Design Engineering
Showcase 2020


Paris-Anne O'Shea
Global Innovation Design
Dr John Stevens
Breaking Barriers

The number of children growing up in poverty is rising, affecting 30% of children in the UK and 38% in London[1]. Education is the most sustainable way to lift children out of poverty, however the existing education system is failing to do so. Only a quarter of students receiving free school meals gain five good GCSEs or equivalent, compared to over half of the overall population[2].

What if we reimagined education? What if education bridged the inequalities children were born into? What if education inspired all children?

In response to this need, I partnered with Feltham Young Offenders Institute to design an alternative education system. One which is inclusive, inspiring and deliberately transformative.


Self-determination theory, ownership by design and the principles of transformation education were applied in order to devise the first iteration of the system[3][4][5]. From this critical study the following requirements were defined for the system: connection, competence, autonomy, ownership and critical reflection.

I worked with the teachers and students at Feltham Young Offenders Institute to iterate on this system and define the stages that would bridge the gaps between disengaged, disadvantaged students and self-determined learners.

The system is in its third iteration following 2 pilots run with 8 disengaged students from mainstream schools. The predominent focus of these pilots was to define the tools and resources to achieve the learning outcomes of each of the stages in the system. The pilots were each run as a series of daily interactive, virtual workshops over the course of 4 weeks.

 — Empower.
Feedback from the students that took part in the system pilot.


The outcome is a learner centred system that disrupts the role of teacher and student. Students embark on the programme by discovering and developing the self knowledge required to define their own learning goals.

Students then work with teachers and mentors to develop and deliver an education programme that supports their goals. The delivery of this programme spans not only the knowledge transfer, seen in traditional education programmes, but application of that knowledge.

Responsible education should broaden career prospects so each stage includes a convergence of internal and external motivators. The internal aspect focuses on developing self knowledge through critical reflection. The external aspect links the students intrinsic motivators to real world aspirations.

The system has been extracted from the Feltham context to create the Self-Determined Learning Double Diamond, a universal framework for self-determined learning. I have presented this work at Service Lab London and the framework has been used in the learning design of Founders Academy’s alternative education programme.

 — Empower.
The Self-Determined Learning Double Diamond, a universal framework condensing the learnings of this project.


[1]Department of Work and Pensions, ”Households below average income: 1994/95 to 2017/18”, GOV.UK, 2020. [Online]. Available: w-average-income-199495-to-201718. [Accessed: 22- June- 2020]

[2]D. Hirsch, ”Experiences of poverty and educational disadvantage”,, 2007. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 22- June- 2020]

[3]W. Baxter and M. Aurisicchio, ”Ownership by Design”, Psychological Ownership and Con- sumer Behavior, pp. 119-134, 2018.

[4]R. Ryan and E. Deci, ”Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation from a self-determination the- ory perspective: Definitions, theory, practices, and future directions”, Contemporary Educational Psychology, p. 101860, 2020.

[5]C. Tønseth, R. Bergsland and S. Hui, ”Prison education in Norway – The importance for work and life after release”, Cogent Education, vol. 6, no. 1, 2019.


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