How To Improve Design Thinking In School Students

Sep 13, 2018

As more schools look beyond the ordinary nuances of teaching and learning, several new concepts and ideologies of pedagogy, learning, intelligences and thinking, are making its way into everyday classrooms. Design thinking is one such frequentative taking prominence in modern classrooms. Design thinking is a problem solving methodology, where a student is encouraged to understand the problem in question, challenge assumptions, redefine the issue and come up with alternative strategies and solutions that may not have been as evident. It is a solution based thinking process with empathy at its core, and is especially useful in tackling problems that do not have fixed definitive, through brainstorming, experimenting, trying and testing.

Implementing Design Thinking In Classrooms

Businesses, Corporations, and Universities across the world use design thinking in their operations. With its varied scope of application, students can be taught design thinking too, encouraging them to push the boundaries of their mind, stimulating the spectrum of thinking.

Listed here are the five steps to implement design thinking in classroom.

  1. Listing Out The Problem
    Design Thinking begins with identifying a problem. List out a specific problem for the class to work on. It could be related to what they see in the classroom or school, or a general problem outside the purview of their everyday routine.
  2. Understanding the Problem
    Once a problem is listed, get to the root of it. Help students understand the reasons causing a problem and do their research. Get them curious about the several aspects of the problem, and to look beyond what is evident. Get students to empathize with the ones affected by the problem, instead of looking at it from a bird’s eye view.
  3. Brainstorm
    Students may brainstorm on all possible solutions for a problem. Reinforce the fact that the intention is to come up with a resourceful solution, and not an impressive one. Let them list out the reasons they think the problem exists, and every possible solution that may apply, irrespective of how relevant or irrelevant it may seem. The goal is to brain storm and challenge their minds to push the boundaries of conventional and unconventional.
  4. Designing
    After brainstorming and coming up with possible solutions, students must then select a relevant solutions and create a prototype of the same. This may be in the form of artwork, digital presentations or visual projects. They may work alone, or in groups, and eventually present the prototype to the classroom, while being prepared to answer all possible questions that may arise during the presentation.
  5. Testing
    Once a solution is derived, and a model is decided, the prototype must be put to test. This is the final practical step that shows the effectiveness of a solution and also presents opportunities for improvement and rework.
Improving Design Thinking In Students

Here are few ways to make design thinking a comfortable enclave for students, and to improve their design thinking skills.

  1. Practice Empathy
    In its core, design thinking revolves around empathy. To be able to look from the end user’s point of view, a designer needs to be able to relate to the user. In the same way, students that implement design thinking will be able to do it better, when they can empathize with the ones being affected by the problem they are trying to solve. Encourage empathy in everyday classroom. Students learn best by noticing. Teachers that show empathy in everyday scenarios, instill a sense of empathy in students too. Encourage students to be empathetic with each other, and in the world outside the classroom. Let the class know when you catch students being empathetic, setting examples for the others. List out examples of empathy in textbooks. Assign creative class projects that require students to be empathetic.
  2. Encourage Open Mindedness
    Being open minded is highly essential to be able to come up with solutions that may not be obvious. When working on projects, or a design thinking assignment, encourage open mindedness in students, and practice it yourself too. To be able to think outside the box, students must not be intimidated by new ideas. Practice open mindedness in everyday classroom sessions, so that students do not limit their ideas out of the fear of rejection.
  3. Make Learning Fun
    When design thinking, maintaining a light hearted environment and playfulness will make students enjoy the process. Using games, icebreakers and creative approaches in the classroom, won’t just encourage students to have fun while learning, but also ease their minds, opening the doors to divergence.
  4. Practice Critique
    Choose any topic, concept, or object, and make students critique the same. Ask them to analyze the subject, look for positive and negative aspects of it, and explain their thoughts and opinions on the same. When students are trained to critique every now and then, they have a higher sense of critical analysis and understanding which would make design thinking easier and something that they would look forward to.
  5. Let Students Interview
    Interviews are a great way to help students understand other’s perspectives. When working on a prototype, encourage students to get in touch with the users they think are effected by a problem. Interviewing people, be it students, teachers, staff, parents, or people outside the classroom, will help students understand a problem from a different perspective, and also gain deeper understanding.
  6. Failing Forward
    Students will never know what works, until they learn what won’t. When design thinking, let your students know that failure is evident, and perfectly acceptable. The fear of failure may limit their thinking and trials, thus robbing design thinking of its very purpose – to be able to come up with innovative and alternative solutions. Teach your students the importance of failing forward, and how mistakes will only help them come up with better solutions
  7. Encourage Simplicity
    While students may want to come up with the best solution to a listed problem, emphasize the importance of simplicity in solutions. Since Design Thinking is user-centric, it is best to keep solutions simple, or break down a complicated one into simpler steps. Encourage students to keep things simple and comprehensive.
  8. Teach Growth Mindset
    Teaching students that their intelligence is not fixed, and that with the right efforts and resources, they are capable of progress, instills in them, the idea that they have the ability to expand their thinking. Having a growth mindset will encourage students to have divergent thinking, while understanding a problem, exploring solutions, and designing prototypes.
In Conclusion

It’s never too early or too late to develop design thinking in students. Design thinking grooms students to be better creators, leaders, and problem solvers. Design thinking doesn’t just help students break down and solve problems, but also adopt different perspectives and ideologies, while challenging the limits of what they think they know, helping them break out of their comfort zones.

- Jiji Tharayil