Daniel Babauta Sunset Park High School, New York, NY
Environmental Stewardship by Design : Unit #1 - "Unit 0": Engineering design thinking : Lesson #10

Unit synthesis: models of design (3 of 4)

Objective: Students will be able to: 1) explain how social entrepreneurs utilize engineering design thinking; 2) compare their design thinking behaviors to behaviors of graduate students; and 3) communicate understandings with other students through structured dialogues.
Standards: SL.11-12.1 SL.11-12.1c SP8
Subject(s): Science
60 minutes
1 FRAME: From SEL to the real world - 0 minutes

Students experienced an SEL-based engineering-design thinking challenge during the previous two lessons.  These culminated in a Classroom Culture Prototype Contract.  During this lesson, students shift focus to an analysis of high-level models of engineering-design thinking.  The purpose of this shift is to allow for an alternate assessment of students' mastery of the objectives for this unit.  The previous two lessons focused mostly on student performance; this lesson focuses on students' analytic skills.  Students will observe designers navigating the "real world" as exemplars of engineering-design thinking competencies in order to self-asses.  Where do students fall on the spectrum of engineering-design thinking skills?  How self-aware are students of their skill levels?  What next steps can students take to improve?

2 Real-world design - 5 minutes


Students will shift the focus of engineering design thinking from the self to the real world through a brief introduction to products designed for human needs.  


Students will begin to contextualize engineering design thinking as a process that applies to the self and other people.



Teacher move

In the debrief of this clip I will ask students to consider how we evaluate good design.  How do we know we are good designers?  What does good the process of good design look like?

3 Extreme by Design: How do Stanford graduate students do design? - 35 minutes


Students analyze the engineering design thinking behaviors of students at the Stanford d school that are engaged in a number of international design challenges.  


How do behaviors of graduate level design school students compare to our own?  What might we do differently in this class?  What questions arise as we observe these behaviors? 

Teacher move

Students will watch this film in small groups of four clustered around a laptop computer.  This will allow me to hold small group conference with groups to highlight specific aspects of this film for different students groups based on needs I have identified.  Students may watch the entire film on their own time, but the goal for this activity is for students to articulate observations for all categories.  To do this, one or two examples will be sufficient.


1)  The attached handout was used by students during class.

2) The film to be watch is Extreme by Design.  As of this writing (September 2014), it is freely available as a stream through PBS.  The link is in the attached student document.  This is the website for the film.  Should the free streaming link expire, the film is also available on Amazon.com

Example of viewing station setup


Work samples
Student Self-Assessment

Students purposefully have more freedom during this lesson to choose content, develop responses, and interact with peers.  This move provides students with more opportunities to gather assess engineering-design thinking practices that they find interesting.  As a check for understanding, this activity allows a teacher to gather information about how students understand proficiency.  Can they define practices that demonstrate proficiency?  Can they translate observation into personal action?  Can they define what is not clear to them?  Attached is a typical work product from this assignment.  Interestingly, many students were unable to articulate questions about process.  As I continue to refine this unit, I will consider building a lesson that builds students' abilities to ask questions about what they do not fully understand.

4 Ideas Exchange Dialogue Circles - 15 minutes


The primary purpose of this activity is for students to share out their understanding of Stanford students' engineering design thinking skills, to practice self-assessment, to practice assessment of the class as a whole, and to identify real-world opportunities to practice engineering-design thinking.

Activity (from ALL-ED)

  1. Students form two equal circles facing each other.  
  2. First, students on the inside describe what they observed of the Stanford students' engineering-design thinking behaviors within each competency category.  These students also identify one area that they could improve and they explain how they might improve this area.
  3. The outside circle describes lessons from the class so far that required students to use the engineering-design thinking skills demonstrated by the Stanford students.  The outside circle also shares ideas for real-world challenges that could be solved by high school students at Sunset Park.
  4. Participants on the outside circle speak for 45 seconds. The teacher calls time and the  inside circle speaks.  Again, the teacher calls time the inside and outside circles have 45 seconds to ask questions, making connections, or explore a topic in greater depth. 
  5. Students on the outside then move two positions clockwise around the circle to find a new partner.
  6. Students repeat the exchange of experiences.
  7. As a debrief, students share out what they heard from a partner.


Student-led dialogues
Student Ownership

The purpose of allowing students to drive discussion within a structured protocol is to value their emerging expertise.  Teachers do not always have to be the focal point of discussions.  When provided with an effective discussion structure, students can have high-level exchanges with each other.  In fact, mirroring the real-world lens of this lesson, an immediate advantage of student-led discussions is that they more authentically capture how students perform without assistance from a teacher.  A teacher is able to assess students' thinking without controlling process.  Often students will feel freer in this structure and, as a result, teachers are able to gather more accurate information about students' mastery of concepts and skills.