- St. Vrain Valley Schools in Colorado started teaching design thinking in a high school STEM academy and at a two-week summer Innovation Academy several years ago. Now this fall, the district plans to open an elementary school centered on design thinking, District Administration reports in an article about how the approach can be applied to school settings.
- FUSE, an online STEAM program developed at the Northwestern University in Chicago, uses the concept in about 140 schools where students choose from 30 challenges and are evaluated on their development of collaboration, critical thinking, and other soft skills.
- In Glenbrook High Schools District 225, outside of Chicago, school administrators applied design thinking principles to the challenge of finding better furniture solutions to enhance student learning by gathering information and focusing on student needs.
Design thinking, defined in the article as “both a process and a mindset, a way of solving problems and of seeing the world,” has been used in the business world for years and is increasingly affecting education. The five steps of designing thinking -- empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test – create a clear pathway to innovation. When used with students, it helps develop empathy and creativity, experts say. It also makes education more relevant to some students because they see how their efforts can impact the world.
Design thinking connects to social-emotional learning because of the development of empathy. As Melissa Pelochino, the director of professional development at the K-12 Lab at Stanford University Design School, noted, “Design thinking creates this cycle of learning, where by immersing yourself into other people’s experiences, you learn to uncover more about yourself.” The critical thinking and collaborative skills involved in design thinking also help build soft skills that are widely sought in the workplace.
Businesses use design thinking not only for product development, but also for personnel management, a technique that school administrators can also employ. In some cases, entire schools are now built around design thinking. For school administrators who are interested in implementing design thinking in their schools without hiring expensive consultants, there are a wide range of resources available, as well as concrete examples of how this methodology can be applied in the classroom. The D-school at Stanford University also offers a crash course in design thinking that may be useful in professional development efforts.