What is student-friendly design process thinking?

According to John Spencer, student-friendly design thinking follows a cycle that he calls the LAUNCH cycle. Students look, listen, and learn. Then they ask tons of questions. They understand the process or problem through deeper research which leads them to navigate ideas and create a prototype. Finally they highlight what is working and fix what is failing.

Another key characteristic of design thinking is giving equal value to the process as to the product. It’s not about the destination. This can be tough in any field where you often are judged by the tangible results of your work, such as standardized evaluations where the number on the page is the end all and be all. But, much of the learning children do is totally invisible. It isn’t all about the facts kids recite or the number of books they read in a semester. It’s about the kind of person they are becoming.

Nurtures Greater Resourcefulness

Design thinking is the key to navigating the maze of jobs and problems of real life after school. According to Spencer, design thinking teaches students determination, workarounds, good citizenship, and adaptability. The old model of getting good grades, graduating college, and climbing a corporate ladder simply is no longer a reality.

A great example is Abby Schukei’s article about how art education can foster better digital citizens in which she shares actual tools and lessons that teachers can use.  Like Spencer says, design process thinking “doesn’t show up on the test, but it shows up in life!”


Develops Resilience and Skills for Real World Situations

Many teachers will be able to tell you that kids practice design process thinking already if you let them; they play. Research such as Dr. Peter Gray’s has shown just how essential play is in reducing student depression and anxiety. According to Gray, increasingly product-driven schooling give students the sense that they don’t have any control over their futures.

Unfortunately for students, play is often cast aside as a waste of time, but it is essential to practicing for real world situations. If we let students self-direct, they develop the resilience and skills they need. This is true for learners of all ages. Tim Brown’s TED Talk Tales of Creativity and Play is full of fun examples about the relationship between play and creativity.

Adaptability and Open-Mindedness Encourages Creative Life-Long Learning

“Teachers are content experts, but they’re also kid experts,” says Spencer. They know what kids need and should be given space to design learning processes around their students’ needs. Design process thinking brings together structured problem solving and student-driven play, but it only works if teachers and students are given space to take risks. Spencer’s LAUNCH cycle is a great framework but he also says, “the beautiful thing about frameworks is you can modify them.” Creative life-long learning is all about being adaptable and open-minded in the ways we teach and learn.

Learn more:

For you busy bees who want to learn more but don’t have time to wander around the internet searching and reading, this 30 minute long podcast episode, Design process thinking with John Spencer produced by Bedley Bros Edchat is perfect for your commute or doing dishes.

Check out these concrete examples of how to integrate design thinking for students in the classroom in eight steps and download the Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators from IDEO.


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