What is your role at TGS?
We all wear many hats here at TGS, where we are lucky enough to grow and explore our own professional dimensions. My personal hat collection includes jack-of-all-trades science teacher, human geography, curriculum development, and now academic coordination.
Design thinking is all the buzz in education right now. How would you define design thinking for students/parents/educators?
The Harvard Graduate School of Education defines design thinking in education as “a mindset and approach to learning, collaboration and problem solving.” Design thinking is a methodology or process, akin to the scientific method — it provides a framework for innovation and creative problem solving. This framework is commonly known as the design process and unlike the scientific method, it is cyclical rather than linear in nature, which means that there can always be room for the evolution of a solution to meet changing conditions and parameters. What this can mean is that design thinking is a mindset that can be applied at any level of a school system to “transform difficult challenges into opportunities for design” (Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit v2), thus administrators can use it, teachers can use it, staff can use it, and students can use it.
Design thinking is not a new concept, despite all the recent buzz about it in business and education. Perhaps the difference now is that educators are consciously using design thinking as an approach to problem solving beforehand, rather than recognizing it only upon reflection. It is a cognition instead of a classification.
What are the biggest rewards students take away from design thinking, and how have you applied design thinking to your content area?
Design thinking provides an intentional framework for tackling a problem that ultimately leads to a solution or a series of solutions, but there are many steps between start and finish, and often there is no definite “finish” to a solution because as context or parameters evolve, the proposed solution may need to be adapted too. I think that design thinking helps students develop a practical skill set that is viable in almost any field of work or study that they decide to pursue, from fine arts to engineering to philosophy. My students have emerged from projects with solutions that revealed untapped wells of creativity, and they developed the confidence in themselves to believe that they ARE complex problem solvers. Perhaps overall they learn resilience as they come to realize that, as most often is the case in life, the first idea or concept that you try does not lead quickly and directly into a final solution, but instead is one part of the design cycle process….and that is OK!
Personally, I have used it in my daily lesson planning, and in my overarching unit/project design, and I have taught it to my students for use in their project management. The results across the spectrum have been spectacular so far.
What are the biggest challenges you face in implementing design thinking?
I would have to say that time constraints are the most arduous challenge that a teacher often faces when implementing a new methodology into his/her practice. Design thinking requires a bit more of an investment timewise in the planning phase, and if done collaboratively may require several discussions with colleagues followed by experimentation and refinement of ideas and strategies, which in turn may take you through the design cycle repeatedly.
Teaching the design cycle to your students and training them in its effective implementation is no quick and easy lesson task either. The students need time to work themselves around the cycle at least twice on a project in order for the lessons learned from both their successes and their mistakes to really start to sink in, and the value of design thinking becomes apparent.
What new ideas would you like to pass on to other educators regarding design thinking in the classroom?
I have nothing truly new to pass on except encouragement; Give design thinking a try if you have not already. There is plenty of literature out there already to get everyone started. Perhaps it may not be viable for the students themselves to apply design thinking in a content heavy course versus a project-based learning course, but students can apply the design cycle to their daily lives and study habits, and will see vast improvements. Also, educators can apply design thinking to their daily lesson planning, classroom design, and even professional learning communities in their schools. These incremental improvements can cumulatively provide significant workflow rewards and facilitate improved student performance.