Our Program Design Process

Design Thinking process graphic

One of our key commitments this year as we design the City and Lake Semester is to make our design process as transparent as possible. As we are in the thick of this phase of our work, we want to share some of the tools and thinking we have been leaning on.

Design Thinking, as popularized and promoted by IDEO, and Backward Design, from Grant Wiggins, have been instrumental in helping us visualize our path forward. Informing these processes are the meetings we’ve been having with various stakeholders over the past year; prior work within the district, especially through the Partnership for Change; our Visioning Session in May at Burlington City Arts; input we’ve gathered from students; and all of the opportunities we have had to present our work in settings both formal and informal, most notably a tuning session with Vermont Learning For the Future at Shelburne Farms where we were able to present our work, benefiting from the feedback of a vast network of educators. These things, coupled with the insights of our Steering Committee, have helped move our thinking from the abstract “Let’s start a program!” phase into the concrete world of identifying proficiencies, learning outcomes, and underlying values.

In early September, Peter scratched the following questions on a notepad in an effort to get at the heart of the work before us:

  1. What do we want learners to know?
  2. How can they learn it? How can we assess it?
  3. Who are our learners? How do we get them? and How do we give them credit?

With these questions guiding the work, in UBD form, we are currently populating two curriculum assessment frameworks, based on our district’s graduate expectations and the core knowledge we feel our program will be optimally designed to deliver. (If you think this sounds wonky, wait until you see the charts once they’re ready!)

Once we identified a set of working Learning Outcomes (What do we want our learners to know?), we drew up some prototypical Unit Plans (How can they learn it? How can we assess it?). Now that we have done this, we can say we are at a place where we are getting a real sense of what the City and Lake Semester day to day could look like. We’re going to continue to vet our thinking through our Steering Committee and other community partners, most importantly students. This week, Dov’s School Innovation Seminar, a year long course that looks at the purpose of, mechanisms for, and practical applications of learning, is meeting with members of our team to learn about our work thus far and to offer constructive criticism as we move forward.

This is rich work, and we continue to lean on the wealth of available perspectives as we move forward, staying true to our vision and mission for our BHS students. Stay tuned for concrete examples of what our work could look like.

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