Cultural Probe: Design and Findings – Brenda Tan

For this assignment, I wanted to design a convenient and portable tool for pre-school teachers to store their teaching materials. Thus, I used a toolbox my cultural probe kit as it can also double as a toolbox for them to use and carry around in between lessons. The subsequent segments of this post will explain the contents of the cultural probe, tasks for the teachers, as well as my findings and personal evaluation. 

Top view of cultural probe kit 


I used a transparent toolbox to hold the contents of the kit so that the teachers can easily locate the materials they need during lessons. Also, during my trip to the pre-school centre previously, I learnt that the teachers used baskets to store their writing materials. It was quite inconvenient for them as there were no handles for them to grip on to when they carried it around. Thus, I decided to use a toolbox with a handle for my cultural probe. My cultural probe kit includes the following items: 

Fig 1: Contents of cultural probe kit (with labels)

Unfortunately, I could not include any cameras or electronic devices in the kit because I was told that the use of electronic devices is strictly prohibited in classrooms because electronic devices can distract the children and divert their attention away from the lesson.  

Explanation of contents and tasks 

My cultural probe kit included an instruction manual as follows:

Cover page
Page 1: Introduction


Page 2: Brief instructions 

Page 2 of the instruction manual includes some brief instructions that they should follow:

1. They should use the toolbox for one full day at the pre-school and use it to store their teaching materials.
2. Prompts them to refer to pages 3 and 4 for more instructions on the tasks they need to complete.
3. They can drop me a text message or call should they have any questions. 

Task 1

Page 3: Instructions for task 1

The teachers will find the instructions for task 1 on page 3 of the instruction manual. On the left, there is a box indicating the materials they need from the kit to complete the task. For task 1, the teachers are required to record the following in the (1) diary using the (7) pens and highlighters provided after every lesson (refer to fig 1): 

1. Describe your new experience with the toolbox. 
2. Pen down and pros and cons of the toolbox, if any.
3. Pen down your thoughts and emotions during the lesson.
4. Include the date and lesson at the top of each journal entry. 

Rationale for task 1: To understand their day-to-day schedules better, and how the toolbox improved/ hindered their teaching experience. 

Task 2

Page 4: Instructions for task 2

The teachers will then find the instructions for task 2 on page 4 of the instruction manual. There is a box indicating the materials they need from the kit to complete the task. For task 2, the teachers are required to complete the following at the end of the day:

1. Rate your day out of 5 with the (5) colourful star-shaped stickers provided. Paste the stickers on the (3) post-its provided. 
2. Explain briefly on the same (3) post-it why you rated your day as such.
3. Stick the (3) post-it on the back of the diary entries for that day.

Rationale for task 1: To understand their day-to-day experiences better, and the difficulties they face at school, so that I can improve on the tool design.

Practitioner’s experience with the cultural probe  

I only managed to get one teacher to use my probe for two full days. However, also managed to let two other teachers mingle with the cultural probe kit for a few minutes and collated their comments afterwards. Below are my findings. 

Diary entry 1
Diary entry 2

Although the instructions stated that the teacher had to write diary entries after every lesson, she could not do so due to time constraint. She explained that she needed to bring the children from one classroom to another in between lessons, and she only had time to write the diary entries during the children’s nap time from 2:00pm-3:00pm.  

Post-it with ratings

As for the post-its, the teacher forgot to do it on the first day. Therefore, there was only one post-it, which was done on the second day. 


Below are the overall pros and cons of the toolbox that I collated based on the findings from the participant as well as the two other teachers:

The teachers are listed down some suggestions for improvements as follows:

1. Can consider adding a longer strap to the toolbox so that the teacher can carry it around instead of holding the handle. 
2. Can divide the toolbox into different sections i.e. top and bottom tiers so that the things will be more organised.
3. The toolbox’s buckle can be more secure.
4. Can perhaps use a translucent toolbox instead of a fully transparent one so that it will be less distracting for the children.

Personal evaluation

  • I should have paid more attention to the teacher’s busy schedules while designing their probes. For example, one diary entry per day would have been more ideal given their erratic schedules. 
  • Initially, I wanted to use a toolbox with dividers i.e. top and bottom tiers. However, I could not find a toolbox with that design and thus settled with one without dividers, and it turned out to be a big problem pointed out by the teachers as well. 
  • This cultural probe really allowed me to understand the day-to-day experiences of the teachers, and their responses gave me great insights on how I can improve on the tool as well.  

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