George Lucas Educational Foundation
Schools That Work
Design Thinking

Design Thinking: Prioritizing Process Skills

Watch kids become master problem solvers and collaborators by designing, building, and iterating on prototypes.
This is part of our Schools That Work series, which features key practices from Birmingham Covington School.
View a transcript of this video

Roy: So guys, let’s answer this question together.

Student: Maybe put some, like, more--

Student: Put a piece of tape--

Roy: So you’re going to put something else to brace the back?

Student: Yeah.

Roy: All right, but what about bracing this piece?

Mark: Because we explicitly teach process skills through design thinking, our students are better collaborators, they are more resourceful, and they are critical thinkers and problem solvers.

Mark: We are a public school with a mandated curriculum and we have standards that we need to deliver. Students need to be literate. They need to know high levels of math, but the ultimate questions we’re going to be asked by future employers is, “Can this person work well in a team? Does this person have the ability to problem solve and critically think?” so those are the things that we can refine and enhance with a design thinking process.

Roy: How you coming over here, guys?

Roy: Design thinking was something that my teaching partner and I were exposed to a few years ago. We thought it was fantastic to try and help our kids frame problem solving.

Matthew: That's a great first question, you guys. I like that.

Matthew: We were looking at, how do we get them into a small project that includes design thinking as a theme where they’re going through learning how to work in a team, learning how to ask good questions and dig deeper into the problem.

Mark: What’s assessed are process skills. The students are graded on teamwork.

Student: I mean, you could do it like this.

Mark: On managing projects.

Roy: This comes down--

Matthew: Roy’s doing rollercoasters. I’m doing Invent a Sport.

Matthew: We want to start with broad questions and work our way down.

Mark: Through this design thinking process, we want inquiry, ideation, prototyping, and then testing. We start with inquiry.

Matthew: Getting started on your sport, you have to know your audience. You have to be able to design it for them versus yourselves, okay?

Mia: Would it involved a lot of skill?

Mia: We decided we’re going to focus on the third and fourth graders and try to create a sport for them. So the first step was creating a survey to see what they like in a sport so that we can put it into the sports that we make.

Mia: So we got, “What is the most important thing you value in a sport?” "Can you list two things you want to see in a new sport?"

Student: Oh, do you prefer a game that uses animals, like horseback riding?

Student: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Roy: That survey helps us to kind of understand it from someone else’s perspective, not what I like, my idea, because I’m not the end user here. Someone else is, so again trying to help them to develop empathy, understanding a different perspective from their own--

Matthew: --and then they use that information to make the design happen.

Mia: Mr. Brown provided us with, like, a bin of tools, like duct tape and string.

Student: The string would be used to tie the balloons to the cups.

Mia: We’re supposed to implement the results from the survey and try to make a sport that the third and fourth graders would like. There’s a lot of different things we have to think about when making that sport.

Matthew: You have an idea. I have an idea. Let’s take those ideas and let’s make a better idea in the end.

Roy: In my class, the kids are in the prototyping phase. They are working on a design project for a rollercoaster.

Student: Let’s keep on putting them together until we see how big we want to make it.

Student: Just put these on top of each other.

Jaden: A lot of thinking goes into building all the ideas that you come up with. You got to see if you can combine them.

Roy: Explain your concept to me.

Roy: This will be the first iteration and then they’re going to test.

Roy: All right, so let’s test it and see what happens.

Roy: Here are the things that are working great. Here are the things that are not working so great--

Roy: All right, we ready?

Roy: --and we want to try and now highlight these things and fix them.

Roy: Oh, we fall off right here, yeah?

Jaden: One of the biggest challenges was probably stabilization.

Jaden: What Charlie did was, he made, like, a diagonal cut.

Jaden: To have some support for the rollercoaster, we took these popsicle sticks that we’ve been avoiding this whole time. We taped them together and we put them at the bottom of the coaster and it really works out.

Storm: Oh, yeah, I’m just typing it in right now.

Storm: Design thinking can help us because we can go through the steps and find out what we’re doing right and wrong and help us solve a big problem.

Student: We might be able to, like, put another tube in there so that's more, like, rounded.

Roy: So you’re saying just put a tube here?

Jaden: What you want to do in life might include design thinking. If you’re trying to figure out how to do something, you could probably apply something from design thinking to accomplish that.

Roy: Did we ask the right questions? Did we get the right information? Did we go to other groups for feedback? What can we highlight and fix?

Student: Look at right here, under this.

Matthew: They’ll know how to use these skills and they’ll implement and apply those skills to bigger and better things.

Roy: My hope is that they are internalizing enough of the process that they feel empowered to find problems and solve problems.

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Sandra Atkins's picture

Can you tell me more about how you assess for process thinking? We are wanting to widen what we report on in our school, set goals that reflect achievement more broadly than literacy and maths, and are interested in how you are doing that. Thanks.

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JHandrigan's picture

Seeing how reflection is embedded in the process is a key takeaway for me. The level of collaborative inquiry is quite complex. In reviewing the rubrics you provided, it was good to see self-assessment rubrics for students to use as well as the teacher-driven rubrics. Were these co-created with students?

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