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Creating and Working With the Design Thinking Model

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Participate and share : Poster

Wednesday, December 2, 4:30–5:30 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)

Dr. Lori Grata  
Through hands-on learning, students can build products and design through creation while showing their knowledge and understanding of the subject matter within the classroom. Project-based learning can be an assessment for students to show their knowledge and can be a substitution or addition to test-based learning.

Audience: Teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Mac
Tablet: Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials:
Topic: Emergent technologies
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Innovative Designer
  • Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
  • Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
  • Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Training in a K-12 setting, schools have incorporated project-based learning as a core concept with the assessment of their students. Project-based learning can be implemented in many ways through curriculum. Brana, Maskan, and Yasar state, “that it can be said that the methods and techniques applied in learning environments are key to the level of learners’ access to information” [1]. Creating a multiple assessment classroom is a challenge by way of building equity with the students and finding a way to assess knowledge from students who may not follow the traditional assessment path, and project-based learning is a viable solution to this challenge.

Student in K-12 students may have been taught in a passive learning environment and might have become used to that environment [6]. The passive education environment could have an impact on how they are impacted by college because they are used to being told how to complete a task [6]. Through action, project-based learning is taught within the classroom. It helps stimulate student thinking as they are actively working towards knowledge. By building a project-based learning environment within the classroom, students can learn to work with one another or independently, thereby making them active members with the classroom. They now can have a voice and can show their learning with confidence and independence.

Design thinking within schools can be an example of project-based learning. Design thinking with a school “Encouraging students to engage in inquiry, explore real-world contexts, and share their learning lies at the heart of PBL” [2]. A design thinking curriculum assist to achieve Project-based learning and still met the standards of assessment [2]. It is a way for students to have a thinking process throughout their education. It can be a way that teachers within the school can implement technology, but it is so much more than that. Figure 1 is the Guido Kovalsky design-thinking model, which can be used to teach project-based learning within the makerspace as well as within the core classroom setting [4]. The Guido Kovalsky model is designed around these steps: “Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test” [4].
This model, teachers are able to build a real life-working example of how to work through problems in order to produce a result. It is important to note that project-based learning is a collaborative process. Educators can work with their student when building and creating. It can help build a community not only within the school, but also within the classroom.

Within project-based learning and design thinking educators should consider using the backwards design model. The backwards design model is defined as creating education materials for learners of all ages where the educator targets the end results of the training or class [3]. It encourages educators to think about the outcomes or assessment when planning a lesson. This will assist in understanding where the student should end up when the lesson is complete. Backwards design stresses the essential questions in which a teacher creates in order to gauge student learning instead of teacher-lead instruction [2]. Student learning is the main driver within backwards design [2]. The backwards design model is as follows: first identify the desired outcomes for the students, second, acceptable evidence, and thirdly, plan learning experiences and instruction [2].

Interactive notebooks are a project-based learning activities that can be completed across multiple subjects. An example of this is notebook scrap-booking. Students work independently on their notebooks under the guidance of the teacher [5]. Students add and create notes, visual interpretations, etc. within their notebook to show their understanding of the notes and collection of works, and create a table of contents to organize their thoughts through the process. Students are required to add homework and other handout material to their interactive notebook as well. This assist students with the understanding of the standards within the curriculum. This delivers a learning experience that requires creation, planning, learning, and creativity, thereby giving the students ownership of their work while demonstrating their knowledge. Students are then able to share their thought and feels in which give their voice within the classroom value and build a stronger educational community [1]. Project based learning assists in creating a learning environment that assist in students build skills that can assist them in the next step in education as well as in the outside world. Project-based learning promotes “self-regulation, such as setting goals, selecting learning tasks, and strategies, and monitoring progress [6].

Design thinking incorporates technology for teachers and students to use in project-based learning. Within school with a makerspace, the schools can a 3D printing lab as a component. This is a place where project-based learning can be implemented cross-curricular. Students are taught about emotional intelligence, and they are encouraged to define their audience, and they learn how to create for a said audience [4]. This is something that is taught in not only a design thinking course, but in a project-based learning environment for multiple subjects like math and language arts.

Project-based learning is an important part of the learning process. It aids students in synthesizing their knowledge as well as assists educators in assessment of student knowledge. It aids students in taking ownership of their work while giving real world hands-on skills to apply to the world around them. Project-based learning assists students in the area problem-based learning and even computational thinking by giving them a new way to demonstrate their knowledge. It shows students that applied knowledge is important and useful inside and outside the classroom.

Supporting research

[1] M. Baran., A. Maskan., & S.Yasar. “Learning physics through project-based learning game techniques”. International Journal Of Instruction, Vol. 11(2), pp 221-234, 2018
[2] B. Holland. Design thinking and PBL. Edu. Edutopia and Lucas Education Research. [0nline]. Available from:
[3] J. Schneider. Backward design. In Learning Theories. [Online] Available from
[4] G. Kovalsky. A design thinkers cheat sheet. [Online] Available from
[5] A. Smith. Scaffolding uning math interactive notebooks. Performing in Education. [Online]. Available from
[6] Q. Hao, R.M. Branch, L. Jensen. “The Effect of Precommitment on Student Achievement within a Technology-Rich Project-Based Learning Environment”. . Techtrends: Linking Research And Practice To Improve Learning, Vol. 11 (2), pp 442-448, 2016

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Dr. Lori Grata, Mercer Island School District

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