What instruments are needed to plan, implement and assess a design thinking project?

In order to set instruments needed to plan, implement and assess a design thinking project, first, we need to take a look at the definition of a meaningful activity from teachers’ perspectives. On the previous article about the importance of having design thinking standards as the basic in creating a project, we have collected data from teachers related to their opinion about a meaningful activity. Based on the questions we proposed them to answer, they come up with different opinion. In their opinion, meaningful activity is a brain friendly activity that can give the students a lot of benefits. It is an activity in which the students can connect the prior knowledge with the new knowledge to create deeper understanding that they can use to create connections between what they have learned with their life. A meaningful activity gives the students an opportunity to learn more effectively through experiences. In doing so, the students can use all the resources to achieve the targets.  

They also come up with different ideas on how to create a meaningful activity. Some state that to be able to create a meaningful activity we should, first, equip the students with a strong concept or understanding before bringing them to the problems that they face in their environment. Some others prefer to look at the learning targets and personal targets and see the students’ needs as a part of the things we need to consider when planning an activity for them.

Besides collecting the data from the teachers, we also need to gain some data from the school’s authority and management to know their perspectives and point of view related to meaningful activities. We conducted an interview with the primary level principal, a representative from curriculum coordinator, and the director of studies. From the curriculum point of view an activity will be meaningful when it involves a good planning. A good planning here means that teachers know the learning targets well and show mastery on the materials. An activity will be meaningful when it is based on the students’ needs. This means that when creating an activity, teachers should make sure that the knowledge they deliver to the students lands smoothly on the students’ mind.  In creating an activity in a greater scope, besides considering the students’ needs, teachers should find information or data and process them and select which ones meet the students’ needs

From the principal’s point of view an activity will be meaningful when it gives meaningful experience to the students.  It means that what they learn should be engaged with their daily life. They are expected to be able to apply what they learn at school in their daily life. In creating a meaningful activity, teachers should also consider whether it meets the students’ needs. Teachers should also consider whether it can answer the challenge of the current situation. A meaningful activity also provides the students a long-term learning.  So, besides considering he students’ needs, teachers should consider the relevance of today’s learning towards the students’ future challenges. 

From the point of view of the Director of Study (DoS), a meaningful learning takes place when the students involve in the learning. Their learning will be meaningful when they can implement what they are learning to shape their future. It means that they are not only expected to be able to express what they are learning today, but also to have a long-term learning. They should realize that what they learn today can make them achieve better in the next level. Therefore, in creating an activity, teachers should focus on the students’ needs.  So that the students will not just get the fun aspect of the learning but they also know why they learn and how they use what they have learnt. DoS also states that any activity that teachers set, should involve knowledge, skill and understanding.  

Having been able to extract the meaning of meaningful activity, we can conclude that they are two similar points that are served as the basis to create a meaningful activity. The first point is that a meaningful activity should be based on the students’ needs. This means to say that in planning a meaningful activity, teachers should check whether the activity will not only cover the learning targets of the lesson but also the students’ needs. Besides considering the students’ needs, a meaningful activity also means that it enables the students to connect their prior knowledge with the new knowledge to create deeper understanding that they can use to create connections between what they have learned with their future.

We are living in a world where new complex problems and rapid changes arising. It will be difficult for teachers to prepare students and predict the problems that the students will face in the future. In order to be able to prepare students to face those challenges, school and teachers have to be able to lead the students to engage with complex challenges by developing the Seven Survival Skills. Design Thinking has been echoed as a great approach to prepare students to face 21st-century challenges. Thus, design thinking project is considered to be the most suitable project or activity that can accommodate the students’ needs as well as to prepare them to meet their future challenge.

Design thinking project, as explain in depth in the previous articles, provide the students a chance to learn better through the five phases of the approach. During the empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test phases the students will be able to learn that learning is not merely gaining knowledge, but also develop their understanding and skills. Getting through these phases, they will be able to develop and emerge their seven survival skills. In order to create a design thinking project, teachers should pay attention on the three components of the project. Those components are the planning, the implementation and the assessment.

When planning a design thinking project, teachers will need to consider three aspects. The first aspect teachers need to consider is the students’ needs. By considering this aspect, teachers have done the first phase of the design thinking approach: the empathize phase. Teachers need to empathize their students to gain important data and classify the data into an empathy map. Based on the data that they have mapped, teachers need to define a problem statements (DPS). They need to have this in order to find out what their students really need to learn. This DPS will help them to set or create an activity that will really meet their students’ needs as well as help them to learn something that enables them to meet the real-world challenges. Teachers will set the driving questions (DQ) that the students have to solve. This will help teacher to decide whether they will have a single subject-based project or transdisciplinary based project.

The second aspect teachers need to consider is the learning targets. Learning targets are the targets which is proposed by the curriculum we use and have to be covered. Besides, considering the learning targets, teachers have to put focus on the audiences, in this case are the students. By being able to formulate the learning targets and the students’ needs, teachers will be able to plan a meaningful activity. However, when it comes to planning, we often get lost and forget to consider whether the plan is able to be executed. Hence, in setting up the goals or targets, teachers need to be aware of the SMART philosophy. SMART philosophy refers to the philosophy that teachers should make sure that the goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and has time limit. 

Once a design thinking project is planned, it is time to implement it. During the implementation, the students will undergo the first phase of the design thinking approach: the empathize phase. During this phase the students need to either conduct an interview or have an observation to gain data that will help them to answer the DQs. When all the DQs are answered the students need to think of some possible solutions that they can define the problem statement. Based on the problem that they have stated, they will start to propose ideas on how to solve them. Here, the students are expected to explore their ideas. They will sort their ideas by considering which ones are more possible to solve the problems and eliminate the ones that are not likely to be the solutions of the problem.

After eliminating some possible choices and considering what likely to be the solution, students will create the prototype of their ideas. After setting up a prototype, feedback is needed. Students can get feedback from both teachers and their friends. Feedback is needed in order to improve the quality of their prototype. Once feedback is given, iteration might take place. Therefore, implementing a design thinking project in the classroom means that we have implemented the five phases of the design thinking approach as well as the design thinking standards that should occur in each phase of the design thinking itself. Besides, by implementing design thinking project in the classroom, teachers have facilitated the students to possess the seven survival skills they need in order to keep up with the real-world challenges.

As it is discussed in the previous paragraph that students need feedback in order to develop a better prototype, implementing the design thinking project in the classroom should be followed by assessment. Giving positive and encouraging feedback is part of conducting an assessment. A rubric is one thing that teachers can create in order to assess the students during the implementation of the design thinking project. The rubric can be designed as student-self-assessment rubric in which the students can independently assess their process of learning. Teachers can also design a rubric which is based on the teachers’ observation or evaluation during the learning process. It is also possible to have a rubric in which both teachers and students can assess the learning process. It depends on the activity or the project that the students take part in. The end users can give feedback towards the solution that the students proposed. When presented in public, the audience can also give feedback on what the students have presented. ***

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