Andrew Goodin is a Personal Learning Coach on the Design Thinking Team at Purdue Polytechnic high school, a brand-new learning model where students learn to problem-solve and think critically through real-world design challenges. Previously, Andrew was a makerspace teacher and facilitator at the Grand Center Arts Academy in St. Louis and the co-founder of The Disruption Department, a St. Louis-based non-profit that provides STEM support and programming. Andrew’s passion is to engage students in exploration, creation, and tinkering on a daily basis. As a result of his work, he’s been awarded the Peabody Energy “Leader in Education” prize, the Loeb Prize for Teaching Excellence, and St. Louis Public Schools Science Teacher of the Year. Andrew was a 2008 Teach for America St. Louis corps member where he taught 11th grade chemistry.
CHANGING SCHOOLS TO EMBRACE THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION
Thriving Schools: Andrew, you teach in a pretty special environment (one that we’re going to be talking about a lot today). Can you tell us how you made the move from a makerspace/science teacher in St. Louis to Purdue Polytecnic?
Andrew: I’d be glad to! When I knew I’d be moving to Indianapolis with my girlfriend, I started taking a look around at the schools. I went to a “showcase of schools” event (which is actually designed for students and parents) with the goal of trying to talk to as many people as possible. And tucked away in a corner in the very last row was Purdue. I remember thinking to myself, “That’s weird – I wasn’t expecting to see any colleges to be here.” But as I started talking to the team about their new high school – Purdue Polytechnic – and the model they were going to be implementing, I knew right away that I wanted to teach here!
Thriving Schools: How would you describe Purdue Polytechnic to someone who’s never heard of it before?
Andrew: Our mission is to totally reinvent the high school experience! It is completely unlike any school that exists, I would propose, in the entire world. And I’m not sensationalizing that! I’ve been to a lot of schools that claim to have STEM as their focus. But in many cases, STEM ends up being just a supplement to an existing program. Here, you’ll see that design thinking is at the core of everything we do. I taught in a makerspace classroom in St. Louis for 5 years, and everything in our classroom was connected to design thinking. Here, everything at the school level, is connected to design.
WHAT PURDUE POLYTECHNIC CAN TEACH US ABOUT THE FUTURE OF SCHOOL
Thriving Schools: Tell us about Purdue Polytechnic.
Andrew: Currently, we have 150 9th graders in our first year open. We’ll add on 10th grade next year and 11th and 12th grades in the years after until we are operating as a full high school. As I mentioned earlier, design thinking is at the core of what we do. Because of that, all of our 9th graders participate in a series of design challenges throughout the year. As they progress through high school, these challenges will change and grow more complex.
Thriving Schools: We’ll come back and talk more about those design challenges, but could you explain what a normal day looks like for a student?
Andrew: Believe it or not, I think it’s best to start with Friday! On Friday mornings, students attend their personal learning communities where there’s roughly a 1 to 15 coach to student ratio, and they open their laptops to use a scheduling tool to plan out the upcoming week. In this tool, the students will see some required workshops that all students attend. But even here, the student will have options as to what time they’ll take the class. Next, we have what we call a “Dojo” – these are “hands-on and minds-on” learning experiences where teachers can focus on a few key learning standards in an applied way. We’ll decide if a particular “Dojo” will be required or optional for each and every student. The student is also going to schedule out their clubs, activities, and when they’d like to have lunch. This schedule will also include time for students to meet with peers for project collaboration, personalized learning time (independent work on assignments and projects), and 1-on-1 meeting time with their coaches (to discuss academic, interpersonal, and home challenges that might be present). The fact that students are setting their schedules each and every week makes it clear: choice and voice are definitely at the core of our model. The diagram below shows how our school layout facilitates this:
Key: 1) Personalized Learning Community: Develop and practice teamwork and employability skills. Teachers track competency levels, academic needs, and individual progress, and develop daily and weekly plans to reach academic and project plan goals. 2) Dojo: Hands-on, minds-on learning experiences. Teachers focus on 2-3 key standards to drive mastery of competency. 3) Pop-Out: Enhance personal interests or project work at workshops. 4) Collaborative Group: Discuss and give feedback with other students on individual work and projects. 5) Cross-Functional Team: Work on school, community or industry projects with other students and teachers. 6) (Not shown above) Makerspace & Skills Lab: Work on prototypes and practice on skills trainers (examples include electrical circuit trainer, CAD, and welding) with guidance by teachers.
Thriving Schools: How much of a student’s day is required versus optional? And does that change from week to week?
Andrew: The beautiful thing about this model is that because students are scheduling their calendars on a weekly basis, we’re able to iterate very quickly! So if we identify that a large number of students have a particular academic need, we’ll put a required academic workshop on the schedule for the following week. If only a handful of students have a particular need, then we might put a “Dojo” on the schedule and only recommend it for the students who need it. So the two primary drivers of a student’s schedule are their academic needs and where we’re at in a design cycle. For example, if we’re having a heavy prototyping week, we’re not going to have as many required workshops because students need a lot of time to collaborate on the design challenge.
ASSESSMENT AND ACADEMIC STANDARDS IN A DESIGN SCHOOL
Thriving Schools: Does Purdue Polytechnic use academic standards?
Andrew: Yup we sure do! In our case, that’s the Indiana Academic Standards. We acknowledge that our students are going to need a transcript and standardized test scores and that colleges aren’t going to pivot around us. Our year is broken down into 6-week long project cycles, and we unpack our standards to fit within our design challenges.
Thriving Schools: And what does assessment look like?
Andrew: We’re design thinkers, so that means we definitely use assessment to validate our process. And we’ll assess in multiple ways. To start, we use NWEA to assess student growth in our academic areas on a quarterly basis. Next, we also assess a student’s final product for each design cycle. This would include components of science, math, English, and design thinking. It’d also include the product they designed, the pitch they gave about their solution, a challenge essay where they’re reflecting on how content was integrated, and a document we call the project management plan. A step down from that, we’re also assessing in our content-based focus areas. And that’s because we recognize that students will develop more robust solutions if they have a strong grasp of the content underlying the particular design challenge.
"The beautiful thing about this model is that because students are scheduling their calendars on a weekly basis, we’re able to iterate very quickly! So if we identify that a large number of students have a particular academic need, we’ll put a required academic workshop on the schedule for the following week."
HOW TO CREATE A DESIGN CYCLE FOR STUDENTS
Thriving Schools: You’ve mentioned the design challenges at Purdue Polytechnic several times now. Can you tell us how the school goes about creating these?
Andrew: We start with a community partner who’s excited to host us and wants to collaborate on solving an authentic real-life problem they have. From there, we look at the science standards and determine how we can use our partner and the unit we’re creating to address them. We start with the science standards because those are usually the toughest to make sure we’ve met throughout the year. From there we unpack the math and English standards and we make sure our design challenge connects it all.
Thriving Schools: Could you give us an example of this?
Andrew: Our third design challenge this year was centered on the question, “How can Indiana contribute to feeding 9 billion people by 2050?” Our community partners for the unit were Fair Oaks Farms and Belstra Milling, and we started the cycle by touring the farm and building empathy for the agricultural process. From there, we included the appropriate science standards, which in this case were primarily related to biology. The English standards came in with the writing, reflection, and essays students were asked to complete. In this unit, the math standards were on systems of equations. As part of their design solutions, students had to create cost and revenue graphs to prove that their solutions were mathematically viable. And the design standards are scaffolded throughout the whole unit!
Thriving Schools: That’s really exciting! What are the design standards you use?
Andrew: These include researching from credible sources, identifying specific problem statements, creating user empathy, building and prototyping solutions, and iterating on solutions based on feedback or obvious shortcomings. And these spiral through and are connected to each project.
"You’ll see that design thinking is at the core of everything we do. I taught in a makerspace classroom in St. Louis for 5 years, and everything in our classroom was connected to design thinking. Here, everything at the school level, is connected to design."
Stay Tuned! We also had a chance to ask Andrew about how to set-up a Makerspace, the best resources for STEM education, and how to teach design to students. We’ll be featuring that piece soon!