A maturity model for assessing the collective design capabilities of educational organisations


The maturity of an organisation concerns how well it is organised to understand, define, communicate, and address its needs and ambitions (its design capabilities) in the short, medium and long terms. For dynamic organisations, where diverse needs and ambitions are defined at a local level by innovators, achieving a high degree of maturity requires additional effort and facilitation. The starting point for this is to conduct a sound, honest, evaluation of the organisation’s design capabilities. This maturity model describes the features to look out for, and three approximate levels of maturity in those features.


Pedagogic actions are shaped by habit, default structures, and processes that are built into technologies and spaces. Little time is spent reflecting, analysing, and considering alternative approaches. Customising actions to meet diverse needs only happens in an ad hoc manner, with little documentation of reasons and methods. Design choices and the rationales behind them are not clearly articulated, communicated, and widely understood. Gaps in provision are left largely unaddressed, or filled by a wide plethora of ad hoc solutions, with no guarantees of quality, reliabiliy, or sustainability.


Individuals and small groups take time to reflect on actions, critically and creatively adapting available technologies and spaces to meet diverse needs. They may develop their own pedagogic strategies and learning design patterns, but their is little cooperation on this with the wider community. Design choices and rationales may be well articulated, but knowledge concerning practices and innovations is not shared beyond individuals or the small group. Gaps in provision are filled on an ad hoc basis, with some largely incoherent campaigning for support from central services.


Design choices and rationales are clearly articulated, communicated, and widely understood. The organisation’s members have a strong sense of “owning” a set of common practices, technologies, and spaces, evolved for their diverse needs. Individuals and small groups draw upon this as the basis for a critical and creative design process, so as to address diverse needs as they emerge. New challenges are interpreted in relation to this framework – immediately addressed by existing practices, requiring some adaptation, or necessitating novel approaches beyond current practice. Lessons learned from adopting and adapting approaches are shared back to the community. Gaps in provision are collectively identified, and addressed through a transparent and managed development process.

Dr Robert O'Toole NTF

Senior Teaching Fellow, Arts Faculty, University of Warwick. Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, National Teaching Fellow, Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence.

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