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What is design thinking?

Toorak College
May 19, 2020 10:45:00 AM

Design thinking has long been a concept in the education field and relatively remained as such. However, recently our School has introduced design thinking in a new and innovative way as a timetabled subject in our Senior School. As the leading school on the Mornington Peninsula, we aim to produce critical thinkers, risk-takers, and creative visionaries who hold strong opinions and have the ability to think outside of the box. Our Agile Learning program empowers our students to apply these skills in their learning and become independent design-thinkers.

Why is there a need for design thinking?
In our increasingly digital and globalising world, our future is being shaped and challenged in ways it has never been before. This prompts a greater need to develop young people who can redefine ways of thinking and the way we do things in creative and contemporary new ways.

Year 7 student, Isabel, says, “Agile learning is where we learn entrepreneur skills that we might face in the real world.”

Christoph Meinel and Larry Leifer of the Hasso-Plattner-Institute of Design at Stanford University, California, recognised that while society and technology evolve, human needs remain the same, and can be met with more targeted and efficient solutions. Design thinking provides a platform for our students to challenge ideas, collaborate with others, communicate effectively with empathy and understanding, and be empowered to apply their ideas into the real world.

What is design thinking?
Design thinking is not only a concept but also a 5-step process that focuses on solution-focused problem-solving.  

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Empathy is the first stage which requires observing and approaching others with sensitivity and openness to understand their needs and concerns. By considering this, one can then specifically define the problem. Then the process to investigate the issue begins before ideating potential solutions to it. This includes identifying barriers to a resolution and how to overcome these obstacles to achieve an outcome. Thinking of ideas requires prototyping and demonstrating the concept into a model, visual flow-chart, or other forms of representation. It is through developing ideas and creating prototypes that strategies can be challenged, modified, improved, or completely disregarded. This is where innovation, creativity, collaboration, decision-making, and critical thinking is exercised and practiced. Our world is desperate for innovative thinkers, and through this process, young people can learn to be trailblazers in the way they approach challenges, think flexibly, and work with others.

What does this look like at Toorak College?
Agile Learning is a timetabled subject for Year 7 and Year 8 at Toorak College. Imogen from Year 8 says, “Agile Learning is a subject designed to teach us in an actionable way, to empower us so that we are prepared for the future. It aims to optimise our learnings and synergise with our team.” 

Agile Learning is taught by combining two classes to enhance discussion, negotiation, and effective communication amongst peers. It is important that our students learn to understand and value each other’s input, which they can draw upon together to find solutions to challenges. 

Senior School teacher at Toorak College, Kate Brown, is leading the way in delivering our Agile Learning program in Year 7 and Year 8. She says, “This subject is taking a new and exciting turn for our students who learn how to apply design thinking into their schooling and beyond. Our students were recently involved in applying the principles of design thinking to create a UX (user experience) for their clients. For the Year 8 students, their client was the pre-prep ELC classes. Our girls participated in a variety of workshops, including the psychology of UX, communication styles, and building effective teams. The students were then able to directly apply their skills in a hands-on project”.

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How is this effective for our students?
“It is a subject of opportunity to take your imagination to the next level and let your mind be open to new ideas and concepts. You get to make your own choices and spread new ideas throughout the cohort”, says Bethany in Year 8.

Agile learning teaches students to: 

  • Be flexible in their thinking. It teaches them to adapt and respond to changes in their environment rather than sticking to a plan. 
  • Positively seek constructive criticism and feedback. 
  • Welcome input from others, and work in a group. 
  • Develop communication and interpersonal skills for negotiation, articulation of ideas, appropriately responding to others and consideration of varying abilities of others. 
  • Experiment through trial and error processes, therefore not being afraid of failure. 
  • Apply their learning and ideas to real projects and measure concepts through real outcomes.

Design thinking equips our students with the skills to strategize superior alternatives to complex problems and reshape the world. And we can’t wait to see them do it!

Discover what makes Toorak College unique by attending our small group tours and prospective parent information evenings. Enrolments now open!

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