I want school stakeholders
to address issues of student behavior.

Chicago Public Schools

  • 1 / 5

    We conducted a series of five workshops with a cohort of eight CPS schools, each of whom had identified a focused issue of student behavior. The issues ranged from tardiness and disrespect to poor attendance, failing grades, suspensions and violence.

    1 / 5

  • 2 / 5

    After conducting interviews and observations with fellow members of the school staff and community, participants sketched and brainstormed ideas for new roles, programs, products, communications and events.

    2 / 5

  • 3 / 5

    Teams selected concepts that showed potential for maximum impact with minimal investment, since budgets were tight and implementation was critical.

    3 / 5

  • 4 / 5

    In one session, teams created low-fidelity prototypes for their strongest ideas, and were able to immediately share them with others for rapid feedback.

    4 / 5

  • 5 / 5

    In another session, teams acted out their new program and service ideas, in order to know how they would play out in real time.

    5 / 5

I couldn’t have been more skeptical.
Now, I couldn’t be more excited.”

Workshop Participant


The teams who engaged in our process created incredibly insightful solutions, because they went about the work of problem-solving in a completely different way.

For example, one school team was focused on seeing better behavior at recess. They knew all about who, what, where, when and why misbehavior took place. But here’s what their data hadn’t highlighted: certain kids weren’t causing any trouble at all. Instead, they found them learning to knit alongside a parent volunteer who had decided to share her craft. Based on this finding, the school leadership asked all their recess volunteers to share their hobbies in order to engage students in peaceful activity. This team essentially took an insight from one small group of bright spots, and translated it to the entire student population.

Another team began with the complex challenge of 9th graders dropping out of school. But rather than focusing on the dropouts, they too spent time with their positive deviants, on-track 9th graders, and noticed a pattern: all of them were engaged in at least one after-school activity. This team created an after-school activities fair for prospective freshmen, in order to make the exemplary students’ behavior more of the norm.

In addition to creating and testing solutions to their specific challenges, our workshop participants learned the human-centered design methodology—from framing to prototyping—and began to transfer the process and principles to their own environments. In this way, the workshops built capacity for educators to become everyday innovators.