The Design Thinking Process in Education

02 January, 2020
There are many methods that aim to improve the overall processes of teaching, learning and education. The Design Thinking Process is one of them. Today we'll talk about what this method involves and what sets it apart.

The Design Thinking Process comes from the business world and, in particular, it’s a method for Marketing. It consists of a way of thinking and innovating in the context of products and services that satisfy the needs of clients.

However, it has specific characteristics that educators can apply in the classroom as a way to design solutions to education-related problems and needs.

What does the Design Thinking Process involve?

Design Thinking constitutes a way of working in teams in order to solve problems and come up with innovative solutions. According to one of its creators, Tim Brown, it’s a method that focuses on individuals and concentrates more on the design process than on the final product.

The method consists of 5 phases that make up the process, which include the following:

  • Empathize: This refers to putting yourself in your users’ shoes to discover their needs.
  • Define: This step involves defining the needs and perceptions of users in order to establish a starting point.
The Design Thinking Process in Education

  • Ideate: Here, participants imagine a variety of possible creative solutions
  • Prototype: This is the step that involves creating solutions, developing and putting into practice the best ideas from the previous phase.
  • Test: Evaluation will indicate what phases of the process we must go back to in order to improve or change certain aspects. Testing is always based on the feedback of users and allows us to know if the design of every phase and the application of solutions has truly met their needs.

How does the Design Thinking Process work in the context of education?

When looking at the process from an educational perspective, Design Thinking is a very beneficial and innovative tool. It serves to bring improvement to educational institutions and the relationships and processes that develop inside. The method offers simple solutions to the problems that arise, on the basis of cooperation, observation, experimentation, and constant evaluation.

It’s also useful in providing solutions to the particular learning needs of a group or a specific student. What’s more, it allows educators to design the best way to carry out any educational project.

The Design Thinking Process allows all educational parties to participate and offer solutions on the basis of everyday educational needs. Cooperation between teachers, students, and parents is an essential component when it comes to improving the practices and climate of a school.

The application of the Design Thinking Process at school

As we mentioned above, this method helps us find creative and innovative responses to educational problems. Keeping in mind the phases that the method involves, the steps to follow are the following:

Empathize with the parties involved

Just as the first phase of this process implies, the first thing we need to do is empathize with usersThis refers not only to students but to teachers and parents as well.

We must be aware of their needs, problems, and desires. This means putting ourselves in their shoes in order to understand them and analyze their situation and context. In this phase, it’s important to listen, observe, and take note of data and information.

Designing a path

According to this method, the second stage indicates that we establish a pathway using the information from the previous phase. The idea is to define and design an action focus whereby we organize our information in order to reveal the most relevant and urgent aspects, needs, and problems.

Then, we ask ourselves what may be causing the problems and what options we have to offer solutions and improvements.

The Design Thinking Process in Education

Come up with ideas

In this third phase, it’s time to start coming up with ideas. This is a creative stage where every party in the educational context should participate. To make this happen, there are techniques – such as brainstorming – that help to produce and organize all of the ideas that arise. It’s import for this moment to be relaxed and fun in order for innovative ideas to appear.

Materialize ideas

In the fourth stage of the process, it’s time to turn the ideas from the previous stage into something tangible. It means taking the most coherent and acceptable ideas and giving them shape. 

In other words, it involves determining how to put them into practice. Here, participants must organize aspects such as time, space, human resources, finances, and the materials that are necessary to execute the ideas.

Validate and evaluate

Finally, in the fifth and final step, we must validate the path we’ve chosen in each of the previous steps. In other words, we’ll explain and share the decisions we’ve made. And, based on the feedback of users, we’ll finish pinpointing the actions we’ll pursue.

What’s more, this phase also involves the evaluation of the entire implementation process. This means being able to test along with users themselves that we have managed to find effective and innovative solutions to their needs, desires, and concerns.