Life Design

2020 Life Design Summer Institute Series: Week One

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This post is part of the 2020 Life Design Summer Institute Series, which offers a quick lesson recap and 3 teaching takeaways from co-creating a course on life design for students.

Week One kicked off the first official session of the 2020 Life Design Summer Institute. Given the COVID-19 environment, we wanted to emphasize the timeliness and relevance of what we were teaching so we centered this week’s lesson on the concept of reframing. This post provides a quick overview of reframing and my 3 teaching takeaways.

This Week’s Lesson: Reframing

You might be asking, “What is reframing?

Here are snippets from how the creators of life design explain it:

Reframing is how designers get unstuck…Life design involves key reframes that allow you to step back, examine your biases, and open up new solution spaces…Reframing is essential to finding the right problems and right solutions.

From Bill Burnett & Dave Evans’ book ‘Designing Your Life‘ page xxvii

As mentioned earlier, we recognized that COVID-19 had upended many of our students’ plans. We wanted to tackle this head-on so we built this session around the concept of reframing.

3 Teaching Takeaways

Here are my three teaching takeaways from this week:

1. Commiting to 3 core guiding concepts for my sessions

Every instructor has their own methods and styles. It’s been a while since I’ve taught content beyond a workshop. Add co-creation of lessons to the mix and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

To keep myself grounded, I decided to commit to 3 guiding concepts for my section that I could return to when I felt disoriented. In my head, I call them my 3 ‘I’s:

  • Intersectional
  • Interactive
  • Informative (research-based)

I went into the first section with some guiding concepts in mind. After meeting my students, I landed on the ones above. Here is why:


Kimberlé Crenshaw put forth the concept of intersectionality to describe how race, socio-economic class, gender identities, and other characteristics intersect and overlap, especially in the lens of inequality. Her work is rooted in reimagining social justice frameworks.

In my section, I aim to deliver sessions infused with intersectional perspectives and experiences. I am fortunate, that my fellow life design educators approached our collective syllabus in the same vein.


Play is an integral part of life design. I want my session to be fun and engaging. For me, that translates into having interactive activities outweigh lectures. Many of us are ‘Zoomed Out’ since most of our interactions these days are virtual. By infusing constant interactive activities (e.g., games, discussions, polls, etc.), I hope that students look forward to attending each session.

Informative (reseach-based)

Research-based information, especially surrounding some of the activities that we do, is essential for me to feel confident in delivering certain material to my students. In other words, I want to tell them why we are asking them to do certain things. Life design draws from multiple disciplines and I want to be sure to share the primary sources of the information guiding our lessons.

2. Memes can be effective teaching tools (thanks Mike!)

My fellow Life Design Educator, Mike Gonzales, and I had a conversation months ago on the power of memes as a pedagogical tool. I decided to try it out.

I used the popular ‘My plans, 2020’ meme to bookend my lesson on reframing dysfunctional beliefs. I am thrilled that it landed with my students.

Here is a quick Twitter recap:

3. Keep experimenting with Zoom PowerPoint set ups

I started the class by talking for about 2 minutes on mute. I had my PowerPoint up and I couldn’t really see my students or the chat messages saying I was muted. Fortunately, my amazing teaching assistant – Aly Nunez – unmuted herself to let me know.

I find the set up of PowerPoints in Zoom a bit awkward. I can’t really see my students and I feel like I’m talking to a screen. A quick internet search showed me that others are in the same boat. I am on the lookout for a better set up and I will keep trying things over the next weeks. Suggestions are welcome!

Closing Thoughts

The days leading up to my first session were a whirlwind. I am so excited that we are now in the midst of executing this curriculum for our students. I learned a lot from my first session and I am looking forward to seeing how things progress over the course of the 8-week Institute.

This post is part of the 2020 Life Design Summer Institute Series, which offers a quick lesson recap and 3 teaching takeaways from co-creating a course on life design for students.

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