28 Nov 2019


It turns out that creativity isn’t some rare gift to be enjoyed by the lucky few—it’s a natural part of human thinking and behaviour. In too many of us, it gets blocked. But it can be unblocked. And unblocking that creative spark can have far-reaching implications for yourself, your organization, and your community.

Design thinking (DT) is both a  method and a dispositional approach to problem-solving,  organizational development, and learning. The traditions of DT  go back to the 1950s and have been used in a variety of fields. Some defining features of DT include focusing on need definition before problem-solving, the abdication of the preconceived outcome, being situated toward ambiguity, being human-centric, and having a reflexive process that seeks to increase contextual knowledge using empathy as the basis of understanding.

The purpose of implementing DT in elementary educational institutions is to foster environments of dynamic change that will drive innovation cycles to advance student achievement and address equity, access, and opportunity gaps. From classroom application to whole systems redesign, the human-centred process supports new ways to approach complex problems and a framework to reimagine the educational experience for all those involved in it.  A science teacher that has implemented DT in their classroom and leads student design teams for curriculum refinements stated:  “I feel like as teachers we sometimes fall into thinking about what works for us rather than what works for students. Design thinking helps us get out of our comfort zone with systems that make it safe to try new things. This is important as if you want  to fully embrace design thinking you will be  taking chances and need to know  that failure is part of the process of learning.”

A humanities teacher that has implemented DT challenges as part of their interdisciplinary design shared changes they found in students: “What  I like about using design thinking in my classes is that it provides a meaningful way for students to get outside of their own perspective. They explore the world in a deeper more meaningful way through learning by engaging in an empathetic process that explores cultural attributes.”  A school leader that is transforming their school with DT  by promoting higher levels of engagement observed: what design thinking has done is increased the possibility for solving problems and meaningfully engaging in organizational development.  It has made it possible to approach problems with fresh eyes and come up with a solution that we would not have previously considered.

Design thinking has supported us in us redesigning our service delivery systems.  It has allowed us to look across our entire ecosystem, understand our user experience and develop infrastructure to serve them.  It has helped us create new ways to maximize supports in the service of our students, teachers, families, and communities. The ability to design, implement prototypes and to learn.

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