A Design-Thinking PYPx Story — Part 3

Chantelle Love
3 min readMay 10, 2023

In this chapter, we learn about the purpose behind permanent, visible thinking boards and their uses, the PYPx Learning Pit and Taking Action.

Visible Thinking routines changed my life. I still vividly recall the professional development session I attended in the late 2000s run by Cameron. I’ve used the Harvard Project Zero thinking routines in my learning and teaching practice ever since. PYPx would be no exception.

We encouraged students to put everything and anything about their PYPx on their visible thinking wall. They put their readings, notes, images, data displays, SQUIDs… everything.

One student’s synthesized Visible Thinking wall.

Not only was this an easy visible tracking system for the teachers and mentors, but it was also great for students to see each other’s thinking.

As mentioned in the first post, we really wanted to encourage students to think differently about the presentation day (which we re-named ‘Sharing Session) and, consequently, we told them that they would not have a display board. Making their visible thinking boards permanent fixtures, helped them understand that they could not be transported and opened their minds to consider how they might express their ideas in more immersive spaces.

The Learning Pit

It wasn’t long before the shininess of a student-driven inquiry wore off for our young people and, when things started to get hard (no replies from sources, difficult research, etc.), they found themselves in The Learning Pit.

Later on, students used a line graph to reflect on their entire journey and reflected on how they got themselves out of the Learning Pit. This is my personal reflection.

We were prepared for this to happen and when it did happen, we talked about The Learning Pit and we gave each student a little token of motivation. For weeks, we had been using Midjourney to create an artwork of each student taking action on their PYPx inquiry. Here’s an example:

We presented each student with their AI artwork and they pinned it to their thinking board as a visible reminder of what they’re working towards.

Taking Action

It’s a big leap from research to action. We used several processes to help students synthesise their research in order to find a problem worth solving and then find an option to solve it.

NB We placed an important constraint on our students; they were not allowed to fundraise. Much of the time, students think that problems can be solved by throwing money at them — when that’s not an option, students are forced into understanding the real causes.

By using Affinity Mapping on the thinking boards (see the thinking board example above), students were able to see what themes were emerging and then explain how each element is connected. The student above used this to visibly see that many “roads” led to traditional gender roles. In her mind, verified by her visible research, this was the main problem causing the gender gap in education within Cambodia. She was now ready to develop ideas to solve this challenge.

At this point, the time of most converged thinking, we asked students to develop a How Might We…? question. This frames the problem and the expected impact but doesn’t lead them to a specific solution. We then asked students to generate 50 Ideas in 5 Mins before filtering their top 5 ideas using a New, Impactful, Feasible table to rank those ideas.

Once they had their best solution — they were ready to take action.

In the final chapter, read about the PYPx Sharing Session and how students took action.