Design thinking is a solutions-oriented process to help solve problems using empathy and creativity. Rather than developing a tech- or trend-centered product or service, design thinking focuses on understanding the people who are experiencing the problem. Teaching design thinking in the classroom can help boost students’ confidence and improve their ability to solve complex challenges.
Employers often look for creative problem-solving skills, self-motivation and collaboration when hiring, so teaching students design thinking helps prepare them for the future. Read on for ideas on how to get started.
Develop listening skills
The first step in design thinking is understanding the specific needs of the people who want help. Divide your class into groups. Designate a ‘problem’ group and ‘problem-solving’ group. The problem group outlines the issues—it could be anything from forgetting something at home to struggling with math. The problem-solving group asks questions so they can fully understand the issue. Give students a pocket notebook and pencil to take notes. This activity helps train students to observe and actively listen to other people.
Brainstorming helps develop creative thinking skills. Ask students to think of multiple uses for an everyday object. Hand out inspirational gifts, like a smile emoji stress reliever or a bookmark imprinted with a positive message. Set a timer for two minutes and see how many alternate uses students discover. Once they’re in the brainstorming mindset, ask them to consider the group problem outlined above. The goal is to think of as many solutions as possible.
Determine the best solution
Once students have a list of possible solutions, they can evaluate each one. Have them ask questions like, “What solutions are the most realistic?” “Which solution addresses the most parts of the problem?” Have students narrow the list down to two choices and start comparing the pros and cons. If their solution has a physical aspect, provide blank sketchpads and colored pencils for them to draw out their idea, taking into considering size and dimensions. This helps students think about possible modifications and improvements before forming a prototype.
Prototyping and testing
Creating quick prototypes is a fast way to test the design’s feasibility. In the real world, it helps save time and money. To prototype, students need items like scissors, cardstock or modeling clay. If your school has a 3D printer, take advantage of that as well.
Prototyping is a great way for students to see how a 2D sketch can transform into a tangible object that solves problems. It’s also good practice for students to give and take constructive feedback. To test students’ designs in the context of the problem, have a few students take the design home with them and report back the next day.
Once the exercise is over, thank them all for their creativity with something that will challenge their mind, like a brain teaser game.
Build empathy and creativity
Help students develop strong listening and brainstorming skills by easily incorporating design thinking in your classroom with these ideas. Have fun problem solving!