Design Thinking: Applying creative methods in the classroom

Deborah McMillan

Category: Centre for Innovation in Higher Education

16 January 2019

This seminar, led by Dr Beatriz Acevedo (Senior Lecturer in Sustainable Management, Faculty of Business and Law, Co-Director of the Centre for Innovation in Business Education) and Dr Michelle Fava (Research Fellow in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences) introduced the core principles of design thinking and creative methodologies. It was part of Talking about Teaching: The Innovation Series, a collaboration between Anglia Learning & Teaching and the Centre for Innovation in Higher Education (CIHE).

ARU colleagues enjoying the interactive drawing element of the design thinking seminar

The first question I presume you'll ask is, what is design thinking? Put simply, it is a process for increasing innovation and creative problem solving. One of the first things Beatriz and Michelle explained during the session is that we are all creative, even those who feel their creative ability is limited to adding faces to stick-people. The session invited us to think about how students can be engaged in their learning process, moving beyond passively absorbing subject content to actively considering why they are learning about a topic. Students learn through being involved in the learning experience, by putting knowledge content into action and practice.

The session was interactive and required us to work on our own and in groups. Beatriz and Michelle initially asked everyone to take a picture of an everyday object we felt was a design. The replies from the group varied from sweet wrappers, water bottle and labels to even the plug socket on the wall. The purpose of the task revealed that designing almost all objects involves a deep emotional thought process.

Drawings of stick people created in the design thinking seminar

Design thinking is not a new concept and the application of it in educational settings is steadily increasing, particularly in business education. Here, the approach is identified as a necessary component of successful business practice because it enables abstract concepts to be applied to everyday devices. Design thinking promotes innovation and increases the human capacity for creativity. It focuses on solutions rather than problems, and is action-oriented towards producing a future change. Design thinking requires imagination and systemic reasoning to explore new possibilities.

The students at ARU are the workforce of tomorrow, and the use of design thinking in educational practice can inspire them into making positive changes to their environments and the economy.

We're delighted that Dr Beatriz Acevedo will be joining CIHE for a 15-week strategic project focused on design thinking in Semester 2 2018/19, and we look forward to sharing her news on this blog.


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