This is my last post in a series on the valuable role that design thinking plays in bringing project-based learning to life in the classroom. I’ve talked about methods for research, brainstorming, feedback, and collaborative decision-making; in this final post, I’ll discuss two methods that help students develop and communicate their PBL ideas so that they can refine, iterate, and ultimately design their best work.
Method #1: Concept Posters and Pitches
I’ve talked about this before, but hey, it can’t hurt to drive the point home: Students often leapfrog from answering the PBL driving question and go straight to developing their final product or presentation. But doing so means they miss out the really valuable experience of brainstorming, sharing, and gathering feedback. Concept posters and pitches offer a great way to help your students pump the breaks on PBL solutions, while also encouraging them to think deeply about their ideas and their communication of those ideas.
A concept poster captures the essential elements of a product, service, or experience–typically including details like budgets, timelines, processes, benefits, and potential challenges. It’s visual, structured, and requires students to dig into the initial details of their ideas. This is not a multi-page slide deck, but one single poster; but the space constraints are part of the design, requiring students to choose which information is most important to share, communicating specifics concisely.
A well-designed concept poster can communicate a lot on its own, but posters pair well with quick energized pitch sessions! Like many design methods, establish how much time students will have to share their ideas (usually only a minute or two), and really lean into the persuasive nature of the pitch. We find its important to model this type of high-energy presentation beforehand, and encourage using humor, props, and audience participation to up the fun-factor.
Check out our explainer video to learn how this method works in practice.
Method #2: Prototyping
I know, this isn’t really a design method so much as an entire phase of design, but there are just too many forms of prototyping to describe them all here. That said, prototypes are another tool for communication and testing of ideas; they’re tangible creations that other people can see, touch, or otherwise engage with, and offer up yet another opportunity for students to receive feedback.
Prototypes also give students a chance to test-drive their ideas in a low-stakes environment, encouraging rapid iteration as opposed to nailing a design on the very first try. Prototypes come in all shapes and sizes and could be drafts, models, sketches, schematics, outlines, cardboard mockups, simulations–you name it.
To explore the wild world of prototyping, check out this explainer video!