Design Group

Forging new connections among educators to support first generation and lower-income students

Purpose of The Design Group

The purpose of the Design Group phase of our work is to bring together Pivotal Educators and experts in design thinking, curricular design and innovation, digital learning environments, the challenges of undermatching, professional development, and evaluation to form a collaborative partnership. 

Through this collaboration, the Design Group will outline, design, and test the initial ideas and virtual platform for The Pivotal Network. Pivotal Educators in the Design Group will work with us to ideate plans for The Pivotal Network to accomplish its strategic and operational goals. Together we will work systematically through a series of design exercises to explore how The Pivotal Network can best support current faculty efforts and provide educator development opportunities with the ultimate goal of improving the college trajectories of their students. This design phase will culminate with the official launch of The Pivotal Network in September 2020. 

Areas of Focus


As a program created to support exceptional teachers, we are committed to helping Pivotal Educators grow and further develop. Throughout our design sprints, we will consider the key characteristics that define a “Pivotal Educator.” The Design Group will start by working to refine our definition of these characteristics, while ideating and designing various tools, resources, and methods of educator development that Pivotal Educators find most impactful. In addition to thinking about professional development holistically – as it applies to all aspects of a teacher’s work life – we will then explore specific methods of educator development as it relates to improving competencies identified as most impactful for first generation and/or low-income students. 


Creating a supportive, self-sustaining community of Pivotal Educators is one of our central goals. The Design Group will design and test effective community-building practices for The Pivotal Network that support collaboration in an intellectually stimulating and emotionally supportive environment. From there, the Design Group will think through approaches the network can take to help Pivotal Educators build community with their former students (who are current undergraduates), college professors, college officers, and other supporting individuals and organizations in higher education.


Our third area of focus will be The Pivotal Network’s virtual platform. The virtual platform will play an essential role in the success of The Pivotal Network: facilitating interpersonal and professional interactions among Pivotal Educators and with university faculty and staff. The platform needs to be flexible, intuitive, and powerful. Members of the Design Group will help us build a virtual platform for Pivotal Educators that supports a wide range of interactions, from informal conversations, to sharing of best pedagogical practices, formation of lesson study collaboratives, participation in online courses, and access to other resources. Throughout the design sprints, Pivotal Educators will use our platform for their pre and post-sprint tasks – allowing for real time feedback. Additionally, the final design sprint will focus on the platform. The Design Group will evaluate what they’d like to see offered on the platform, how they would like to engage and be engaged, and ultimately, what the general user experience on a platform of this nature should look and feel like. 

Design Group Members

Orientation Material

Design Sprint 1 - Pivotal Points

Design Sprint 2 - Intellectual Communities

Design Sprint 3 - Journey Mapping