A tool for crafting a learning space – Vision Backcasting

This past February I had the opportunity to attend the Kaospilot Masterclass in The Art & Craft of Designing Learning Spaces in Aarhus. A three-day masterclass for educators & trainers to explore experiential ways of learning in order to inspire, facilitate and design for creativity, innovation & risk in learning spaces & education. Kaospilot defines itself as a hybrid business and design school.  Their teaching is ‘not designed simply to shape students to fit the future, but to help them create it.’ I’ve heard a lot about them over the years and jumped at the chance to be able to bring the lessons and the opportunities within the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Edinburgh to the table. It was a full on three days of learning arches, settings & landings, and tools which left my head full of ideas for our Scholars.  This past weekend, I was able to use a few of the tools with the Scholars to develop a vision and set a programme from there.

We framed the weekend as a Design Day where Scholars would get the opportunity to build their learning journey through the scholarship programme.  Beforehand, we started out the weekend with the Homework Challenge to get Scholars into the mindset of working in teams and designing based on their own experiences. You can see the brief here.

The Scholars took this very seriously and in teams of 3 – they designed some very insightful programmes based on their own experiences.  Three teams took away prizes for Best Programme, Most Innovative, Best Show & Tell, and MVPs. We reflected on the lessons they learned from pitching, communicating and working in teams to help inform the rest of the day.

After framing the intention, outcomes, and rules for the session – the Homework Challenge allowed us to move into our work identifying our vision and backcasting from there.

We used Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle of Why, How, What, and Who (starting with Why in the middle) to start mapping out the Scholars thinking about the educational programme we are building. We challenged Scholars to use visuals through newspapers and magazines to get them thinking differently about the vision of the programme.  It was also a great opportunity to use our hands and play with materials in a way we aren’t often allowed to do.

Vision work

Between the two teams, they both created vision statements that provided the hook for the Kaospilot Vision Backcasting tool. The tool provides a framework to design transformational education & package the pursuit of knowledge.

This framework allows you to develop any educational program, learning strategy or curricular framework of any length for any vocation that aspires to deliver equally and authentically on not only skills and knowledge, but also attitudinal & mindset necessary for personal growth and development of the participants, staff, clients and even the wider community. This model helps educators to be more cognisant of what and how they are teaching and has the potential to inspire their attitudes about content and delivery. – Kaospilot

Working through the journey of the SKA

We moved from convergent thinking of the vision, context we are working in, and the skills, attitudes, knowledge (SKA) and mindsets that our Scholars will enter and leave the programme with.  We used this to frame our divergent thinking around the journey of the SKA over the course of the programme and what that looks like logistically.

Working through the journey of the SKA

At the end of the day, the Scholars pitched two learning journeys around their visions of empowering young people to make change in their communities here and back home.

Final pitches

What excited me about this methodology is that there are no teachers or students.  There is no hierarchy – the Scholars facilitated the majority of the stages and were able to shift and change their approach as long as the remained true to the vision and the tool. They owned it and were able to navigate the space we held in a way that was meaningful to them. After years of learning and ‘codesigning’ in a particular way – this new way can be uncomfortable at first as there is a great deal of unknown. But without a hierarchy – it felt like we were all in it together and made the final products more meaningful.

Over the next week, we will take  the insights, SKA, data, and everything else from two sessions plus the content created by a wonderful group who did the same thing for the programme at the Masterclass in Denmark  and synthesise them together for a ‘master copy’.

Part of the wonderful group who used Vision Backacasting on the MCF programme at the Kaospilot Masterclass in Denmark

It taught me a great deal about our role in holding the space for the Scholars to create their own experiences and how we can support them and each other along the way.