Stanford’s Design Thinking Model: 10 Reasons Why It Suits K-12 Classrooms

Try a Google image search on ‘models of design thinking.’ Among the looping arrows, colorful overlapping circles, and intersecting squiggles you will find this unassuming diagram:

d.Think Process

Although all of the models you see will produce a product or experience as its outcome, the Stanford model seems particularly suited to working with K-12 students. In a nutshell, the d.School model…

  1. Is simple and direct. Its vocabulary is easily understandable.
  2. Has a flare-constrict pattern distinctive of a cyclical problem solving process.
  3. Provides a single place for a feedback loop that relieves the complexity of alternative models.
  4. Works for kindergarten students and adults. The steps can be truncated, renamed, or modified to accommodate any age or grade level.
  5. Can be applied to any type of challenge: from realistic (e.g. tussle over the kickball on the elementary playground) to something contrived to meet a curricular requirement, (e.g. How might we emulate 17th century sea captains and ship builders moving settlers and cargo across an ocean?) to genuinely life saving medical procedures or equipment (e.g. sleeping bag incubator for pre-mature infants in developing countries.)
  6. Provides a ‘bias toward action’ that gets learners quickly engaged and heavily invested in the build-out an idea mode.
  7. Does not require expensive materials or fabrication tools.
  8. Promotes communication and collaboration; taps higher-level thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurship; and inspires confidence.
  9. Celebrates design failure as it encourages multiple iterations on the way to success.

But most of all…

  1. Is directly tied to HUMAN need for empathetic action and is distinctly tied to solving bone fide HUMAN problems.
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