Log in

Design thinking in the curriculum

Is your school envisioning how your students will have more choice and voice in their learning? Are you revisiting your schools’ model for learning or looking to create an inquiry-based or project-based model to enable students to develop critical, creative, problem solving skills? If so, it might be timely to look into adopting a framework like design thinking, a model for learning that encourages students to be curious about the world they live in and empowered to change it for the better.

Design thinking impact

Design thinking is a methodology for creative problem solving

Design thinking is an iterative process that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. Using a structured framework, students identify challenges, gather information, generate potential solutions, refine ideas, and test solutions.  

There are various models of design thinking, but one that is often cited is that created by the d.school at Stanford University with a focus on:

  • developing empathy

  • defining an issue / promoting action

  • encouraging ideation

  • developing metacognitive awareness

  • fostering active problem solving. 

Throughout this iterative process, students are encouraged to: understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems. At the core of design thinking is the intention to improve products by analysing and understanding how users interact with products and investigating the conditions in which they operate. For more see, Enabling e-Learning's TKI page, What is design thinking?

Design thinking stands alongside other constructivist approaches such as inquiry-based learning, computational thinking, STEAM, Makerspaces, and project-based learning. Design thinking empowers students to change their social and environmental contexts through design. 

In this Enabling e-Learning video, Steve Mouldey, CORE Education eFellow and Hobsonville Point Secondary teacher, discusses his research into the impact of Design Thinking on student learning. Design thinking isn't just for older students, it is an essential process within the Technology learning area; particularly in the three strands – Technological knowledgeTechnological practice and Nature of technology

Designing thinking  

Because Technology is a process-driven curricula, we see language like, in authentic contexts...and...with end users in mind...in the progress outcomes for designing and developing digital outcomes (DDDO) and computational thinking (CT). For more on these terms, see Technology spotlight: Authentic contexts and taking into account end users presentation below.

Where is your learning design planning taking you in 2019? Are you adopting/revising models for student learning or looking to embed the design thinking process? What are the similarities or differences?

Maybe you have already adopted this process and have some stories to share, or you might have questions about how to 'fit' everything into an already busy curriculum, either way, please feel free to add your wonderings or experiences below. 

For more, see:

Image sources: John Spencer, Benefits of Design Thinking, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0), Design Model from Kiatakatū ā-Matihiko National Digital Readiness Programme


  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 13 Nov 2018 10:25am ()

    Here's an example of how one school is redesigning their inquiry-based (or project-based) learning model and creating a mash-up with the design thinking phases in mind, to better reflect the students and the community (including partnerships with Māori) they live in. Find out more @ Design thinking and curriculum design

    Is this a process your school is undertaking at the moment? Do you have any ideas to share or questions to ask?

Join this group to contribute to discussions.