Teachers reflect on the Design Thinking Process:
Students need to learn how to share time and ideas in a group setting. This is largely procedural learning. One suggestion was for students to bring 9 ‘coins’ to the discussion: three coins to ask questions, 3 to comment, and 3 to give ideas. Students rotate in the group, offering a coin to a central pile when their turn arrives. In this way, all participants have an opportunity to provide input and explore each member’s insights.
Students need assistance in finding where to start on a project. If the topic is challenging, the difficulty in correctly identifying the starting point for a line of questioning is increased. Prompts from the teachers may be necessary to develop an initial line of questioning. It is, in fact, very challenging for teachers themselves not to dive in and provide too much assistance to students should problem identification become particularly challenging. Learning to carefully craft questions, and understand responses, leads to quicker problem identification.
In order to allow teachers more time to teach and implement these skills, simplifying the Design Thinking challenge itself down to one problem (as opposed to multiple problems) for the entire class might be a preferable course of action.
Being able to identify perspectives and points of view is challenging for younger learners. Certainly, developing empathy as a skill assists students in being able to see issues from multiple perspectives.
Initially, students appeared to be very uncomfortable interviewing their “clients” on the phone or via Skype. Possessing a solid sense of purpose with clear direction and being fully prepared for such interactions, leads to more productive and confident exchanges.
Number of adults
The Design Thinking process is complex. This is magnified if the problem(s) being considered pose challenging issues. Having a six to one student:adult ratio in the classroom would be ideal for constant feedback, prompting, and managing the potential challenges.
Have small groups of students run through exercises of questioning and answering each other can offer invaluable experience in the process of question formulation, listening, and crafted response. Students should carefully listen to a response before asking the next question. Follow-up questions should not be pre-crafted. Cogent follow-up questions are developed following a response from the interviewee.
The process is greatly enhanced by constant student documentation: post-it notes in problem ideation, writing questions for “clients”, writing down “client” responses. All these help students to visually document their thinking and process.
Students were given worksheets with the following:
Why - what is happening, and why?
What - what can be done about it?
How - how are you going to do it?
From this, students were able to write down their ideas. For ideating, students used large whiteboards with post-it notes for the various sections and questions they were tackling. From there, they were able to consolidate their thinking into an actionable result.
Students enjoyed this work. Not only was it their first exposure to Design Thinking as a concept and process, but the topics themselves were very complex and challenging. Additionally, students did not have all the requisite skills mentioned in place prior to commencing with this exercise. Often, learning what skills students need reveals itself through the learning process.
Students perform at the optimal level in small groups of 4-6 students. In this way, each group member’s opinions can be fully explored and evaluated in a timely and optimal manner.
It’s important to select a topic that directly impacts students’ daily lives, such as school lunch or bus routes. Students new to the Design Thinking process might find topics/challenges with which they are engaged on a daily basis easier to grasp.
Students can do well from 6th grade onwards in a comprehensive Design Thinking process, as this is the time in their lives when they think more concretely of themselves as independent people. Independent people can develop a sense of empathy for social challenges impacting a wider community.
Students came away with a strong, experiential sense of what the Design Thinking process involves, and they provided their “clients” with interesting, actionable solutions to their community challenges.
At BCILD, we came to realize what a valuable tool Design Thinking is for students working through challenging topics in interactive, collaborative, analytical, and creative ways. BCILD hopes that other schools and teachers will build on this learning in their own practice. The skills developed prior to, and during, this process are valuable life and learning skills.
BCILD hopes to be involved in locating and/or developing K-12 curriculum which supports the Design Thinking process in the near future. Did you miss reading part 1 and part 2 of this series? Enjoy!