Design Thinking

Design thinking, is viewed as an important skillset for coping with a technological and competitive world. This page presents an overview of design thinking as a tool for collaborative change and learning.


Design Thinking is a highly collaborative participatory approach to sparking creative and innovative thinking and to solve 'wicked' problems...problems worth solving. It has emerged from the processes that designers have used over the last twenty years.

Design thinkers have a predominantly positive view of the world and they carry a strong sense of agency, believing that they can change the world for the better. Very importantly, design thinkers focus on developing empathy for themselves, the processes they are engaged in and other people. So, design thinking is about understanding culture and context as well as uncovering, understanding and solving problems with creative and innovative thinking, underpinned by a strong sense of empathy. Design thinking also provides an approach to amplifying exciting opportunities in your work or learning space.

We enjoy leading professional teams and learners into this highly collaborative space of creativity and innovation.

At Graccon Learning Solutions we view design thinking as a framework to support creative thinking and also, as the name implies, a different way of thinking about and engaging with the world. To begin to think 'like designers' it is helpful to envisage the process shown in the image here (click to enlarge).

When depicted as a method, design thinking includes efforts to build empathy, define problems or opportunities , ideate on solutions, prototype ideas and then test these solutions. Each phase of design requires different mindsets and skillsets to be activated.

One of the exquisite aspects of design thinking is its potential to establish a safe prototyping culture.

We facilitate our workshops to guide your thinking so that you can develop a good sense of the skills and mindsets required for each part of the design process. What you will also learn is that most often design is not a linear process to be followed step by step.

Take note that in the above diagram there is a space for problem finding and a space for developing solutions. Good design thinkers (your teams and your students) will immerse deeply into the problem space to develop a strong understanding of the context they are working in, including people. When they spot a problem worth solving or an exciting opportunity that needs supporting they then move towards the solutions space where skillsets and mindsets change.

So, design thinking is at its core about the mindsets and skillsets necessary to develop empathy and to get to know a problem or opportunity very well. When designers really understand these problems and the context that they sit in, then they are ready to design solutions.

By working with us you will discover that as a pedagogical tool, design thinking has a place in every K-12 classroom as it compliments beautifully existing pedagogies while providing inspiration for change and innovation (Melles et al, 2015). We love exploring pedagogy...endlessly. 😉

At Graccon Learning Solutions we work with educators and students to build their creative confidence to be design thinkers. Young learners are great design thinkers and contributors to participatory design.

The above design thinking image draws from Brown, 2009.

A few references:

Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. HarperCollins e-books.

Design Thinking. (n.d.). In Wikiwand. Date retrieved March 15, 2019, from https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Design_thinking

Melles, G., Anderson, N., Barrett, T., Thompson-Whiteside, S. (2015) Problem finding through design thinking in education. In Inquiry-Based Learning for Multidisciplinary Progams: A Conceptual and Practical Resource for Educators. Published online: 20 May 2015; 191-209

We will help you walk the squiggly path of design thinking to build your creative thinking and the capacity to drive your ideas forward. To push you past 'doing' design thinking, focus will be placed on building your creative confidence and sense of agency as a professional educator.

Our approach is very human centred and therefore via immersion into observation, storytelling and discussion we are able to create a space where innovation comes from amplified teacher and student voice.

As we provide completely bespoke services we will work with you to build a 'design brief' before customising our workshops for your context. Our input is informed by our wide experience in education.

We also believe that design thinking provides balance in the techno-centric view of innovation that dominates education. Design thinking has the potential to empower educators to drive creativity and innovation. This is a very human centred approach to innovation that honours educators as agents of change.

We support leadership teams, administration teams, year level teams or KLA groups. Multi-disciplinary groups work best.

We work with these professional teams to look at situations in new ways by empathy building and through divergent thinking. Through design thinking methodologies we help you build partnerships, tell stories and generate 'small data' to inform your practice.

Student voice is called upon very loudly. As educators we want to improve student learning and so an aim is for design thinking to enter the classroom.

As we have deep experience in working with K-12 students to improve their learning, we invite you to ask us how we might work with your students so that they can develop the skillsets and mindsets to be active participants in their world.

From a pedagogical perspective design thinking has potential to support constructivist pedagogies (Scheer, Noweski and Meinel, 2012). Design thinking also supports beautifully an exploration of Critical and Creative Thinking as discussed in the general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum.

So, please contact us if you would like to enrich your practice by exploring the problem space and solutions space of design thinking.

Reference:

Scheer, A., Noweski, C., & Meinel, C. (2012). Transforming constructivist learning into action: Design thinking in education. Design and Technology Education: An International Journal, 17(3).

In the classroom setting it is helpful to view design thinking as a pedagogical framework. It is a highly adaptable way of working but here are a few ideas:

Inquiry

Design thinking allows for exquisite planning of units of inquiry. It all starts with a provocation. Led by a design thinking approach students immerse into an inquiry space but then make use of their discoveries in an active learning by building space...designing for a better world.

STEM

Simon began his career in scientific research and has particular interests in providing support for Science and STEM educators. Design thinking dovetails beautifully with STEM as a multidisciplinary practice. We can help you design programs that are framed by a design thinking approach to learning.

Social Justice

Design thinking is also an exciting way to develop deeply participatory programs that look at issues of social justice as well as entrepreneurship. We would love the opportunity to co-design with you and your students programs framed beautifully by design thinking.

No matter the learning scenario, design thinking will encourage students to explore two creative spaces. As per Owen (2007), the first space immerses learners in analysis and discovery. The second creative space encourages them to make and invent. This design like approach will allow your students to experience deeply participatory learning.

Reference:

Ref: Owen, C. (2007). Design thinking. Notes on its nature and uses. Design Research Quarterly 2(1),16-27.

Design thinking creates an exciting space to think together, work together and learn together. Your teams will experience a very strong sense of collaboration when guided by design thinking.

We suggest you start thinking about things that are bugging or frustrating you in your learning environment. For instance, do you have a need to plan units of inquiry, or explore how you might support a thinking curriculum. How do you support creative and critical thinking? Are you working on team teaching in new learning spaces? Perhaps you are designing new spaces, including digital ones. Are you unsure about digital citizenship? Or, are your peers unsure about collaborative learning...or indeed collaboration? You will know what your bugs are.

But don't just think of frustrations or problems. What are some exciting opportunities in your learning community that you want to amplify via a designed and collaborative approach?

Also, begin thinking about who you might want to work with. Part of our facilitation will be the formation of effective design teams.

Please send us a message to make contact and we can begin your creative and innovative journey. Remember that we are deeply experienced Australian educators so we can role up our sleeves and work with you in the classroom.

Be prepared to look at things in a new way. We look forward to hearing from you.

"At Graccon Learning Solutions we aim to create a culture of optimism through design."