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The YPAR and Design Thinking Fit Test: Is Your Classroom Culture Ready?



Hey there! I am diving headfirst into a spicy topic today: the learning culture needed for Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) and design thinking. Yes, it's a bit like asking if your favorite outfit matches your mood for the day – only I'm doing it for your classroom!


Now, imagine YPAR and design thinking are guests at a party, your classroom party. What conditions do they need to have a fabulous time? Let's set the stage!


The YPAR Guest: YPAR, our fun-loving, empowerment-seeking guest, thrives in an environment of open dialogue, shared power, and active student involvement. The ambiance needs to be respectful and inclusive, where every voice is heard and valued. YPAR craves a curious, questioning environment, where action and reflection go hand-in-hand like besties at a party.


The Design Thinking Guest: Design thinking, our creative problem-solver, needs a human-centered, empathy-driven atmosphere. It requires an exploratory environment, much like a party scavenger hunt. Failure is not a party pooper, but an invitation for iteration and innovation. It yearns for a culture of collaboration and a buffet of diverse perspectives.


Sounds like quite the party, right? But how do you know if your current learning culture has sent out the right party invites? Well, it's time for a bit of self-reflection - less 'mirror, mirror on the wall' and more 'classroom, classroom, are we ready for this call?'


Here are some questions to ponder:

  1. Are your students active participants or passive recipients? If they’re mainly passive, it might be time to stir things up and empower them to become co-creators of their learning experience.

  2. Is your classroom a safe space for voicing opinions and asking questions? If not, it's time to work on building that trust and open dialogue.

  3. Do you allow for flexibility and exploration in your lessons? If your lesson plans are as fixed as the laws of physics, there might be a need for some fluid dynamics!

  4. Is failure treated as a learning opportunity or a dead-end? If failure is feared like a surprise pop quiz, some mindset shifting might be in order.

  5. Is collaboration actively encouraged and valued in your classroom? If your students work in silos like secret agents on a mission, let’s try bringing in some team spirit!

  6. Do you involve your students in decision-making processes? If decisions are more one-sided than a flat pancake, perhaps it's time to serve up some shared-power soufflé.

  7. Do you engage with your students’ lived experiences and interests? If your lessons don’t resonate with their world, it might be time for some reality checks.

If you've answered yes to most of these questions, congratulations! Your classroom party seems like it's ready to welcome YPAR and design thinking. If you've got a mix of yeses and noes, that's okay! Remember, creating a conducive learning culture is a journey, not a destination (much like trying to reach the end of the staff room coffee pot).


Keep experimenting, adjusting, and evolving until you create a learning culture where both you and your students can flourish. Because, at the end of the day, every good party host knows it’s all about creating the right vibes!


Until next time,

keep the party going, fabulous educators!

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