By: Sanjay Pottinger & Susan Nassiripour

Context & Challenge

Sanjay is an Advisor at a college and Susan works as a teacher trainer at a language school. We are seeking to encourage new teachers, who are students in an orientation, to increase engagement, take intellectual risk, as well as have a sense of inclusion, through our respective online communities. When new instructors join our organizations, they attend a one-day orientation, receiving static information such as policies and procedures, as well as a list of departments and what they do. Some of the teachers are subject matter experts but new to teaching, while others are seasoned instructors. Once the orientation is over, teachers are expected to have enough information to carry out their duties.

Upon completion of orientation, teachers are dispersed throughout their respective schools/programs. This creates a situation where those new to teaching are left to tackle classroom challenges on their own or seek out experienced colleagues in their immediate proximity. Some teachers stick to what they have always done, while others try to be inventive. The challenge in our roles, is to establish how we can create a learning environment where new and existing teachers can leverage each other’s experiences and collaborate across schools/programs, while taking intellectual risk with one another.


After participating in Stanford’s d.School design thinking process, we decided to create a blended orientation, expanding on the existing orientation. We have intentionally designed the in-class curriculum so that new teachers will establish connections with not only each other, but also connect with teachers from different schools/programs, as well, experienced teachers will be a part of orientation, sharing experiences and best practices. This will shift the learning to a student-centered and constructivist approach, which is a better learning methodology to use when exploring complex topics (Ertmer P. A. & Newby T. J., 2013). An online portal with an accompanying app will be created for new and existing teachers to provide a safe space for learning and sharing, with intentional design that facilitates trust and community-building. These tools will be introduced to the group in orientation, with preloaded scenarios that will challenge the teachers to take intellectual risk to solve problems in the forums. These scenarios will be realistic and won’t have a single correct answer, capitalizing on problem-centered learning, that can increase learning and engagement (Merrill, 2002). A follow up synchronous session will occur two days later to further discuss scenarios. Upon completion, the full app will be open to teachers to continue using the collaboration tool.

Our proposed app will encourage intellectual risk-taking in an online environment through problem solving activities, while sharing existing and newly developing knowledge. The app will include news, FAQ’s, contacts, curriculum materials and events. Students may wish to join a conversation in a forum, perhaps for idea sharing, or requesting advice. Seasoned employees can assist coworkers by joining discussions in forums. Teachers will be encouraged to participate through a rewards and recognition digital badging system, that will allow one to move through a points-based kudos system, earned through how often and how helpful their responses are. Crichton and Carter (2017) state that teachers often don’t provide enough time for students to process and reflect on what they’ve learned, and that when given the right tools, there are no boundaries in continuing to attain knowledge. We feel that this app will bridge the gap between orientation and continual learning.

We Need Your Help!

Can you see yourself taking intellectual risk during orientation using the digital tools discussed? Would this be a resource you would find engaging beyond orientation?



Crichton, S. & Carter, D. (2017). Taking Making into Classrooms Toolkit. Open School/ITA. Retrieved from

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (2013). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71. doi: 10.1002/piq.21143

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59.