Engaging kids in projects to learn is a part of many school’s curriculums. But, like most everything, learning through projects continues to evolve; and the evolution of late has been groundbreaking! It’s referred to as the Design Thinking Process.
What is the Design Thinking Process?
How is it different from what has been done in the past?
We might agree, over the past few decades, that learning through projects has evolved:
Theme-Based Projects to Project-Based Learning to Design Thinking Process
All three (done as intended) aim to engage students in learning to give them ownership and to create with purpose. Years ago, the push was for Theme-Based Projects. In recent years, Project-Based Learning has made learning through projects more robust.
But over the past several years, the Design Thinking Process has taken hold and continues to evolve. What makes it groundbreaking is that it helps students learn to innovate, create, and solve problems (and, do so self-directed). This will be a critically important knowledge and skill set as we enter the Creative Age.
Theme-Based Projects aim to engage students in creating something that is typically connected to a theme or idea. The learning experience is teacher driven. Often students create the same work, or a similar work. Too often, projects have lacked explicit and intentional academic learning outcomes.
Project-Based Learning aims to engage students in a problem-solving experience defined by an essential question, which drives learning down a pre-defined path determined by the teacher (narrow subject area, narrow essential question). In many Project-Based Learning activities, the groupings of students and their activities are defined (the film crew, the researchers, the presentation makers, the event organizers, etc.) Typically, specific content knowledge, concepts, skills, and problem solving abilities are explicit and intentional outcomes of the learning activity. This approach has proven much more robust than Theme-Based Project learning.
The Project-Based Learning Process may be defined as:
Define > Assign Roles > Research > Set Evaluation Criteria
Gather Resources > Produce
Present > Reflect & Evaluate
Design Thinking Process
The Design Thinking Process, or Maker Learning, aims to have students invent by creating innovative solutions to problems (at times, problems not yet realized to exist). Students are guided to explore dozens of potential lines of inquiry suggested by the teacher; and eventually, with a gradual release of responsibility, students are guided to identify their own lines of inquiry. Students explore the needs of end-users with perspective and empathy. Students drive the process. The teacher’s role is to facilitate, model, guide, and coach. The Design Thinking Process is marked by empathy, compassion, innovation, and change.
The Design Thinking Process may be defined as:
Empathize > Define > Ideate > Prototype > Test