Applying Design Thinking to Support Each Individual in the School

by EdCircuit Staff

In this interview with Jethro Jones, author of SchoolX: How Principals Can Design a Transformative School Experience for Students, Teachers, Parents – And Themselves (John Catt Educational), learn about the shifts required for principals to become designers, not just managers or leaders. The design thinking approach expands on the typical leadership practices, increasing all school community members’ involvement.

Jones recognizes that being a good school leader means being an effective manager, but he takes it a step further. “It’s not just about having your own vision for the school,” he explains. “It’s about setting up the school so that it meets the needs of those who are currently there.” 

Different groups of people come into a school each year, and it’s essential that leadership design the school to support their needs, rather than just repeating what’s been done over the decades. The design thinking process allows for adaptation on the fly. It’s not about merely abandoning old practices for new, but rather an iteration and improvement on things that work while moving away from ineffective practices. Rather than “initiatives” as dreaded tasks handed down by leadership, design thinking involves all stakeholders in the process, sharing effort and ownership.

As you listen to the interview, think through the following questions, and consider your views on design thinking and what areas you would change and adapt to transform your classroom and school:

• As an educator, do you challenge yourself to break out of that mindset of doing the same thing repeatedly, even when practices have been effective to an extent? Do you embrace the idea that every practice can benefit from continuous improvement?

• When asking yourself, “How can I do things better?” Do you have the autonomy to go and make those things happen? Are you in an environment that allows for the shared ownership of change?

• Has distance learning brought on by the pandemic altered your perception of the learning process? Are there effective practices you would consider redesigning moving forward, even when in-classroom attendance returns to normal?

• Where is social-emotional learning (SEL) on your list of priorities regarding individual student needs? Do you believe that SEL will play an even more dynamic role in the changing classroom with the realities of the pandemic?

• Should there be more focus on championing and supporting the individual student? Do you believe that getting to know what is best for the individual student collectively becomes the best method for overall school improvement and culture?

Learn more about Jethro Jones’s book, SchoolX: How Principals Can Design a Transformative School Experience for Students, Teachers, Parents – And Themselves, and more great John Catt Educational publications, by visiting

About Jethro Jones

Jethro Jones is a long-time school leader and consultant who helps schools and districts in the US to find simple solutions to complex problems.

He was named the Digital Principal of the Year in 2017 by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, has been hosting the Transformative Principal podcast since 2013, and is author of the new book School X: How principals can design a transformative school experience for students, teachers, parents – and themselves.

Learn more about the Transformative Principal Podcast and follow Jethro Jones on Twitter @jethrojones


SchoolX Book Cover Jethro Jones

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