Reinventing school with 120 principals and teachers in Austria

by Till Jaspert

“How can we use design thinking to change schools from within?”

This was the topic of a collective maxi-workshop that brought together 120 principals, teachers and education innovators in Vienna for one day on March 16th, 2018. The workshop was organized by “Schule im Aufbruch” (, a wonderful initiative that promotes change from within schools through inspiration, exchange and networking – already 10% of all Austrian schools are part of the network, and growing daily!

To get participants into the mindset, I had the privilege to share a few international examples from other schools who have gone through similar experiences – not those award-winning “super-schools” that have it all right from the start, but “ordinary” schools that face similar challenges as those in Autria.

Then, each team member received a brief training of one of the design thinking steps (understand/ideate/try/share) – the goal was to ensure the teams’ autonomy by having a team member facilitate one step each plus a team member taking care of constructive team dynamics – very empowering and effective!

During the daylong workshop, 17 teams tackled 5 challenges that are common to schools in many countries:

  • Individualisation: How might we better address the individual needs of each child?
  • School team: How might we work better as a team of teachers and educators to create effective change?
  • Parents: How might we we onboard parents who often are wary of change?
  • Responsibility: How might we educate children to become responsible citizens and “changemakers?”
  • Life learning: How might we connect school to real life?

At first, the teams engaged with their challenge and identified a series of hypotheses and key questions. Then they set out to interview “problem owners”, that is other principals or teachers faced with the challenge, in order understand where they stand and dig into the deeper issues and root causes, both “rational” and “emotional”, explicit and more hidden.

Back in their teams, they focused on one key insight about the problem as starting point for the ideation process. Ideas flocked, were enriched, grouped and finally evaluated on a “heart” vs “head” matrix (thanks to participant Rebekka to suggest this wording!) – the goal being to find a truly desirable but also feasible solution.

Then came the step to prototype their preferred solution – “show don’t tell” is the key word here and many teams surprised the audience with creative staging and role play showing how their solution will improve the school experience in practice.

The results were brilliant, demonstrating the creativity and desire of many educators to transform school inside-out, despite the rigidities of the formal system.

Feedback was very positive and the facilitator team left with a good feeling plus a number of ideas how to make the next workshop even better!


Till founded Creator Street because as father of 3 boys, together with his wife Nuria, he has a personal motivation to improve education, nurturing children’s imagination and talent, ability to solve problems and reach personal fulfillment, in a multi-cultural environment.