The problem with "design thinking" is that everyone thinks they do it already, but they all do something different. And, far too often, evidence of actual student 'thinking' is hard to spot in the various products, 'maker' outputs and endless movies produced in these 'design thinking' 'projects'.
For my colleagues and me, design thinking is giving careful consideration to what kind of thinking you want to undertake at what specific moment of learning. It's brutally simple, hard to pull off well.
It means that you have to know what kind of learning is even possible in a given project, with what kind of content, and what skills will be required to access that content with the minimum viable teacher assistance beyond teaching those skills, or marshalling challenging discussion. Above all, it's about making sure that students know
- what they've learned,
- how they know they learned it, and
- what their next step might be.
Often, as in the picture above of some of my students on a Sunderland Uni media degree, there is little being 'made' or physically constructed (so often, design thinking is perceived as being about craft, design or tech), but all their thinking and discussion on the issue at hand is made visible, as evidence (for themselves) of the answer to each of those key self-assessment questions.
But NoTosh is not alone in its efforts to help educators understand how to put more of the learning onus on students. Harvard University, no less, seeks dispositions of thinking that are not dissimilar, and in many cases identical, to what makes up the impact of design thinking that we see in our schools:
- The disposition to be broad and adventurous
The tendency to be open-minded, to explore alternative views; an alertness to narrow thinking; the ability to generate multiple options.
- The disposition toward sustained intellectual curiosity
The tendency to wonder, probe, find problems, a zest for inquiry; an alertness for anomalies; the ability to observe closely and formulate questions.
- The disposition to clarify and seek understanding
A desire to understand clearly, to seek connections and explanations; an alertness to unclarity and need for focus; an ability to build conceptualizations.
- The disposition to be planful and strategic
The drive to set goals, to make and execute plans, to envision outcomes; alertness to lack of direction; the ability to formulate goals and plans.
- The disposition to be intellectually careful
The urge for precision, organization, thoroughness; an alertness to possible error or inaccuracy; the ability to process information precisely.
- The disposition to seek and evaluate reasons
The tendency to question the given, to demand justification; an alertness to the need for evidence; the ability to weigh and assess reasons.
- The disposition be metacognitive
The tendency to be aware of and monitor the flow of one's own thinking; alertness to complex thinking situations; the ability to exercise control of mental processes and to be reflective.
This new year, we will be overhauling our NoTosh website to reveal more of the ways we've helped schools, and they've helped themselves, to become more robust in delivering on these dispositions with their young people.