Why inquire into Design Thinking for my eFellowship?

This year I am part of Core Education’s eFellowship program. The purpose of this scholarship is to “inspire transformational practice through inquiry.” For my inquiry I am looking to explore Design Thinking which, for those who read my blog or follow me on twitter, is something that I have been passionately using lately. This year for me is a chance to put a critical eye on its use.

At our first meeting of the year in late January, we got to explore the purpose of our inquiry and here is what I managed to generate:


Through reflection on this, more reading and a skype session with Louise Taylor who is in charge of our research from Core Education, I have put together the following plan for my inquiry:


How do teachers and students experience the design thinking process?


I have been engaging with Design Thinking for 2 years. Initially through reading the theory and examples of people’s practice and then through applying it to creating the structures for our new school. I have then applied Design Thinking as a pedagogical approach in my classes since the beginning of 2014. It has felt like a more powerful version of inquiry through it’s focus on developing empathy, students iterating their understanding and then having to use their knowledge rather than just remembering information. I have also seen many other teachers in New Zealand, Australia and the US starting to use it as a pedagogical approach. All of this feeling or hunch of Design Thinking’s effectiveness that we are feeling has not yet been supported by any research that I know of.


The values that are important to me as an educator are to develop active, critical citizenship in my students. This means they will leave school aware of what is happening in the world and with the knowledge of how they can make change in society. A social justice lens means that I strive for my students to have a disposition towards questioning, critical thinking and creating a better society.


This research project aims to gather the student perspective on Design Thinking. It will then provide a comparison with teacher aims and perspectives on using Design Thinking as a pedagogical approach.


These are my higher level questions… what am i curious to learn and come out with at the end

How is Design Thinking influencing learning?
Are there differences between student and teacher experiences using Design Thinking?
Does Design Thinking lead to dispositional change that could impact on how students act in society?
Is design thinking impacting on student’s ability to empathise?

Data gathering questions

What is your experience with Design Thinking?
How does Design Thinking influence your learning?
Has Design Thinking had any impact on the way you operate outside of classes?
In your experience, what parts of Design Thinking have the biggest impact on learning?
What parts of Design Thinking have you transferred to situations where you weren’t following a DT process?
What would you say are the most important parts of the Design Thinking Process?
Have you had any discussions about Ethics in regards to gaining empathy?
What difference has Design Thinking made to your attitude towards social problems in society?


Next week we will be meeting again as a group to critique plans and develop our data gathering. If you have ideas or critique on my plan thus far or on who I could interview please do get in contact!


6 thoughts on “Why inquire into Design Thinking for my eFellowship?

  1. Steve,
    This is an impressive scope of work and your questions are pretty potent. (The best kind for sure.)
    For the sake of making things easier to wrangle in the time frame, maybe your higher level questions could be folded into “Does design thinking transfer into different contexts, if so, how and when?”
    For data gathering questions, it might be good to start with “What’s your understanding of design thinking?” A broad ‘are we even on the same page when we use the same words’ kind of filter.

    That way, you have some kind of bench mark against which you can decide on the validity of any further responses. I’d expect you’d get a fair range of understandings, and you’d want to give more weight to the experiences and reflections from those who are closer to ‘the mark’ of how you’ve defined DT for the sake of your project.

  2. Steve,

    Great work here. You are on the right track with the focus on citizenship, this I believe, is the power behind design thinking; just because we can do something, still requires that we ask the question ‘should we’.

    You are looking at how teachers and students use Design Thinking which implies compare and contrast. Looking at, and making students aware of the differences between generations. Eg the millenials or gen Y. It is understanding the ‘environment’ of the time that shapes ones views. “We don’t see things as they are, we things as we are’

    I look forward to following your journey
    Terry @beechEdesignz

  3. I promised to be demanding… So here goes 🙂

    I would be interested to know how you might triangulate your results? How will you know that potential positive responses are not just as a result of a positive user experience that may not actually translate to a better, more complex understanding on the student’s behalf?

    Also, could some of your data gathering questions be considered leading? Eg. “How does Design Thinking influence your learning?” assumes that design thinking influences their learning. It gives not option for a negative response. Will this lead to a bias in your results? Ie. finding evidence to support what you might already believe, rather than finding evidence for or against to actually determine whether design thinking has a positive impact?

    Now some warm… I really like the idea behind: “Does Design Thinking lead to dispositional change that could impact on how students act in society?” The challenges around preconceptions around ‘ability’ around creativity is a major battle for loads of people and I think it is particularly valuable that creativity is encouraged in contexts likes social science that are often not associated with creativity.

    Can’t wait to here your post efellows meet up rant!

  4. Di Cavallo (@DianeCavallo)
    Some great thoughts and questions Steve. I like where you are heading. I wonder how you might distinguish between direct and indirect influence or impact on learner disposition and learning.
    I agree with Danielle that questions need to allow for disclosure of positive and negative or neutral impact.
    It may be worth some investigation into why there is such a focus on empathy as design thinking models have been developed for educational use. This seems to have evolved from a ‘user-centred’ or ‘user experience’ focus in design/industry use, similar but not the same but also pertinent to your wondering about the effect on critical citizenship. The focus on empathy as used in pedagogical approaches often appears to be at the beginning of an exploration or discovery phase. The critical feedback aspect of design thinking in design industry usage requires this user experience empathy throughout the process with emphasis on considering a range of implications of decisions/actions at the feedback stages. (thinking of your question of ethics).

    Does Design thinking lead to dispositional or mindset change for teachers?

  5. Pingback: Resources for research in education - #aussieED

  6. Pingback: How will I inquire into Design Thinking? | Steve Mouldey

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