Teacher Binder

As the administrator dashboard work came to a close, our team's attention shifted towards enhancing the teacher experience. The teacher binder, which serves as their dashboard for assessing student progress, required attention. Our team tackled enhancing this experience, which suffered from inadequate data visualizations and cumbersome navigation. Simultaneously, we were charged with establishing comprehensive long-term expansion strategies for this area of the product.


Product designer




2022 - 2023

Team Size:

~14 members

Phase 1: Discovery

Scrappy discovery.

Given the ever-changing team composition and a rapidly approaching deadline, our discovery period was shorter than usual projects of this size. Moreover, owing to the limited time available, we had to adopt a resourceful approach in gathering research and defining the scope for the MVP solution.

Guerrilla research.

My product manager and I made the executive decision to forgo a discovery workshop for the teacher binder. Our time was limited, and due to numerous ongoing projects, we couldn't assemble the necessary outside team members required to conduct such a workshop.

Instead, my product manager and I employed unconventional tactics to gather insights and define our business objective. We compiled an extensive collection of teacher research focused on grading and planning based on student insights, along with all pertinent, direct user feedback related to the teacher binder, into a single comprehensive enchiridion.

Subsequently, we engaged in discussions with former teachers employed at Newsela to ascertain their expectations for a teacher insight experience, particularly in the context of Newsela's offerings. Finally, we convened meetings with members of the customer team, user researchers, and product managers—all of whom frequently interact with teachers—and posed similar inquiries.

Our business goal

Empower teachers with relevant insights that actively aid them in mapping change in their classrooms.

Teachers need real-time data and relevant analytics regarding individual students and the overall classroom. This is to best build materials for the present day and the proceeding months of their courses, as well as provide direct support to individual students who may need more specific assistance.

Identifying teacher personas.

While conducting our guerrilla research, I concurrently spearheaded the task of delineating sub-personas for teachers in the binder experience. These sub-personas were grouped into three distinct categories: Lesson Planners, Show-and-Tellers, and Glancers.

Teacher type: Lesson Planners

These teachers aim to utilize the binder for current or upcoming lesson planning. Their primary challenge lies in obtaining dependable, class-specific insights to aid in constructing their most recent lesson plans. Their foremost need is data that directly aligns with lesson planning, such as classroom performance on state standards. Furthermore, they ideally expect actions paired with the provided data.

Teacher type: Show-and-Tellers

These teachers intend to utilize the binder to showcase individual changes to students and parents. Their primary challenges revolve around necessity for data to be presented in a student/teacher-friendly format and the ability to navigate insights for multiple students across various classes. Their foremost requirement is approachable data insights for non-teachers, and a shareable experience. Additionally, they desire improved navigation that allows quick transitions from high-level to detailed data across classes.

Teacher type: Glancers

These teachers are constrained by time, often juggling multiple classes and responsibilities within the classroom. Their primary challenge is the desire to assess student and classroom progress, despite having limited time for navigation. Their top priorities encompass features such as streamlined filtration and grouping interactions, as well as any other visual or interactive solutions that swiftly and conveniently provide classroom-ready data.

Phase 2: Ideation

Ideating on the teacher binder.

With a clear objective in mind for enhancing the teacher binder, an extensive list of improvements identified based on teachers' needs, and a more comprehensive analysis of binder usage, we were well-equipped to ideate the near and distant future direction of the experience.

We continued to encounter a series of challenges that shaped the roadmap for this phase of the initiative. Time remained a significant determining factor for our MVP, as we aimed to roll out improvements for the 2023 back-to-school season. Simultaneously, we had to be mindful of our existing live binder experience, ensuring that our plans incorporated the seamless transition of returning insights and the gradual phasing out of any redundant features. Moreover, we recognized that any data beyond the scope of our current live experience's dataset would require significant development efforts.

The current live experience.

Throughout the discovery process, it became evident that the majority of the current binder experience was ineffective for teachers in its current state. Simultaneously, the navigation within the experience didn't align with the average teacher's class inventory. Additionally, the visual presentation was outdated and didn't incorporate the latest components from our design system.

I spearheaded the choice to adopt a phased approach in introducing the revamped teacher binder. Given the aforementioned limitations, our MVP would prioritize the following:

• Enhancing navigation and the overall user experience of the existing platform.
• Eliminating insights that frequently caused frustration among teachers.
• Revamping the user interface with components from our design system.
• Migrating the entire experience from the previous codebase.

Focusing on these changes would enable us to deliver an MVP within the set deadline. Moreover, these enhancements and streamlining efforts would create an environment conducive to conducting future experiments and implementing further improvements to the binder.

The MVP approach.

Guided by the outlined strategy, I transitioned to designing the UX and visual ideation. To effectively demonstrate this strategy, I embarked on designing both the MVP (phase one) binder and a post, visionary (phase two) improvement.

The objective behind the MVP ideation was to conceptualize binder experiences that would enhance the overall flow and establish a foundation for forthcoming UX enhancements. Since improved navigation was a common need across personas, a significant portion of my efforts was directed towards creating a well-defined framework for future binder pages. In terms of actual insights, both the design and engineering team concurred that retaining data from the current live experience was essential to minimize engineering efforts. However, any insights identified as ineffective for teachers through our research were eliminated.

For the visionary (phase two) improvements, I leveraged teacher feedback and personas to pinpoint areas for enhancement. These concepts encompassed direct insights aligned with state standards, the capability to assess skill improvements across all classrooms, comprehensive filtration options for grouping student insights, a dashboard experience for teachers to quickly grasp changes and highlight individual classrooms, and several other features.

Waiting to test post-MVP.

Following the presentation of the strategy and designs to our group product manager, my product manager and I made the decision to postpone testing until after the MVP phase. The planned changes were evidently crucial for UX and visual enhancements, and omitting them would impede our ability to effectively conduct experiments for future improvements.

Phase 3: Definition

MVP facelift and enhancements.

After receiving approval for the MVP facelift, I set out to finalize the changes for the binder and prepare the designs for engineering implementation.

The bulk of my effort involved creating a templated approach to structuring insight pages and their navigation. Additionally, I developed a standardized filter layout to ensure that all insight pages featured a prominent, easily accessible area where teachers could filter their classrooms.

In terms of visual enhancements, a substantial amount of effort was dedicated to reconstructing the experience using design system components. Additionally, I undertook the task of reimagining and defining improved visual systems for representing more intricate insights, such as student skill improvements. Lastly, I spearheaded the design and implementation of a left-hand navigational panel within both the teacher binder and our design system.

Definition cut short.

Regrettably, towards the end of the teacher binder definition phase, Newsela underwent a restructuring. This restructuring resulted in a reduction of staff, affecting 1/5 of the organization, including myself and fellow team members. As the primary product designer on this team, this unfortunate development meant that the MVP facelift for the teacher binder, as well as any planned future experimentations, were indefinitely put on hold.

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