Chalk UX Research

Establishing UX research practices to elevate Chalk's product process and inform its product strategy.

Type of Work

Exploratory User Research


UX Researcher, Project Manager


2 months


An impromptu user research team:

  • Aleem Dhanji, user research assistant, Head of Product at Chalk
  • Kynan Gallagher, user research assistant, Customer Success at Chalk
  • Michael Maczynski, user research assistant, Customer Care at Chalk


Uncovered new product strategy & embedded research into processes

  • The whole team now describes features and gaps in terms of our personas' needs
  • Leadership was inspired by this research to commit to a product redesign



Chalk was a 9-year-old education tech startup based out of Kitchener, Ontario, known for their digital lesson planner (B2C) and their curriculum mapping software (B2B). Though they had a niche of loyal users, their B2C product faced retention problems. Coupled with a shift towards an inbound B2C2B business strategy, Chalk needed a better understanding of their target users to align its product strategy with its new business strategy.


This obviously wasn't designed by a teacher.

This quote came from a survey sent by our account managers to teacher-users in our B2B client schools. We faced tech adoption problems because our technology didn't seem to match teachers' expectations. This was further reflected in our B2C engagement metrics:

  • On average only 33% of B2C users made it through setup to using our B2C app (lesson planner)
  • Only 15% of B2C users continued using our app after setting it up

Our apps were intended to solve a problem for teachers: planning lessons. But teachers didn't seem to find our solution useful. Was there a mismatch between how teachers actually plan lessons, and how our app wanted them to do it?


A framework to understand how teachers plan lessons

This research produced three useful frameworks for understanding our target users:

1. Lesson Planning Task Model

This provided an overview of the workflow pattern that recurred in teacher interviews, and showed gaps between how teachers work and how our product worked.

How teachers lesson plan, compared to how well our product supported their workflow.

2. Chalk Educator Personas

Our research also provided plenty of data to create personas of different users with very different goals. This helped us notice misalignments between users' needs and our products' features.

A snapshot of our personas, stored in Notion.

3. Chalk Journey Maps

Combining qualitative research findings and stakeholder input, we built journey maps for each persona, highlighting the peaks and valleys in their experience. This helped us identify where the Chalk product story was falling flat, and why we suffered from high user attrition.

A combined journey map for our personas, based on Donna Lichaw's storymapping concepts.




UX alignment means all-hands-on-deck

  • Including team members during the research process helps demystify the methods and build trust in research findings.
  • When it comes to research candidates, value quality over quantity. We were still figuring out how to screen candidates during this project, and it showed in our research data. I had to discount
  • Research recommendations need follow-through. Even though I presented findings within the frame of specific product gaps, the team wasn't able to align on actions for addressing these gaps. As a result, we haven't yet implemented impactful product changes based on this research.

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