The Process: What is Design Thinking?
Issue #21/ February 26, 2018
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It is a common misconception that design thinking is new. Design has been practiced for ages: monuments, bridges, automobiles, subway systems are all end-products of design processes.
This hands-on, user-centric approach is defined by the design-thinking process and comprises several distinct phases, as defined and illustrated in this graphic.
Imagine your goal is to improve your students' experience during a difficult unit of study. In this phase, you would talk to a range of students. Directly observe what they do, how they think, and what they want, asking yourself things like ‘what motivates or discourages my students during this unit?’ or ‘where do they experience frustration?’ The goal is to gather enough observations that you can truly begin to empathize with your students and their perspectives.
Issue #18 Theme: Design thinking is a human-centered approach to problem solving that begins with developing empathy for those facing a particular challenge. This is a great instructional approach, but has many applications across our professional practice as teachers. Here are 5 ways design thinking can impact our practice.
Empathize to Better Understand
This is the most important part of design thinking, but it is the one most often under emphasized -- doing. The success of design thinking lies in its ability to transform, transformation only occurs after implementation. Once you've followed through with the process and crafted an effective solution, commit to what you have created and execute it as design. Watch this video for more information on Design Thinking.
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The goal of this phase is to understand what components of your ideas work, and which do not. Revisit the students you spoke to collect observations. Test a few of your ideas out with them. If any prove themselves to be feasible try them out with a broader sampling of students. In this phase you begin to weigh the impact vs. feasibility of your ideas through feedback on your prototypes.
This video shows what the design thinking process may look like up to this point.
Brainstorm a range of crazy, creative ideas that addresses your observational findings. Give yourself total freedom. Don't be afraid to identify approaches that are out of your comfort zone. In this phase, quantity supersedes quality.
Once you have a robust list of possible ideas, start to poke holes in each and shore up the weaknesses of each idea. Then, try to poke holes again. Continue this until you have whittled your ideas into a strong list of possible solutions.
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