Does Design Thinking Work in Education? Since this question was posted to the module this week, it has been spinning around in my brain. I feel so close to answering it in a positive way, but something is holding me back. I believe it can work, I believe it should work. I look around at my fellow play based instructors, and I feel we are close to using design thinking in our curricular planning, functional planning and some are sowing the seeds of design thinking in their students. Are we there yet? I don’t think so. Can it work? I am tempted to say yes.
There are a lot of “buzzwords” out there these days and some of my favourites are: emergent curriculum, inquiry based learning, play based learning and yes, even Reggio Emilia. I would like you to understand that I am not an expert in any of these educational ways. I am, however, looking at them and trying to understand and incorporate them in my classroom to better my students’ educational experience. Just when I felt I was starting to have a less than tenuous hold on play based education, along comes the newest term, “design thinking”, which has knocked me slightly askew again. I am looking at these terms, and I wonder, “Aren’t these all using design thinking?”
Australia’s Early Years Framework defines play based learning as “a context for learning through which children organise and make sense of their social worlds as they actively engage with people, objects and representations.” The very characteristics of play, and there are many, include being active, being process oriented and being self-motivating. Play allows children to explore, identify, negotiate, take risks, and to find and create meaning. (Barblett,L. 2010.Why Play-Based Learning? Every Child, 16, http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/nqsplp/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Why_play_based_learning.pdf)
The Full Day Kindergarten Program Guide discusses Inquiry Based learning, through almost identical language. “Through inquiry, children are engaged in activities that help them actively pose questions, investigate, solve problems and draw conclusions about the world around them.” The program guide describes how children are like researchers and do work that is meaningful to them as well as addressing questions that are relevant to them. (Full Day Kindergarten Program Guide. BC Ministry of Education)
I look at these educational pedagogies and I see many aspects of my understanding of Design Thinking. I see elements of DEEP in many primary classrooms. I know that, with my own students, we look at Discovery, we are working on Empathizing, we Explore and we Produce. We also look back at our problems and we investigate new ideas for solving them. When planning, many early years teachers look at the tenants of play and design their provocations and explorations with many aspects of Design Thinking. Whether it is exploring the magical properties of a simple magnet, investigating why our pumpkin sinks, or looking at the layout of our block center, we are using elements of this “Design Thinking” to further our understanding, and to solve our “little” community problems. We often discuss, revise our thinking and yes, we fail. But we are learning that to fail is not a bad thing, for it really means that it is our First Attempt In Learning.
Does Design Thinking work in Education? Perhaps after writing this, I am finally prepared to say, yes. Yes, it can.