How design thinking makes for better prepared students

How design thinking makes for better prepared students
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.


4 Remarkable Teachers That Deserve Appreciation

4 Remarkable Teachers That Deserve Appreciation

In communities worldwide teachers are dedicating their lives to improving the futures of their students with incredible energy and often too little recognition. In honour of World Teachers’ Day, we would like to spotlight a few of these remarkable teachers.

Practicing Compassion

When we think of learning in school, we think of large core subjects – math, reading, science, art, history, etc. Yet some remarkable teachers, like Toronto-based Stepan Pruchnicky, also integrate habits and strategies in the classroom that foster something just as important; compassion. In a recent post, Stephan explains why helping your students find a partner for classroom activities is important: “There’s nothing worse that not being chosen. There’s nothing better than being invited to join a group just as that feeling is setting in.” When students are tasked with finding their own partners, he reminds them to always be conscientious and invite partnerless students to join group. Pruchnicky regularly writes and tweets about how we can listen better to one another and have conscientious conversations.

Thank you Mr. Stepan!

Touching and Changing Lives

On top of volunteering as a teacher in two schools, serving as a member of the Kilifi County Education Board and running her non-profit Lifting the Barriers which supports students outside the classroom, Jacqueline Kahura coaches and motivates fellow teachers to take on the role of caregivers for students who face issues outside of school that affect their learning. Kenya faces the problem of low regard for teachers and unrealistic testing requirements that plagues many other countries, as well as a lack of infrastructure and furniture for schools in rural communities. Mrs. Kahura speaks about her work in a BBC interview: “It has had its own challenges frankly; however, at the end of the day when I look back and say, I have touched and changed this number of lives, that I find very fulfilling.” She was a Top Ten Finalist for the 2015 Global Teacher Prize. Take a look at the fascinating video about her work. Could she be more inspiring?

Thank you Mrs. Kahura!

Connecting with Students


Rita Pierson taught for 40 plus years and is a brilliant example of one of many remarkable educators who truly changed the trajectory of many young lives. She is well remembered for her TED Talk, Every Kid Needs a Champion (watch it, it’s worth the time!), in which she explains the importance of connecting with students on a personal level and of acting the part of success despite the challenges of the classroom and institution. “We come to work when we don’t feel like it and we listen to policy that doesn’t make sense and we teach anyway.” She tells her audience, “Is this job tough? You betcha. But it is not impossible. We can do this. We are educators. We are born to make a difference.” Mrs. Pierson passed away in 2013 having touched the lives of many students and continuing to inspire many educators with her message.

Thank you Mrs. Pierson.

Innovation for the Community

Guy Etienne is a man with a passion for science and pragmatic education. His work extends from his school College Catts Pressior in Port-au-Prince, Haïti where he pushes his students to aim high and stay curious, to his teacher training programs, broadcast throughout his country. “I tried to work as an engineer, to build a building but, I don’t know. I am very happy when I share my expertise, when I share my knowledge and when I share my competence.” According to The Global Prize, for which Mr. Etienne was a 2015 Top Ten Finalist, he left behind his PhD studies in engineering in 1982 to become an educator and has been so influential in the education system in Haiti that the government has asked him to Minister of Education five times. He has other preoccupations and projects though, so he continues teach and use his knowledge to develop his community and country.

Thank you Mr. Etienne!


Now it’s Your Turn, Thank a Teacher


This is just a snapshot of the variety of challenges and victories teachers face, but you can do your part to recognize that work and raise the status of teachers by taking a moment and commenting below, to say thank you to a teacher who has changed your life and spread the word, loud and proud!