Design-Thinking Process

When entrepreneurs or engineers want to create a product or business model, they have to go through numerous steps to ensure that what they are creating is going to meet their intended need and be utilized by their intended audience. There are many questions that need answering and lots of information that needs to be synthesized. A common method in doing so is the Design-Thinking Process. 

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Not only does this model work for developing products and services that are critical to our daily lives, it also serves a valuable purpose in the classroom and in project-based learning. By utilizing the design-thinking process, students can use the steps as a guide to support their planning, creating, and sharing of their learning, no matter the context. All the while growing in their effective communication, critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, and more (see The Six Deeper Learning Competencies). 

The Design-Thinking Process allows students to break long-term and large-scale projects into smaller goals and visualize where they are in the process and how they progress. 

Additionally, if you take a look at our school’s PBL model, you will see some similarities to the Design-Thinking Process as we designed our own systems across all content areas.

So what would this look like during a seminar or independent project at Dottke? Here’s a simplified look at the Design-Thinking Process.

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Empathize: A student would identify their audience, or a group of people that would be impacted by their project in some way. They would be able to explain a need/concern that their audience has and communicate why it is important that that need/concern be addressed.

Define: Once they have identified the purpose of their project, or their “so what?,” they will define the problem they are going to solve and the parameters that will need to be addressed throughout their project in order to earn credit (“I Can” statements, time constraints, etc.). 

Ideate: After taking the time to identify their constraints and any other important information for the success of the project, they will brainstorm potential solutions to their problem. This may be done individually or as a group, but students will take the time to look at various options and weigh them for the best potential outcome. 

Prototype: At this point, this is where students start developing their project. However, they are always asking for feedback and adjusting to ensure that their deliverable still connects to their initial purpose and defined constraints. 

Test: Once a student is happy with their deliverable outcome, they will present their work (either formally or informally) to gain feedback that they can either apply to a future project or reiterate the process (or just a part of it) again in order to improve their deliverable further. This is where students are able to talk about and reflect on their entire learning experience with others.

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