What is design thinking and why is it important? 

Design Thinking in Education: A creative approach to education

In the early 2000s, the education sector had a new approach towards innovation. It was simply called design thinking.

Unlike some other education trend, it didn’t catch on overnight. Implementation of design thinking for the first fifteen years was a slow, steady progression. Yet in the past few years, it’s picked up a lot and has become crucial for many activities both in education and advanced training to get a solution-oriented result.

Education institutes, ranging from primary schools to universities around the world are using design thinking in classrooms and empowering students to solve authentic challenges and this requires new perspectives, new tools, and new approaches.

So, What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is:

  • It’s a solutions-based approach to solving problems.
  • It’s a non-linear process.
  • It’s a combination of thinking and working.
  • It’s all about strategies and methods.

Design Thinking asks us to:

  • Define problems and opportunities for designing solutions.
  • Generate and visualize creative ideas.
  • Develop prototypes.
  • Test solutions and seek feedback.

Design Thinking Resources for educators

  • When teachers have a mindset of creating a better future in education and put efforts toward innovation, that’s when design thinking is at its best.
  • Design thinking helps the students to tackle real-world issues, this helps in developing their abilities to empathize with others, define problems and take necessary steps towards finding a  possible solution.

Teachers should consider the following:

  • Be willing to deal with uncertainty.
  • Give up control.
  • Show flexibility.
  • Lead with empathy.
  • Foster students’ creativity.
  • Don’t assume things, test them first.
  • ‘Failing forward’ is a real motto.
  • Do it now, adapt & adjust later.
  • Discover, Interpret, Brainstorm, Experiment.

Design Thinking in the classroom!

Implementing design thinking in the classroom doesn’t have to be difficult.

  • Understanding the  Problem –  Understanding is the first phase of the design thinking process. During this phase, students immerse themselves in learning and ask questions to experts, and conduct research. This helps in developing background knowledge through these experiences. 
  • Explore Idea – This phase is critical in design thinking which helps students to brainstorm and get creative.
  • Design – The design stage is the first step of the process of shaping the ideas offered during the “ explore” stage but here we can’t expect students to get everything perfect as they are still working upon developing a framework, blueprint at this stage. 
  • Build – The Build phase is the process where students begin to make their ideas real and discover which components of their ideas work and which do not.
  • Test – Teachers provide constructive feedback on whether or not the student has achieved their goals by showing their projects/assignments to teachers.
  • Improve – Students incorporate the feedback they received and start to redesign the project/assignment as per the feedback and this circle continues!

Design thinking process in education

It’s important to remember that design thinking is much a mindset rather than a static stopping point. Using design thinking helps students to develop a growth mindset.

Examples of Design Thinking in education

  • While the example given here is very general, design thinking can be applied in several ways. Many teachers including the REDLab group ( Stanford University’s design thinking Graduate School of Education ) researches how to apply design thinking in kindergarten, 1st to 12th grade, secondary, and post-secondary academic settings.

  • Columbia University: The school at Columbia University conducted an activity with 8th-grade students which included redesigning a locker, chair desk to suit the requirements of next-generation students. This activity result was displayed at International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

Why Design Thinking in education?

The world we live in is rapidly changing and students will need to be prepared to face situations that they have never seen before and they need to be flexible for all the outcomes.

Learning Design thinking help students to :                              

  • Develop an innovator’s mindset.
  • Connect classroom learning to real-world challenges.
  • Foster a disposition of problem-solving.
  • Collaborate and work with others.
  • Build empathy by thinking from others’ point of view.
  • Design thinking helps in making meaningful changes to the world around them.

What are the limitations of Design Thinking?

  • Despite the benefits of design thinking, many open questions remain that warrant caution from educators, and there have been cases of negative outcomes.

This happens because of: 

  • Lack of Creative Confidence or Mastery.
  • Wrong Priorities, Shallow Ideas.
  • Creative Over-Confidence.
  • Teamwork Conflicts.
  • Sprint instead of long-term focus.
  • The method lacks elements for turning ideas into the accepted solution.
  • Idea creation over evaluation.
  • Tensions between learning content and design thinking process.
  • Lack of connection between subject and method.

Coming to an end…

Design thinking can help students understand the problems they will face in school and their careers so the design can not thrive in isolation, rather try to consider the approach from the student’s perspective. Personalized learning through design thinking will help students to develop relevant skills and the educators must try and find a suitable way of teaching and also share your empathy work or experiments that was hard to crack and help students in creating a solution-oriented mindset.

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