Design Thinking: The Future of Education?

Design thinking is a structured approach to generating, developing, and implementing ideas. Through  five phases -- discovery, ideation, interpretation, experimentation and evolution -- students use creativity, analytical skills, and teamwork to solve real-world problems. Katrina Schwartz of KQED’s MindShift blog, describes the process as one in which:

“students think for themselves, discover knowledge and continually revise and change their models and prototypes, just like they might if working on a project at work. With design thinking, students can learn how to interpret information they’ve learned, and continue to iterate and experiment with different solutions and ideas. In the process, students gain the confidence that everyone can be part of designing a better future.”

Students from Cesar Chavez Academy prototype a catapult

Citizen Schools is pleased to offer two new design thinking apprenticeships this fall. In Design Thinking, teachers from companies like EMC teach students how to design a product that will solve a problem during lunch or recess at school.

 In Creating Change That Matters, Citrix and Intuit volunteers teach user-centered design, highlighting empathy in the design process. Students must interact with members of their community in order to deeply understand an issue before delving into product design. In both apprenticeships, students pinpoint an area where they can create change, and proceed to develop, build, test, and evaluate their solution.

Ralph King, the driving force behind Creating Change That Matters and the producer of the PBS film Extreme by Design says that in design thinking,  “[famed anthropologist] Margaret Mead meets Steve Jobs.” He explains that, “design thinking is a way to solve problems, but the way you solve problems involves connecting with people that you’re trying to help.”

King notes that the design thinking process is especially important to teach in middle school because innate creativity still thrives at this age. In later years however, creativity is often stifled and “sacrificed for a test taking mentality, stress about colleges and SATs, and other outside pressures that build momentum in high school.” Students frequently learn risk avoidance behavior geared towards traditional achievement, but Citizen Schools’ design thinking apprenticeships provide a space where taking risks is is actually required! Students learn that  failing and starting over are merely small steps towards final success; a lesson we should all bear in mind during moments of stress and frustration.

The beauty of design thinking is that it’s relevant, it’s empowering, and it applies to countless problems in any setting. With applications in fields from engineering to visual art, it’s no wonder many see design thinking as the future of education. We are so excited to introduce these apprenticeships and can’t wait to let you in on our students’ innovative solutions!

Click here to view the Design Thinking curriculum.

Click here to read KQED’s Mindshift article.

Click here to learn more about Ralph King’s film, Extreme by Design.