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Classroom Collaborative Learning Edu-Tech EduTech Internet Involving Children Oct-Dec-2019 Technology in Education

Design Thinking – A Process to Inculcate 21st Century Skills Among Students

Paramjit Ahluwalia
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Skill development is very important for teachers in dealing with their students. Teaching and learning can be significantly improved by offering adequate support to our teachers, and hence, this factor should not be overlooked. There is growing evidence to show that collaboration among teachers can lead to more satisfied teachers while producing better outcomes for students. 

Quite often, we have seen that teachers share resources, plan activities or deal with administrative issues, all of which rarely have any positive impact on the students. Hence, there is a dire need for active collaboration on the part of teachers so that they inhale the real essence of the 21st-century skills which, as a result, would be helpful in imparting the same among the students. Mentoring, team teaching and joint research projects can also help students better. Many teachers have very little time on their hands to collaborate with each other. Also, there is a need for more structure in the way teachers collaborate with each other so that it happens in an authentic and productive way.

What is design thinking?

The ability to empathise, think creatively, collaborate productively, experiment with solutions and communicate ideas are all key parts of design thinking. These are skills that anybody can learn and master.

Design thinking is a great way to pick up  21st-century skills because it helps in making authentic leaders. Leaders with a design mindset are clear and transparent in their thinking and possess good problem-solving skills that work well with a range of people of people — family members, a community, or an organisation. Design thinking involves seeing the world in a solution-focused way and having the confidence to tackle problems in unique ways. If teachers develop this ability, they can help the  students in acquiring the same. 

How to develop design thinking in schools

It’s crucial for any school to develop design thinking mindset in  their teachers. No matter how minor the task is, if there is collaboration among teachers, it will be completed successfullySo it is imperative for teachers to  adopt a design thinking mindset by following a collaborative approach. My personal experience with design thinking has shown that it is extremely productive. We recently did subject-wise curriculum mapping by comparing the school’s curriculum with the national and international curricula based on the objectives and outcomes set for each subject. The whole process was done collaboratively, where teachers worked in groups and tallied the three curricula and framed a system of keeping students as engaged as possible for an entire term. They also monitored students’ progress throughout the grades. 

Our school also practises team teaching strategy among teachers, where each team has to use a specific teaching strategy and conduct  a class for the other teams. This not only helps in sharing the best practices but also develops design thinking mindset in the participants. 

My  professional development sessions with the teachers are always based on design thinking, where my core focus is on implementing the new-age skills among the teachers. I also try to instil problem-solving skills, collaboration and creativity in  the teachers in keeping with the school’s motto ‘Innovate and Excel’. Conclusions drawn from these sessions indicate that teachers feel supported (because they can draw on the help of a team), happy (because collaboration is one of the fundamental drivers of professional satisfaction) and empowered (because they see the results in  the students).

Design thinking is Another Name for  Sharing Knowledge

Instilling design thinking helps in promoting and sharing knowledge. Co-design or collaboration among schools is a meaningful way of sharing learning between schools. Each time we work with a school, we are able to share with them the resources and advice from our work with other schools. Our recent collaboration with three neighbouring schools has proved immensely helpful in creating an Arabic course, meeting the needs of individual grades.  A total of 10 collaborative sessions conducted among the schools and the feedback received was reflective of competency development. For the teachers, it wasn’t just a session but to introspect and inculcate the same among the students.

Design Thinking as a Strategy for Innovation

When design principles are applied to strategy and innovation, the success rate for innovation improves dramatically. You don’t have to be a designer to think like one. While learning to be a good designer takes years, you can think like a designer and design the way you lead, manage, create and innovate. Designing begins by setting a strategic intention. If you are mapping out a strategy, you are designing, and while designing, you should think of an innovative way of teaching with the help of your colleagues. To overcome the challenge of implementing innovation, we as educators, need to adopt design thinking processes .

I believe that a combination of design experience, professional development and ongoing support is what is needed to acquire a design thinking mindset. Co-design presents an excellent way to achieve this combination. 

Paramjit Ahluwalia
Paramjit Ahluwalia

Being in the field of education for more than 35 years Mr. Paramjit Ahluwalia’s journey is full of inspirational anecdotes. His service comprises of multiple position ranging from working as a Teacher, Head of the department, and Supervision to Vice Principal and Director-Principal in UAE and India. Mr. Paramjit Ahluwalia also spend time providing professional development and coaching for teachers, school staffs, and parents.

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