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Working in partnership with students by applying co-design, visual and design thinking approaches to module and learning review and design

Thursday 4 July: Conference day two, 4:45pm – 5:15pm parallel session



Room 3 – 303-G15 Sem



Dan Trowsdale
University of Leeds, England



This paper introduces new and effective methods for the co-creation of modules and learning designs with students. Co-creation in education has been described by Bovill et al (2011) as activities which support the democratic incorporation of the student voice in the design of curricula, modules and knowledge practices. 

The paper reports on a project which uses a creative co-design process to ask students to physically build 3D ‘prototypes’ of modules.  The project has investigated the practical use of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® as a democratic tool to gain insights from students about their learning experiences and how they would change or improve knowledge practices.  The first part of the process encourages reflection on existing teaching methods through three-dimensional play. The later stages of the process allow students to visualise module structures and learning experiences they believe will support them to learn more effectively.

The key creative methods of this paper are Design Thinking and LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.  Design Thinking is a method which has gained significant support within the business community for adding value to products and services.  Design Thinking uses the principles of Human Centered Design to position user insights (in this case, student insights) at the center of any design challenge.  Design Thinking also includes prototyping as a key stage in the process. LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is most commonly associated with building 3D models to gain insights into complex aspects of business strategy, organisational structures, business identity and teamwork. It is also being used in educational contexts, particularly for reflection.  In this project LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is used to prompt reflection upon learning experiences and then create new learning designs in the form of module prototypes.

 This paper presents the findings from case studies testing a process to review, evaluate and then co-create a number of higher education modules with students.  Participants were specifically recruited from different levels and diverse subject areas. The data collected is qualitative and includes audiovisual evidence of the physical prototype solutions built and narrated during the module review and co-design workshops.

Early results from this project indicate that using tactile three-dimensional prototypes in module review workshops can be a powerful approach.  Using this co-creation method, students were able to reflect very deeply about the design and structure of existing learning experiences and then offer improvements to the learning designs using successive prototypes produced during the process.  The physical prototypes were very useful to embody the student’s ideas, generate discussion, and then finally, and importantly, allow their ideas to be captured and presented to staff.



Bovill, C., Cook‐Sather, A. and Felten, P. (2011). Students as co‐creators of teaching approaches, course design, and curricula: implications for academic developers. International Journal for Academic Development16(2), pp.133-145.


Presentation topic

Students – Working in Partnership

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