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Day 09/03/2015

Critical elements of the { design thinking mindset…* }

Dominic’s recent post {Inspired} by IDEO is very timely for me, because I have recently been spending a lot of time thinking about one of the ideas he mentioned in his post. Dominic writes about design thinking, stating:

when I first learned about design thinking, I thought it was a methodology, a set of steps one uses to solve problems. Now I think of it much more as a mindset, a way of thinking and living…of course, one has to learn about design thinking to practice it well, but one also has to “bend” one’s mind to design thinking…

As I mentioned in this post, Can students learn something about failure from the design world?, I have designing a formal research study regarding design mindset and how it relates to classroom motivation and processes outside of the traditional design world. My theory is that students who take on a design mindset will be more persistent in the face of failure and more willing and able to try again when faced with setbacks or difficulty in the classroom. Starting this Thursday, I will be testing my theory in a short week-long study of how design thinking mindset can transfer to math and science learning.

DT4E defines design thinking as “the confidence that everyone can be part of creating a more desirable future, and a process to take action when faced with a difficult challenge.”  I like this definition a lot. However, I will only have a few class periods in which to instill design mindset into the 7th and 8th graders in my study, so I have been forced to make a more narrow definition of design thinking and really think about what the key elements are. I’ve divided it into two pieces-

1) Permission to fail and 2) The Process of Iteration.

Permission to Fail…*

I believe that the heart of design thinking mindset is permission to fail — the fundamental philosophy that failure is a healthy and natural aspect of the process of learning and design. For my intervention, I will be teaching students the motto “Fail fast, Fail forward”. Those who possess a design mindset are not afraid of failure and recognize that only through failure can one grow a solution from a bad to okay to great. 

Iterate, iterate, iterate…*

The second fundamental tenet of design thinking mindset is this idea of iteration – of repeatedly trying ideas and getting feedback. While this concept is clearly a piece of the design thinking process, I also see it as a mindset. The iterative design thinking process enables someone to come up with innovative solutions to hard problem.

Once one learns and truly embraces this process, it can become a tool to change one’s reaction to negative feedback or setbacks in problem solving. This is where the mindset piece comes in. A person who possesses an iterative mindset will be resilient in the face of setbacks because she knows that she is in the midst of a cyclical process of design. In the face of negative feedback, she will redesign and retest, rather than get stuck or frustrated. 


In the next two weeks, I will be teaching students these two fundamental aspects of design thinking through both lessons and and practice in a tower building task. By cultivating a design mindset, I predict that these students will persist and succeed more in a challenging physics task than students who do not receive design thinking lessons.

Wish me luck! And let me know if you think there are other pieces of the design thinking puzzle that I should include in my lesson.

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