Design Thinking as a Means of Realizing the Constructivist Ideal and Developing Critical Habits of Mind

This summer I will be back in the beautiful Pacific Northwest to present at a Global Symposium on Innovations in Education. The topic will be Design Thinking. I’m sharing the abstract for my paper and presentation here. If you’d like the full length paper, feel free to contact me via email – the address is on my “About Me” page on this website. Read and enjoy!


Despite a rapidly changing global environment, K-12 education in the United States has remained frozen in time. Educational ideas and innovations come and go, with minimal impacts on student achievement outcomes. Despite these ideas and innovations, classrooms look remarkably similar to what they looked like at the beginning of the 20th century. Even the most significant change in schools, the introduction and integration of technology, has served to only change procedural aspects of learning in most schools and has had only spotty success in significantly changing student learning at a foundational level. But it is not just stagnation in our teaching and learning that is the only concern. Certain new deficiencies have emerged or have become more notable in recent years as a result of societal pressures, changes in student populations, and popular psychology for parenting. Employers have provided overwhelming evidence pointing to a lack of innovative thinking and a lack of perseverance in today’s graduates. Theorists have provided a strong research basis pointing to the need for learning experiences that cultivate stronger creativity, that foster an innovative spirit, and which cultivate greater resiliency in our students.

How might we instill a sense of self-efficacy and self-regulation in our students while continuing to provide content knowledge seen as essential to success later in life? Design thinking provides a potential avenue by which we can foster a spirit of innovation and resiliency in students while simultaneously instilling a passion for learning and knowledge. As defined by David Kelley, one of the originators of the process, design thinking is “a deeply human process that taps into abilities we all have but get overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices.” In other words, design thinking is a structured approach that fosters creative thinking in situations where it may otherwise be overlooked. It integrates elements of many “best practices” in educational pedagogy and methodology, including but not limited to inquiry-based learning, metacognitive strategy use, problem-based-learning, and collaborative learning.
This presentation will focus on the origins and principles of design thinking, as well as sharing the relevant literature regarding design thinking. Finally, possible approaches for the integration of design thinking into established programs, schools, and curriculum will be shared.