MLFTC EdD named one of 16 worldwide TED-Ed Innovative Educators

By

Kari Redfield

While a doctoral candidate at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Shawn Loescher (EdD ’18) made an impression on everyone with whom he worked, including MLFTC faculty, fellow classmates, his own students and his community. Now, the TED-Ed Innovative Educator program is recognizing him for his accomplishments. TED-Ed announced today that it has named Loescher as one of only 16 extraordinary innovators worldwide for 2019 because of his leadership in advancing education innovation.

We are extremely excited to introduce cohort four of the TED-Ed Innovative Educators program — 16 amazing and influential leaders in education who together are setting out on a journey to improve education by elevating the most important ideas in education worldwide,” says TED-Ed.

“We’re delighted that Shawn has been selected as a TED-Ed Innovative Educator,” says Carole Basile, dean of ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “His work exemplifies our college’s conviction that palliative measures won’t do when it comes to education. We need systemic innovations. There’s a bigness to what Shawn does and an intimacy to how he does it. We think that combination of ambitious scope and contextual community grounding is what makes for effective, principled innovation in education.”

This is exactly the type of leadership that the TED-Ed Innovative Educator program seeks.

In addition to creating a TED-style talk, each TED-Ed Innovative Educator "will play a vital role in catalyzing a movement to empower educators everywhere to develop, refine and share their best ideas in education, with the ultimate goal of improving education everywhere, for every student," says TED-Ed.

While attaining his doctorate as part of MLFTC’s online EdD cohort (which allows educators to work as they complete their degrees), Loescher, CEO of Urban Discovery Schools, created IDEATE High Academy, an inner-city PK–12 school system. The innovative San Diego school applies the types of learnings practiced and advanced at MLFTC, and it has received a great deal of attention. For example, Loescher was chosen as keynote speaker at the Center for Secondary School Redesign 2019 conference, which showcased the school’s approach.

At Urban Discovery Schools, we use design thinking in all aspects of our work, and design thinking was part of what we did at MLFTC to find new ways forward to provide for a just system of education that will equitably serve all students,” Loescher says.

Design thinking is a method and approach to problem-solving and learning. It focuses on defining users’ needs before tackling a problem. It also avoids preconceived outcomes and assumptions, instead using a reflexive process and empathy to gain insights.

“This means that schools like ours that embrace design thinking use curriculum developed with, rather than for, student input and external partners” Loescher says. “In the classroom this situates the teacher as a leader of learning and a facilitator of exploration of topics being studied.”

How design thinking drives education innovation

Students at Urban Discovery Schools tackle real-world “wicked” problems using the design thinking approach. Introduced by educators Horst Rittel and Melvin M. Webber in 1973, “wicked” refers to “socially complex issues without clearly defined solutions that are interwoven with other problems in society that are equally complicated.”

“Our high school team recently applied the approach to voting rights and equality, using a statistical analysis and geographic information system data to develop a fair and just voting redistricting map for California,” Loescher says. “After several cycles of explorations, they discovered this could not be statistically accomplished using geography as a means of redistricting, which enabled students to journey into the problem’s complexities.”

After additional exploration, students concluded that current voting district systems are too antiquated for the digital age. Students then mapped out the implications for ballot initiatives, environments, services, social issues and various vested stakeholders.

“The results could not be predicted at the onset of learning; it was the design thinking process and disposition that allowed for students to construct these new understandings,” Loescher says. “What design thinking invites us to do is re-imagine what education can be. Instead of trying to perfect a centuries-old educational system, we can focus on designing one for the challenges and opportunities that our students will face within their lifetime.”

Younger students at Urban Discovery Schools also apply this approach to problems. For instance, the middle school team recently tackled the question of what it means to live in peace, and the elementary school team explored the lack of affordable, high-quality, fresh food in urban settings.

Using his MLFTC degree to mobilize people

“What MLFTC does is provide a high-quality, challenging and intellectually charged experience that encourages all students to take on the complex problems we face as a society,” Loescher says. “The EdD in Leadership and Innovation program features renowned thought leaders who support doctoral candidates’ development and encourage new ways of approaching problems. Through the use of action research, graduates are expected not only to hold theoretical and systems knowledge, but also to develop and implement innovations to advance improvements in education. MLFTC's EdD program got me here.”

Learn more about our education doctoral degrees here.