Design Thinking Fellowships for Teachers

Teaching Fellows Partnership Between Shorewood School District, UWM, and SEED Foundation to Spur Design Thinking and “Authentic Learning”

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s (UWM) Lubar Entrepreneurship Center and the Shorewood School District started a Teaching Fellows partnership in 2017 to cultivate Authentic Learning in grades 7-12.  The Fellows program, supported by a grant from the Shorewood SEED Foundation, taps into UWM’s expertise and provides professional development for Shorewood teachers as they build new and innovative educational opportunities for students.

UWM faculty and staff help guide the Shorewood Teaching Fellows through the process of redesigning and creating new curricula using Design Thinking approaches. At the end of the process, the program participants launch new and/or redesigned courses that will introduce more Authentic Learning experiences for students at Shorewood High School and Shorewood Intermediate School.


Shorewood defines Authentic Learning as educational experiences that connect students’ skills and knowledge to real-world issues and needs. Students participate in research and reflection. They collaborate with peers and engage with community partners to advance their learning and present high-quality work to audiences beyond the classroom. These educational experiences build character and citizenship and prepare students for their future in college and careers.

“Our team is extremely pleased to be working with the Shorewood School District on their forward-thinking agenda to cultivate Authentic Learning and innovation in the classroom,” says Director of the UWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center and President of the UWM Research Foundation Brian Thompson. “The Lubar Entrepreneurship Center was designed to foster precisely these kinds of educational partnerships in our community.”

“We are very excited about our continued partnership with our colleagues at UWM and the Shorewood SEED Foundation on this important initiative,” says Shorewood School District Superintendent JoAnn Sternke. “Our teachers  benefit from the Design Thinking methods of the Lubar Center faculty and staff, grounded in research originally developed at Stanford University, and they incorporate these ideas into the new courses they introduce for Shorewood students.”

The Shorewood School District’s emphasis on Authentic Learning can be traced back to a Shorewood Community Visioning Summit held in February 2016, which engaged over 100 community members on the top strategic priorities to guide the direction of the school district for the next 10 years. The top theme identified by the community at the summit was “increasing authentic, experiential learning for students.”

At the elementary school level, Shorewood has been implementing Expeditionary Learning for grades K-6. Expeditionary Learning (EL) is exemplified by project-based learning expeditions, where students engage in interdisciplinary, in-depth study of compelling topics, in groups and in their community, with assessment coming through cumulative products, public presentations, and portfolios. A successful $1 million fundraising campaign helped launch EL in Shorewood’s two elementary schools.

The UWM Teaching Fellows program helps expand those experiences for Shorewood students in grades 7-12. Each year, a group of Teaching Fellows are selected to participate in the year-long program. Teachers from different academic disciplines sign up in pairs in order to work together to develop new and/or redesigned curricula. The new, interdisciplinary courses proposed by the Teaching Fellows range from Environmental Science and Literature to Engineering and Art.


UWM faculty encourages the Shorewood Teaching Fellows to use Design Thinking, an approach that originated at Stanford University’s, in developing the new courses. Design Thinking is a creative methodology for producing innovative ideas and solving problems by practicing empathy in order to fully understand the problem that needs to be solved, and then rapidly testing possible solutions through an iterative process, improving the ideas until an optimal prototype for resolving the problem is generated. The empathy component at the beginning helps teachers consider students’ interests as they design the curricula for the new cross-curricular classes that will be offered in the upcoming school year.

The UWM and Shorewood teams have been working together for years now on introducing Design Thinking into the classroom, both for teachers and students, through pop-up sessions and workshops. The Teaching Fellows program brings the partnership to another level, directly contributing to the development of new Authentic Learning experiences, and aligning with the Shorewood School District’s Strategic Plan.

Since its launch, the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center has emphasized its role in serving as a resource for the community, offering connections to UWM’s broad expertise as one of America’s top research universities. The Lubar Center has prioritized the development of key partnerships with regional organizations, including Scale Up Milwaukee, BizStarts Milwaukee, and K-12 school systems like Shorewood. The Teaching Fellows program represents an example of this kind of outreach.

For more information about the UWM-Shorewood Teaching Fellows program, contact Tim Joynt at [email protected] or Brian Thompson at [email protected].

About University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee:

Recognized as one of the nation’s 115 top research universities, UW-Milwaukee provides a world-class education to 25,000 students from 91 countries on a budget of $667 million. Its 14 schools and colleges include Wisconsin’s only schools of architecture, freshwater sciences and public health, and it is a leading educator of nurses and teachers. UW-Milwaukee partners with leading companies to conduct joint research, offer student internships and serve as an economic engine for southeastern Wisconsin. The Princeton Review named UW-Milwaukee a 2018 “Best Midwestern” university based on overall academic excellence and student reviews, and the Sierra Club has recognized it as Wisconsin’s leading sustainable university.

About the UW-Milwaukee Lubar Entrepreneurship Center:

The purpose of the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center is to enhance the success of UWM students, graduates and the community through programs that foster innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking. To learn more, visit

About the Shorewood School District:

The Shorewood School District provides an education where students become leaders who challenge themselves to grow and achieve academically, pursue their passions, and contribute to the common good. To learn more, visit

About the Shorewood SEED Foundation:

The Shorewood SEED Foundation is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to supporting Shorewood public schools. Together with the Shorewood School District, since 2003, SEED has raised over $2M from donors. For more information, visit