Design Thinking and CTE

Are you teaching Design Thinking? Most CTE teachers employ Design Thinking in their daily classroom instruction without even realizing it. Design Thinking is a belief system focused on learning, problem-solving and collaboration. In the classroom, the design process is a method for identifying problems, obtaining data, developing potential solutions, refining ideas and testing them. Design Thinking is varying, including being a framework for creating pathways for an activity or group project for your students to demonstrate mastery of course content.

Design Thinking has been used in art, music, science, engineering, and business for many years. Design thinking was adopted quickly by some of the world's most well-known companies, including Apple, Google and Samsung. Many colleges worldwide, including Stanford and Harvard, teach design thinking concepts as well. To begin, it is important to understand design thinking and why it is so popular before incorporating it into the classroom. In this blog, we will discuss what design thinking is and why it's increase in popularity offers value to today's CTE students.

 What does Design Thinking in CTE look like?

Design thinking is an iterative process that allows students to deepen their understanding, challenge their assumptions, redefine challenges and develop novel solutions to be prototyped and tested. The general idea of Design Thinking is to find alternate techniques and answers that aren't immediately obvious based on your current level of understanding. As a result, design thinking offers a solution-based approach to problem-solving that enables creativity and collaboration. Design thinking is more than a method; it's an entirely new way of thinking with practical tools to help students learn in an innovative way.

Design Thinking is a collaborative approach to teaching and learning encouraging students to question and wonder while looking for creative solutions. This approach allows students to explore their creativity as they master classroom concepts freely.

Five Steps to Incorporating Design Thinking into CTE
Step 1: Empathize
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Students learn empathy by researching the needs of those impacted by their learning—present students with a problem or project related to your classroom instruction. Ask students who the problem affects or what problems they will solve at the end of their work. Students can take this time to evaluate how their learning can impact the world.

Step 2: State your problem.

Give students a problem to solve. Use learning objectives to provide parameters for the experiment or activity to help students understand the scope of what they are learning.

Step 3: Ideate

Allow students to form new ideas by challenging their assumptions. This process permits students to think outside the box to create unique solutions to demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter.

Step 4: Design a Prototype

Once students have an idea of their solution, they can build a sample or model of their solution. Prototypes can range from poster drawings to real-life replicas and scale models of solutions.

Step 5: Test your solution.
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The final step allows students to put their thinking to the test. Failure is a massive part of the learning process, and many solutions do not work. During the final step, celebrate failure as an opportunity to learn.

Design thinking can easily be incorporated into your CTE classroom and offers immense value to today’s CTE students. Through design thinking, students develop problem-solving skills and have an opportunity to explore their creativity all while learning and preparing for their future.



Knikole Taylor has an extensive background in Career & Technical Education (CTE). She earned her bachelor’s degree in finance from Texas A&M Commerce and her master’s in education administration from Lamar University. Taylor has 19 years of experience in public education including serving as a campus and district administrator for 9 years and a teacher for 10 years.