This week the needs assessment team decided to try something new to understand their users better. While I’ve used different participatory design methods  in the US, doing the exercise with hearing impaired students and their educators was a completely different experience.


Student watches as teacher explains the card sorting exercise to another student.


We did two exercises with the students

1. Affinity matching: We gave students pictures of fields of study, things etc and asked student to stick “smileys” on them. The team provided the students with three different smileys- happy, sad and neutral

2. A card sorting exercise where students were asked to sort a series prompts by difficulty. The prompts included– “Communicating with parents”, “Learning sign language”, “Making friends” etc.

It was interesting because I don’t think the student have been given the opportunity to put down their own thoughts and feelings before. It took them some time to sort the card. The teacher was nice enough to translate for us but to a small extent I feel that this might have biased the results. Students were unwilling to sort it by difficulty because the teacher translated the exercise the first time around as – “What do you like?”. The students immediately said they like everything. After insisting a few times and trying to learn the sign for “difficult” we managed to get the student to sort by difficulty. We also asked students to explain why they found somethings difficult over others. It gave us an insight into their likes and dislikes from the learning perspective.


Teacher sorting cards by difficulty

Later the same day we did a brief card sorting exercise with the teachers. There are four teachers at the school, only one of them works with students with multiple disabilities, the others work with different grades of hearing impaired students. It was interesting to listen to teachers talk about what is difficult for them in their field of work and to listen to their interpretation of some of the prompts. For example one of the cards said talks about difficulty of accessing resources. The teacher working with students with multiple disabilities interpreted the term resources as people. It is very difficult for one teacher to manage 10 students with different disabilities with most of them being cognitive. Other educators interpreted resources as access to sign language books.

It was definitely a productive session with both the teachers and students. It was initially difficult to communicate the exercise to the students and I think the students found it difficult to reflect on the things because they’ve never been asked to do so. It was definitely a learning experience for everyone. After the session the teacher mentioned that children love doing crafts and drawing but for the team to be able to get something useful out of it would have been difficult. Maybe next time we would have a warm up activity where we get the students to draw and make collages and then get into the activity.



2 thoughts on “Participatory Design

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