpose of changing someone’s mind. Understanding involves cognitive empathy which means consciously cultivating understanding of another person’s perspective and supporting them to achieve their purpose. According to *Indi Young learning designers should consider questions such as the following:
Who are the learners and how can I support them?
What do the learners need to help them achieve their purpose?
As part of the active listening process, *Indi Young suggests collecting stories from people and analysing them.
*Yishay Mor suggests that empathy can be developed by using personas and imagining one of the learners telling the story of their experience.
How do we collect and analyse stories from our learners and what stories would they tell?
Student participation in Learning Enhancement and Innovation course design workshops as part of Programme Enhancement Partnerships is a step towards capturing these stories. Students participating in workshops are encouraged to share stories of their learning experiences.
For more information about Student Partnerships refer to https://www.adelaide.edu.au/learning-enhancement-innovation/projects-initiatives/student-partnerships/ or contact Ellen Wildman, Student Coordinator and Support Consultant.
For more information about Programme Enhancement Partnerships refer to https://www.adelaide.edu.au/learning-enhancement-innovation/projects-initiatives/ or contact your Faculty Learning Designer.
*Indi Young (Independent data scientist, researcher, author, co-founder Adaptive Path) and Yishay Mor (Researcher and consultant in educational innovation and technology) were both presenters at the online conference LX Conference: Learning in the age of experience (May 15th to 19th 2017). Donald A. Norman is a University Professor and Director of The Design Lab at University of California, San Diego.