Design thinking workshop empowers educators

QUT Design School researchers empowered early childhood educators in a design thinking and innovation workshop.

The design academics led the Creche & Kindergarten (C&K) Early Education & Care Conference in June through a series of thought experiments to re-imagine the future of the sector in 20 years time.

Three-hundred early childhood educators and 14 facilitators collaborated to create 40 robot concepts in response to the key sector disruptors of automation, climate change and an ageing population.


Pictured: Dean Brough (centre seated) and Dr Oksana Zelenko lead a design thinking discussion. Photo by Jeffrey Beitz, C&K Art Director

Participants visualised a number of potential impacts, including what it will mean to live in cities and regional and remote areas in 2036; what the reality of self-driving cars and robots mean to day-to-day operations; and for the workforce in the sector in 20 years’ time.

Workshop program designer Dr Oksana Zelenko said that many service-based organisations are facing major disruptors to their service models.

“For C&K the process of design thinking and ideation meant embracing this challenge,” Dr Zelenko said.

“It was an opportunity for them to take charge of the direction of this change, to create space for collective dialogue and a sense of agency, empowerment and leadership over its future.”

In a close collaboration, QUT design researchers and postgraduate students worked alongside C&K metropolitan and regional center managers to facilitate this process of visualising the change and impact occurring on a large-scale to the local sector in light of major global changes.


Pictured: Dr Ben Kraal discusses robot designs with early childhood educators

The QUT School of Design academics and creatives facilitating the event were Dr Deb Polson, Dr Jeremy Kerr, Dr Ben Kraal, Richard Evans, Caroline Austin, Dean Brough, Marisha McAuliffe and Dr Oksana Zelenko. QUT Creative Industries External Stakeholder Engagement Manager Jennifer Gibson acted as workshop chair.

Designers used visualisation techniques to provoke fresh perspectives on familiar issues, prompt ‘out of the box’ thinking and capture potential visions of the future.

Developed by QUT Design School, the program fueled the collective imagination of participants to generate ideas in response to predicted changes, such as job losses as the result of automation.

“Design thinking is a powerful, transformative, scalable process that can help industries facing rapid changes,” Dr Zelenko said.

“Companies can take ownership of the change and enable critical buy-in from key stakeholders by involving them directly in co-designing core services.”

C&K research and evaluation manager Pam Spall said the conference participants enjoyed the design thinking process.

“C&K educators from around Queensland described the design session as engaging, energising and challenging, encouraging them to think out of the box to come up with new solutions to old problems,” she said.


Pictured: a group of educators are guided through the design thinking process by Dr Oksana Zelenko.

Dr Zelenko said that the School of Design team received glowing feedback from C&K and the participants, who reported the workshop was “highly interactive, fun and makes you think about issues in a new way.”

“We see design thinking as highly effective – and transformative – solution for solving problems facing industry in the future.”

The workshop is part of an ongoing series of programs QUT Design School can provide to industry.

Industry organisations can engage with this service by getting in touch with QUT School of Design about including this design thinking workshop as part of strategic planning or to develop a bespoke program.

Organisation QUT School of Design
Info Dr Oksana Zelenko
Phone 07 3138 1650

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