How can design provoke agency, accountability, and collaboration within educational systems?
Instruments of Empowerment & Dialogue is a systems-level response to challenge the status quo and educational inequities through a redesigned student report card that shares a more dynamic and holistic narrative of a student's progress. The goal of the instrument, and the dialogues provoked, is to redraw communication and accountability lines, activate collaboration, and empower educators and parents to support students.
Instruments of Empowerment is a systems-level response to challenge the status quo and educational inequities through a redesigned student report card that shares a more dynamic and holistic narrative of a student's progress. The goal of the instrument is to redraw communication and accountability lines, activate collaboration, and empower educators and parents to support students.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education reported a record high school graduation rate (83.2%). However, even with a record completion rate, only a third of graduates are considered prepared for college, based on recent National Assessment of Educational Progress data. Simultaneously, many schools and their students are also challenged by legacies of poverty and racism. Research suggests that education can be the single most important tool for creating social mobility and eradicating poverty. However, the overwhelming inequalities, inefficiencies, and injustices within our education system have created a complicated network of processes that do not guarantee students a fair or successful learning experience.
Studies also prove that student achievement and potential increases with parent involvement and engagement. When students and their families are equipped with balanced and holistic student performance information, they are more capable of staying engaged and have more agency to play an active role in a student's success. Their collaboration can make all the difference, even in the face of injustices.
For decades, school systems have used report cards as communication artifacts that share the achievement of students, yet the general format has remain unchanged and continue to lack the information, language, and agency to be effective for understanding a student's progress or path. However, the widespread use and familiarity of the artifact positions the tool as a prime vehicle for design to intervene and propose an alternative instrument.
InstrumentsofEmpowerment was built through extensive primary and secondary research, participatory design methods, systems-thinking tools, stakeholder workshops, various prototypes, and extensive user-testing. The final prototypes were developed and tested with a large and diverse group of students, teachers, school administrators, education professionals, and designers across several weeks in Chicago and New York City.
By engaging a variety of stakeholders and users, the project was able to shift and take a shape that responded to the differing needs and perspectives of parents, teachers, and students. Their stories, needs, and ideas helped create a more dynamic product that has earned positive user feedback and various accolades. This level of user engagement and participation was critical to the development of the project and its success.
Instruments of Empowerment aims to reinvent the content, visual aesthetics, and goals of current student report cards in order to offer alternative tools and approaches that can generate the conditions necessary for creating equity, accountability, and empowerment across our education systems.
The potential of this redesigned artifact can create new opportunities for intervention, accountability, and opportunity within educational ecosystems. It may also help shift the educational outcomes of students in underprivileged communities by generating new energy and activism for equity and social-justice.