Our two fields don’t appear particularly related on the surface – what do educational leadership and landscape architecture have in common?  But what brings us together as teaching partners (John Nash and Ryan Hargrove) is our role as design, creativity, and critical-thinking educators. We come to those roles through our love of teaching design thinking.

The Metacognition Problem

At the University of Kentucky, we strive to impart knowledge and skills to our students and equip them with the metacognitive abilities to think critically about their own learning. We think this is key to developing usable and useful solutions to the challenges they choose to tackle, whether it’s food insecurity in our county, or improving patient experience in cancer care.

Traditional assignments and discussions only provide sporadic glimpses into how our learners make sense of problems.

As teachers, one of our challenges is tapping into student thinking and metacognition -- it can be elusive. Traditional assignments and discussions only provide sporadic glimpses into how our learners make sense of problems. We’ve always sought reliable ways to uncover student thinking and reflection throughout the learning process.

Capturing Reflection in Action

Based on our experiences using Unrulr, we have seen immense potential for unlocking student metacognition. We asked our students to use Unrulr as an opportunity to reflect on their thinking as it evolved during the course. Over time we noted how Unrulr enabled our students to reflect deeply on their own thinking in just minutes.

The beauty of Unrulr is that it captures reflection in action - students externalize their thoughts as they populate their minds, allowing for an authentic dialogue otherwise impossible as time erodes the richness and layers of thoughts. We gain unprecedented insight by prompting students to capture and share their thought processes in real-time as they grapple with problems.

As Ryan noted in one of our reflection-in-action meetings after class, this transparency gave us an unprecedented "window into that moment of their thinking." So, even though it’s important that our students apply design thinking principles to create good solutions for our course partners, we want more than that from them. With Unrulr, rather than just seeing the final product, we gained access as teachers to the ongoing cognitive dialogue behind student work.

Suddenly we could ask questions like: What were you thinking here? What were you wrestling with? How did you navigate this concept in your mind? For us as teachers, this ability to pick apart the stages of thinking is incredibly powerful.

Greater Vulnerability = Stronger Communities

Equally profound was the impact on our classroom. By sharing thoughts and opening themselves to vulnerability through Unrulr, students felt truly "heard by their peers and teachers," strengthening our community. As John noted in one of our reflections, the tool “creates space for students to reflect alongside instructors throughout a course.” Intentionally designing for reflection leads to deeper learning.

Of course, introducing new technology takes time and iteration. But the insights we gleaned even early on are promising. As 21st-century educators, we must move past content delivery and embrace methods that reveal thinking. If you value visible learning and student agency as we do, consider bringing this metacognitive tool into your school. When we understand how students make meaning, we can transform what's possible in education.

Level up
your learning community

Book a demo or create an Unrulr account today.