Using an adaptation of the Stanford d.school Design Thinking Process and the Engineering Design Process, students used empathy interviews to redesign homework in the 4th grade. This artifact demonstrates the tools and steps used to complete the rapid design cycle.
Student Design Challenge: Redesign homework in the 4th grade
Student Workbook and Design Methodology
Artifact 1: Student Empathy Interview Sample
The 4th grade students in my Computer Science and Engineering course spend the year learning how to use design thinking models, based on the Engineering Design Process and Stanford d.school’s Design Thinking process, to develop empathy through human centered design. The students use a step by step process to move through the design experience with their partner. Through this process they either are given a packet to track their progress, interview questions, and ideating or they follow along with a presentation using blank paper, creating their own organization structure. The example seen here is just one sample of the student design experience. students were given the prompt “How might you redesign the homework experience in the 4th grade for your partner?” The students then took turns interviewing one another about their experiences with homework. They followed the steps of the Stanford d.school Design Thinking Process (2017): Empathize, Define, Plan, Ideate, Prototype, Test. There are two pieces included in this artifact: (1) The student workbook and student documentation of the design process (2) photographic examples of the students engaged in the design process.
Students began the year with little understanding of the term “empathy,” making the initial phase of the design process difficult. The students struggled to remove their own needs from the empathy interview phase, and felt they needed to project their personal experiences on the person being interviewed. This example shows the growth of the student’s understanding of the empathy phase and how to design for an authentic audience. The students have also improved in their ability to question, determine what they know and what they need to know, as well as ideate an abundance of ideas.
This student design process supports my framework and constructivist point of view, by creating collaborative student lead learning experiences. While my subject is Computer Science and Engineering, it is important that my students understand that it takes human designers to discover, develop, and create new products and technologies. They have the potential to take the skills they are learning through the design thinking process and apply them in all areas of their lives when solving problems.
My experience working with the design thinking process in my 4h grade classes has challenged me to refine the design thinking tools to better fit the developmental and social/emotional needs of my learners. Many of the design thinking models are geared towards adults in a business setting which do not translate directly into elementary or middle school settings. The verbiage can be above the student’s comprehension and complicate an already complicated process. Through the constant redesign of how I present the process, I have found a new appreciation for what this type of tool can bring to my learners.