Design thinking in the classroom has exploded in the last few years! This unique creative problem-solving mindset and approach can be used to improve the educational experiences of students and teach them how to think about the world in new and different ways than they are used to. In this blog, we’ll walk you through design thinking with resources, videos, guides, and more designed specifically for teachers (and their students) in the educational space. Read on to learn more about the framework and design thinking exercises and activities for students.

(We are currently doing research about teaching design thinking. If you are an educator teaching or helping students learn or use design thinking…please share your experience on our short open-ended survey.)

What is Design Thinking?

What exactly is design thinking? Design thinking can be defined as:

  • A human-centered approach
  • A problem-solving process
  • An empathetic study
  • An experimentation
  • A hands-on collaboration

Design thinking is a process designed to help you solve a problem or find a better way of doing something. At its core, the process uses empathy to better understand the people you are designing for, collaboration to create better ideas with others, and experimentation to test ideas in a low-risk environment to ultimately walk away with a better solution for the problem.

As a teacher, how might you apply design thinking for students?

Here is a video from Edutopia that explains the educational context of design thinking in more detail!

Design thinking often consists of five commonly used steps:

  • Empathize
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

The first step involves research, interviews, and observation to learn more about the people (customers, users, students, stakeholders) you want to design for and help with your solution. Step two is about defining and understanding the problem. Step three is about generating ideas and brainstorming around the problem. During step four, you will create a rough prototype of your idea and step five involves testing that idea in a low-risk way (for example, getting feedback from others).

Learn more about these design thinking steps in this video from Edutopia:

Implementing Design Thinking in the Classroom: Case Studies and Examples

Below, we’ll share some videos, guides, and other resources that showcase examples and case studies of how design thinking for students has been implemented in the classroom by other teachers.

Classroom Hacks

In this video, listen to an elementary school teacher explore how she came up with successful low-cost ideas to improve the classroom.

Building Products

This video features students from AHMEDABAD, India who used design thinking to ideate and create real-world products for their community.

Process Skills

Watch kids become master problem solvers and collaborators by designing, building, and iterating on prototypes at Birmingham Covington School in Michigan.

Experience-Driven Approach

This video showcases three projects developed using the design thinking method. Students performed empathy work, got feedback, and produced a solution to their design challenge.

Maximizing Talent

This TEDx Talk highlights design thinking methodology as a means to unleash student creativity and improve student ability to solve complex, real-world problems.

Other Design Thinking for Students and Teachers Resources

For more resources about design thinking, check out the following articles on our blog:

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We are curious, what are some of your favorite design thinking exercises or activities for students?