For a better learning environment

Our education system should focus on the learner to help create individuals who are confident and innovative.

The origin of design thinking dates back to the 1950s and 1960s when designers used a blend of science, rationalism and technology to create innovative solutions for customers. Over time, designers were not the only ones who were using this creative problem-solving process. Today, leading companies have come around to recognise the value of design thinking and integrated it into their business process. Considering its many benefits, universities across the globe are adopting this approach to revolutionise education. Let us take a look at what this concept is all about and why are educators keen on using it.

Five-stage process

Design thinking can be described as an approach used to identify complex problems and devise innovative solutions for customers. It focuses on understanding what the consumer wants and how the team can meet his or her requirements. Basically, it is choosing a solution-based mindset over problem-based thinking. According to the Interaction Design Foundation, a non-profit educational organisation, this is a five-stage process. This process includes identifying what the customers want, determining the problem, ideating, creating samples and then testing the product. An excellent example of this process can be the invention of the light bulb by Thomas Edison. He was able to identify what the people around him want, determine why they need it, and then he engineered an extraordinary solution. Now that the meaning and process of design thinking is clear, we will look at how it can revolutionise the education domain.

In the Indian education system, everything that our students study in schools and colleges is based on a structured curriculum. Experts teach each subject on a prescribed lesson plan. This kind of framework focuses on overpowering students with bundles of knowledge. Due to this, our students evolve into professionals who can be described as a ‘container of knowledge’ without a clear understanding of how to use it and when.

Human-based approach

This is why we need to move on from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ and ‘one true answer’ teaching system. We need to move to a contemporary form of education; a form which is not based on recycling the bundle of knowledge, but the one which focuses on the learner and authentic problems. This system will help us create individuals who are confident, innovative and have the capability of designing their experiences; just like Thomas Alva Edison. This is where a human-based approach like design thinking can help educators and students alike. The points mentioned below explain how.

By bringing this methodology in education, we can focus more on students’ talents and their abilities. This does not mean the current education system needs to change completely. Just a few modifications can help improve it. One of the ways to do this is by adopting the four-dimensional approach which comprises elements such as:

Knowledge: What to learn and understand.

Skills: Knowing how to use what one has learned and understood.

Learning to learn: Understanding how to reflect on and adapt by learning and growing consistently.

Character: Being aware of one’s behaviour and engaging with others.

Design thinking facilitates in adding value to the last three elements. Let us understand how design thinking fosters character development. Design thinking encourages us to strengthen our ‘creative muscle’, and develop a growth mindset. We are prompted to think about things we have never considered before, get active and experiment. By doing this, we eventually grow aware of how we are capable of designing something useful and making a worthwhile contribution. This helps us become creatively confident.

Nurturing students

Next, as we know, design thinking focuses on the customer the most. This means designing solutions based on the ever-evolving requirements of the customer. This aspect of design thinking encourages us to rethink and challenge ourselves to explore new avenues. By doing this constantly, design thinking can help us become innovative. This is just one example of how design thinking can help educators nurture individuals who are creatively confident, innovative and can adapt easily.

By now, it is pretty evident how this ideology helps designers, businesses and educators. Considering how beneficial this approach is, a few colleges in our country have already started using it. Being well-versed with this methodology, educators can foster professionals who know how to identify problems, collaborate, ideate and create meaningful solutions to tackle real-world challenges.

(The writer is dean, Calcutta Business School, Kolkata)

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