Mirror: a learning reflection platform

Mirror is an app that streamlines the process of collecting recurring, relevant feedback from students and teachers. Designed as part of a master’s capstone co-design partnership with youth arts nonprofit Urban ArtWorks, Mirror gives education nonprofits a new way to see their story.

my role

I leveraged co-design workshop findings to propose Mirror’s core functionality, and also created my team’s service blueprint and storyboard to communicate our idea.

team

1 designer
1 PM

timeline

10 weeks

design methods

Co-design workshops, storyboarding, service blueprinting, video prototyping


Design Opportunity: education nonprofit participant reflections

importance

Feedback is key to both student-centered program improvements and grant funding.

Meaningful feedback from students & teachers constitutes key data for education nonprofits to evaluate their programming, and also for staffers to create a compelling narrative around their programs’ impact for grant applications and reports. This grant funding is what has kept many education nonprofits afloat over the past few years, despite major decreases in revenue from program fees due to COVID19.

challenge

Current feedback systems show a pale reflection of programs’ impact on students.

The standard model for most organizations is to give out a summative, end-of-course evaluation survey. In our research, we heard that this model of a single checkpoint failed to engage students and generated shallow responses that didn’t truly reflect the growth that teachers had witnessed.

“The data that we get now is not... It's not bad, but it's not the best [laughs] [...] students don't really take a lot of time to think about the questions that we're asking.”

- Eboni, Program Manager at Urban ArtWorks

impact

Mirror shifts the feedback model from one summative evaluation to recurring, relevant reflections that guide program improvements & bolster grant reporting.

With Mirror, education nonprofits can transform their feedback model from a single end-of-course evaluation, to integrating recurring, content-relevant reflections into their curriculum. This also includes reflections from teachers, who give staffers insight into how a class is doing as a whole.

Through central data management and automated report generation, Mirror allows staffers to easily craft rich insights about their organization’s impact.


Our Response: Mirror

student reflections

Staff can prompt reflection that is specific to what students are learning.

Mirror’s recurring reflections allow education nonprofit staff to craft targeted reflections questions that are relevant to what students have been learning at a given point in time.

This way, they don’t have to rely on a single post-program evaluation in which students attempt to summarize their overall experience.

teacher reflections

Teachers provide context to individual student and class growth.

Through Mirror, teachers are also prompted to create recurring reflections on a schedule that works for them and their organization. Teachers’ text and video reflections contextualize how a class is doing as a whole and highlight important moments of which staff should take note.

staff insights

Automated transcription and tagging of reflections allows staff to easily find relevant quotes, videos, and images across their programs.

With an abundance of meaningful reflection data at staffers’ fingertips, Mirror’s organization system ensures that nobody’s story gets lost in the pages. Mirror automatically transcribes video reflections and tags responses based on a survey’s designated focus area, making it easy to find relevant quotes, videos, and images across an organization’s programs.

When it comes time to tell the narrative around an organization’s impact, Mirror ensures that staffers don’t just have data - they have a new way to see their students’ perspectives.


Mirror's Value for Education Nonprofits

program improvements

Insights from reflections allows staff & teachers to put students’ experience at the heart of program improvements.

From the insights gathered by nonprofit staff through Mirror, staff and teachers can also use direct experiences to make improvements to their programs.

grant reporting

Staffers can center student experiences in grant reports through impact statistics, quotes, & pictures.

With the wealth of meaningful, accessible reflection data that Mirror provides, education nonprofit staff can easily sort through and find content they need for outreach, grant reports, applications, and more to effectively communicate the impact their organization has made on their community.


Our Process: Co-Design Partnership with Urban ArtWorks

justification

We developed our understanding of education nonprofits’ needs for reflection data through our research & co-design partnership with Urban ArtWorks.

Our design direction & principles were based in the narrow but deeply situated understanding of education nonprofits’ approach to and needs for using reflection data that we developed through our partnership with Urban ArtWorks.

about urban artworks

Urban ArtWorks is a Seattle-based arts education nonprofit focused on public art.

Urban ArtWorks’ mission is “To engage youth and communities in the creation of public art that inspires connections and honors their voices.”

Although they’ve existed at a small scale for over 20 years, the organization is currently undergoing rapid growth in terms of number of staffers, programs, and even geographic area. This growth is stressing their systems, which is where our research on participant information management came in.

key research insight

For youth to help steer the plane, they first need the structure to climb aboard.

The Challenge

From our primary research with Urban ArtWorks , we learned that staff face difficulties getting complete and meaningful evaluation data due to decentralized systems and lack of youth engagement.

What’s Working

Staffers’ close relationships with youth participants give them a nuanced understanding of needs & constraints.

Leveraging It

Our design aimed to create the time, access, and understanding needed to get youths motivated to provide solid feedback and ensure staff are easily able to use it.

initial design direction

We sought to create a tool that would scaffold the process of generating and using meaningful & accessible reflections.

Goals for youth

  • Feel like the reflection process supports their growth
  • Understand the meaning and value of data they are providing
  • Feel invested & engaged in the process

Goals for staff

  • Feel that the data collection/compilation process is a meaningful use of time and effort
  • Have a consistent system to follow in collecting, processing, and using reflection data

co-design workshops

Staffers were excited about switching from a single evaluation to recurring reflections, but also emphasized teachers’ role in the reflection process.

Through a series of feedback sessions and co-design workshops with Urban ArtWorks staff, we presented our research, suggested an initial design direction, solicited feedback, and led collaborative ideation processes. We learned that by focusing only on staff and students, we’d neglected the crucial role of teaching artists in facilitating reflections & contextualizing student responses. This changed the course of our designs for Mirror, and is heavily apparent in our final outcomes.

partner organization outcomes

Staffers are better organized & motivated to grow their reflection systems.

During our co-design process, we collectively realized that our collaboration had catalyzed a shared sense of agency & motivation to make internal changes amongst staffers. We ended our collaboration with Urban ArtWorks by handing over a one-page executive summary of our research, a simplified service blueprint, and a set of recommendations for streamlining their tooling systems that they are working to implement.

designing mirror

By generalizing our learning and outcomes with Urban Artwork, we designed Mirror: a learning reflection platform that streamlines the process of collecting & parsing meaningful, recurring feedback from students and teachers.

We realized that the insights we developed from working with Urban ArtWorks could extend to fill a need well beyond their organization’s immediate goals and priorities. Thinking about this common challenge that education nonprofits face is what inspired us to create Mirror.

By streamlining the process of collecting & parsing meaningful, recurring feedback, Mirror ensures that staff and teachers have the insights they need to make data-driven program improvements and represent their impact in grant reporting.


Next Steps

If we had more time, we would conduct a second and broader round of research and explore expanding to integrate grant reporting into the platform.

generalizability

Conduct evaluation studies to design customization for nonprofits with different workflows and org structure.

While we have done some concept evaluations of Mirror’s essential service, we have yet to conduct feature and usability testing. Feature testing is especially important to Mirror because the current cofiguration is based on Urban ArtWorks’ organization structure and workflow, but we are going to need more data to make it configurable for more organizations.

scope

Explore integration with grant application & reporting portals.

One of our participants highlighted the value Mirror could provide by re-imagining the relationship between nonprofits and funders by telling their story in a different way. The status quo is for noprofits to submit grant applications & reports in invidivual portals, but we’d like to explore feasibility of providing a central hub for this functionality, opening the communication channel between nonprofits and funders.


Reflection

partner relationship development

Our main source of both difficulty and growth was in building and managing a relationship with a partner organization.

On the one hand, we faced challenges with recruiting, syncing timelines, and aligning on goals. Conversely, we also got to develop real connections and see a tangible impact of our work.

My teammates and I are deeply grateful for all the support, kindness, and generosity from the staff and teaching artists at Urban ArtWorks who collaborated with us for our Master’s capstone project.