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The RSA held its AGM last Wednesday, and RSA Fellows from all over the country came to John Adam Street to participate in seminars run by the projects team, make pledges on the fantastic exhibition (for which somehow we got permission to paint wavy coloured lines on the walls), and attend the formal proceedings of the day.

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The RSA held its AGM last Wednesday, and RSA Fellows from all over the country came to John Adam Street to participate in seminars run by the projects team, make pledges on the fantastic exhibition (for which somehow we got permission to paint wavy coloured lines on the walls), and attend the formal proceedings of the day.

Our contribution was a seminar session on the topic of 'How can design help education' run with the design team (see previous post). The audience were split about equally between those of a design background, and those from an education background.

Emily Campbell and I spoke a little on how we felt that design, conceived of as an everyday problem solving capacity possessed by the citizenry, rather than as a professional skill, could be applied by teachers and head teachers to solve the problems they face every day. Like lesson planning, classroom layout, the school day, the curriculum...

We wanted more ideas, and then ways the Fellowship could make it happen. The below was what the audience of Fellows came up with:

1. Sustainability in education – how might teachers and schools become better at designing sustainable institutions, as well as resources that promote sustainability? Could the RSA help to provide or enlarge access to teaching resources on sustainability?

2. Enterprise and business – enterprise programmes nearly always ask young people to engage in some form of design process as part of their projects, even if it may not be called “design” – teachers could benefit from continued professional development related to design.

3. Redesign of the policy environment – the idea that the policy environment has resulted in a reduction in teacher creativity as the current one is designed to ensure compliance – if we want to increase teacher creativity, we need to design a policy environment that actively promotes it.

4. The idea was put forward that non didactic, “cognitive” teaching is more resource intensive than traditional didactic teaching and has major expenditure implications for core subjects...but on the other hand, some of the most creative education that one of the participants had seen was in South Africa where resources were scarce or non-existent.

This raised an interesting point about the power of scarcity in leading to creativity. Designers often work within a tight brief and budget – the skill lies in coming up with a creative solution within those limitations. As we enter a period of increasing resource scarcity, is this an aspect of design that our public service professionals would benefit from learning? Also, the kernel of a practical project idea – work with teachers to address an identified problem in school with no extra resources – or maybe even fewer resources? Way of breaking out of the endless ‘fine, but where is the money coming from’ mentality? The phrase ‘something different, not something more’ was suggested.

5. Redesigning the language of learning – if design is all about people, user centred etc., then education can learn from this discourse – it should be learning, learners and children that matter, not teacher, systems and ‘educating’. Perhaps the RSA could spearhead an initiative to redesign the language of learning?

6. Designing online access for schools in South Africa – one Fellow asked the attendees for practical help in designing a solution to the problem of a school he works with in South Africa where circumstances severely circumscribe the options for getting the school online. It was re-emphasised that the less the schools have the more creative they become in how they deliver learning. An example was that given the ubiquity of the mobile phone, and the lack of facilities, lessons can be delivered via mobile phone in a way that more resource rich education systems would find difficult to experiment with or to stomach.

7. The idea of continuous change was posited – how do we equip teachers to cope with continuous change, and enable them to equip young people with the same?

8. Later, in conversation with RSA Projects staff, one Fellow invoked the Teach First “buddy” system which recruits mentors or experienced professionals to support newly qualified and qualifying teachers in their first years in the classroom who may be feeling isolated or simply have a lot of questions. It was suggested that the RSA’s network of teachers and professionals could yield a similar network of support.

Any more ideas, comments on the above, suggestions for how to bring some of these ideas into practical action, or further discussion all very welcome!

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