Design Thinking in Higher Education: Opportunities and Challenges for Decolonized Learning

Authors

  • Danielle Lake Elon University
  • Wen Guo Florida State University
  • Elizabeth Chen University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Jacqui McLaughlin University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.12.4

Keywords:

design thinking, pedagogy, decolonize, project-based learning, higher education

Abstract

This article builds upon current research to understand the value and limitations of teaching and learning design thinking (DT) in higher education. We implemented a mixed-methods study with faculty and students across 23 diverse courses in four higher education institutions in the United States. Findings showed that following structured learning processes, engaging in active listening, and focusing on others’ perspectives were the most valued DT practices across disciplines. In contrast, prototyping and experimentation were the least used DT practices, with widely varying understandings across disciplines. Additionally, we found consistent evidence that DT can support liberatory teaching and learning practices that decolonize students’ perceptions of power, encourage situated and action-oriented empathy, and provide opportunities for co-creation. This is particularly true when faculty intentionally encourage collaboration and project framing focused on critically analyzing dominant ways of knowing and power structures. Our analysis further revealed the challenges and importance of prototyping and conducting experiments with project partners. Ultimately, this approach can significantly enhance liberatory project outcomes and facilitate decolonized learning experiences. Given our findings, we point out limitations and challenges across current DT pedagogical practices and provide recommendations for integrating DT practices across disciplines in ways that center on issues of systemic oppression, social identity, and human-environmental relationships.

Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Danielle Lake, Elon University

Danielle Lake is the director of design thinking and associate professor at Elon University. Her scholarship, teaching, and service explore the potential and the challenges of relational, place-based design projects for addressing wicked problems, building capacities, and transforming systems. Learn more about the Center for Design Thinking here. and check out the Power and Place Collaborative here. To read more about her research see these selected works.

Wen Guo, Florida State University

Wen Guo is an assistant professor of arts administration at Florida State University. Her research interests include cultural policy networks, career development in the arts, and arts in community engagement. Dr. Guo’s scholarly articles have been published in prestigious journals such as Cultural Trends, Review of Policy Research, the Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, Studies in Art Education, Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, and the American Journal of Arts Management, among others. She is also a research fellow of the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project and a panel reviewer for the arts research grant of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Elizabeth Chen, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Liz Chen is the design thinking lead at Innovate Carolina the unit dedicated to innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic development at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She holds a joint appointment as an associate professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and directs the graduate Certificate in Innovation for the Public Good. Her work focuses on supporting others to integrate design thinking into research, teaching, and practice. Recently, she has been focused on making the rapid prototyping processes more accessible and has published The Experimentation Field Book with step-by-step guidance and templates.

Jacqui McLaughlin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Jacqui McLaughlin, PhD, is an associate professor and director of CIPhER (Center for Innovative Pharmacy Education and Research) at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Dr. McLaughlin has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles about higher education on topics including design thinking, diversity, experiential learning, flipped learning, graduate education, interprofessional education, and student selection.

References

Akama, Yoko, Penny Hagen, and Desna Whaanga-Schollum. 2019. “Problematizing Replicable Design to Practice Respectful, Reciprocal, and Relational Co-Designing with Indigenous People.” Design and Culture 11 (1): 59–84. https://doi.org/10.1080/17547075.2019.1571306.

Ansari, Ahmed. 2019. “Decolonizing Design through the Perspectives of Cosmological Others: Arguing for an Ontological Turn in Design Research and Practice.” XRDS: Crossroads, The ACM Magazine for Students 26 (2): 16–19. https://doi.org/10.1145/3368048.

Asante, Molefi Kete. 2006. “The Rhetoric of Globalisation: The Europeanisation of Human Ideas.” Journal of Multicultural Discourses 1 (2): 152–58. https://doi.org/10.2167/md054.0.

Beligatamulla, Gnanaharsha, Janice Rieger, Jill Franz, and Megan Strickfaden. 2019. “Making Pedagogic Sense of Design Thinking in the Higher Education Context.” Open Education Studies 1 (1): 91–105. https://doi.org/doi:10.1515/edu-2019-0006.

Bleakley, Alan. 2021. “Embracing Ambiguity: Curriculum Design and Activity Theory.” Medical Teacher 43 (1): 14–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/0142159X.2020.1795099.

Borge, Marcela, Dhvani Toprani, Shulong Yan, and Yu Xia. 2020. “Embedded Design: Engaging Students as Active Participants in the Learning of Human-Centered Design Practices.” Computer Science Education 30 (1): 47–71. https://doi.org/10.1080/08993408.2019.1688592.

Brown, Tim, and Jocelyn Wyatt. 2010. “Design Thinking for Social Innovation.” Stanford Social Innovation Review 12 (1): 29–43. https://ojs.unbc.ca/index.php/design/article/viewFile/1272/1089.

Buchanan, Richard. 2019. “Systems Thinking and Design Thinking: The Search for Principles in the World We Are Making.” She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation 5 (2): 85–104. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sheji.2019.04.001.

Charmaz, Kathy. 2003. “Qualitative Interviewing and Grounded Theory Analysis.” In Handbook of Interview Research: Context and Method, edited by J. F. Gubrium and J. S. Holstein, 675–94. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452218403.n25.

Cochrane, Thomas, and Joshua Munn. 2016. “EDR and Design Thinking: Enabling Creative Pedagogies.” In EdMedia+ Innovate Learning: 315–324. http://hdl.handle.net/10292/12060.

Costanza-Chock, Sasha. 2020. Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Creswell, John W., and Vicki L. Plano Clark. 2018. Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Escobar, Arturo. 2018. Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Fixson, Sebastian K., and Jay Rao. 2014 “Learning Emergent Strategies through Design Thinking.” Design Management Review 25 (1): 46–53. https://doi.org/10.1111/drev.10271.

Grimes, Jesse, Josina Vink, J. Tuomas Harvainen, and Birgit Mager. 2021. “Service Design and Systems Thinking.” Touchpoint: The Journal of Service Design 12 (2). https://issuu.com/touchpoint_journal/docs/touchpoint_vol_12_no_2.

Guaman–Quintanilla, Sharon, Patricia Everaert, Katherine Chiluiza, and Martin Valcke. 2023. “Impact of Design Thinking in Higher Education: A Multi-Actor Perspective on Problem Solving and Creativity.” International Journal of Technology and Design Education 33 (1): 217–240. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10798-021-09724-z.

Haigh, Neil, and Andrew J. Withell. 2020. “The Place of Research Paradigms in SoTL Practice: An Inquiry.” Teaching & Learning Inquiry 8 (2): 1–31. http://dx.doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.8.2.3.

Hartman, Eric, Nora Pillard Reynolds, Caitlin Ferrarini, Niki Messmore, Sabea Evans, Bibi Al –Ebrahim, and John Matthias Brown. 2020. “Coloniality-Decoloniality and Critical Global Citizenship: Identity, Belonging, and Education Abroad.” Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad 32 (1): 33–59. https://doi.org/10.36366/frontiers.v32i1.433.

Irani, Lilly. 2018. “‘Design Thinking’: Defending Silicon Valley at the Apex of Global Labor Hierarchies.” Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience 4 (1): 1–19. https://doi.org/10.28968/cftt.v4i1.29638.

Ivankova, Nataliya V., John W. Creswell, and Sheldon L. Stick. 2006. “Using Mixed-Methods Sequential Explanatory Design: From Theory to Practice.” Field Methods 18 (1): 3–20. https://doi.org/10.1177/1525822X05282260.

Jamal, Tazim, Julie Kircher, and Jonan Phillip Donaldson. 2021. “Re-Visiting Design Thinking for Learning and Practice: Critical Pedagogy, Conative Empathy.” Sustainability 13 (2): 964. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020964.

Köppen, Eva, and Christoph Meinel. 2015. “Empathy via Design Thinking: Creation of Sense and Knowledge.” In Design Thinking Research: Building Innovators, edited by Hasso Plattner, Christoph Meinel, and Larry Leifer: 15–28. Cham, CH: Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-06823-7_2.

Lake, Danielle, Kathleen Flannery, and Morgan Kearns. 2021. “A Cross–Disciplines and Cross–Sector Mixed-Methods Examination of Design Thinking Practices and Outcome.” Innovative Higher Education 46 (3): 337–56. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10755-020-09539-1.

Lake, Danielle, Marc Lehman, and Linda Chamberlain. 2019. “Engaging through Design Thinking: Catalyzing Integration, Iteration, Innovation, and Implementation.” eJournal of Public Affairs 8 (1): 40–49. https://ejournalofpublicaffairs.org/engaging-through-design-thinking-catalyzing-integration-iteration-innovation-and-implementation/.

Lake, Danielle, Phillip Motley, and William Moner. 2021. “Completing the CiCLE: Assessing Longitudinal Ecosystems Change to Improve Community-based and Design-centric Immersive Learning.” Social Enterprise Journal: 1–54. https://doi.org/10.1108/SEJ-10-2020-0089.

Liedtka, Jeanne, and Kristina J. Bahr. 2019. Assessing Design Thinking’s Impact: Report on the Development of a New Instrument: 19–13. Darden Working Paper Series. https://designatdarden.org/app/uploads/2018/01/Working-paper-Liedtka-Evaluating-the-Impact-of-Design-Thinking.pdf.

Liedtka, Jeanne, Karen Hold, and Jessica Eldridge. 2021. Experiencing Design: The Innovators Journey. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lor, Rex. 2017. “Design Thinking in Education: A Critical Review of Literature.” In International Academic Conference on Social Sciences and Management: 37–68. https://digitalknowledge.cput.ac.za/bitstream/11189/7810/1/Design%20thinking%20in%20education_%20A%20critical%20review%20of%20literature.pdf.

Matthews, Judy, and Cara Wrigley. 2017. “Design and Design Thinking in Business and Management Higher Education.” Journal of Learning Design 10 (1): 41–5. https://doi.org/10.5204/jld.v9i3.294.

McLaughlin, Jacqueline E., Elizabeth Chen, Danielle Lake, Wen Guo, Emily Rose Skywark, Aria Chernik, and Tsailu Liu. 2022. “Design Thinking Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: Experiences across Four Universities.” PloS One 17 (3): 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0265902.

McLaughlin, Jacqueline E., Danielle Lake, Elizabeth Chen, Wen Guo, McKenna Knock, and Stephen Knotek. 2023. “Faculty Experiences and Motivation in Design Thinking Teaching and Learning.” Frontiers in Education (8). https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2023.1172814.

Noel, Lesley-Ann. 2022. “Dreaming Outside the Boxes that Hold Me in: Speculation and Design Thinking as Tools for Hope and Liberation Against Oppression.” Journal of Future Studies 26 (3): 1–12. https://doi.org/10.6531/JFS.202203_26(3).0006.

Noel, Lesley-Ann, Tsai Lu Liu, and Traci Rose Rider. 2019. “Design Thinking and Empowerment of Students in Trinidad and Tobago.” Cultural and Pedagogical Inquiry 11 (3): 52–66. https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/cpi/index.php/cpi/article/view/29503.

Panke, Stefanie. 2019. “Design Thinking in Education: Perspectives, Opportunities and Challenges.” Open Education Studies 1 (1): 281–306. https://doi.org/doi:10.1515/edu-2019-0022.

Panke, Stefanie, and Thilo Harth. 2018. “Design Thinking for Inclusive Community Design: (How) Does it Work?” Journal of Interactive Learning Research 30 (2): 195–214. https://www.learntechlib.org/p/187330/.

Pope-Ruark, Rebecca, Phillip Motley, and William Moner. 2019. “Creative Innovation Takes A (Team Teaching) Family.” Teaching and Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal 7 (1): 120–35. https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.7.1.8.

Rittner, Jennifer. 2020. “Design Education Reform: Modeling Equity and Inclusion in Teaching and Learning.” Design Management Review 31 (3): 12–22. https://doi.org/10.1111/drev.12236.

Seidel, Victor P., and Sebastian K. Fixson. 2013. “Adopting Design Thinking in Novice Multidisciplinary Teams: The Application and Limits of Design Methods and Reflexive Practices.” Journal of Product Innovation Management 30 (1): 19–33. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpim.12061.

Shahjahan, Riyad A., Annabelle L. Estera, Kristen L. Surla, and Kirsten T. Edwards. 2022. “‘Decolonizing’ Curriculum and Pedagogy: A Comparative Review across Disciplines and Global Higher Education Contexts.” Review of Educational Research 92 (1): 73–113. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543211042423.

Sharples, Mike, Roberto de Roock, Rebecca Ferguson, Mark Gaved, Christothea Herodotou, Elizabeth Koh, Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, Chee-Kit Looi, Patrick McAndrew, Bart Rienties, Martin Weller, and Lung Hsiang Wong. 2016. Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5. Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University. https://oro.open.ac.uk/45319/1/InnovatingPedagogy_2015.pdf.

Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. 2021. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples.

London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Taheri, Mana, Thomas Unterholzer, Katharina Hölzle, and Christoph Meinel. 2016. “An Educational Perspective on Design Thinking Learning Outcomes.” In ISPIM Innovation Symposium 1. https://hpi.de/fileadmin/user_upload/fachgebiete/meinel/papers/Design_Thinking/2016_taheri_unterholzer_ispim.pdf.

Tie, Ylona Chun, Melanie Birks, and Karen Francis. 2019. “Grounded Theory Research: A Design Framework for Novice Researchers.” SAGE Open Medicine 7. https://doi.org/10.1177/2050312118822927.

Trisos, Christopher H., Jess Auerbach, and Madhusudan Katti. 2021. “Decoloniality and Anti–Oppressive Practices for a More Ethical Ecology.” Nature Ecology and Evolution 5 (9): 1205–12. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-021-01460-w.

Tunstall, Elizabeth Dori. 2020. “Decolonizing Design Innovation: Design Anthropology, Critical Anthropology, and Indigenous Knowledge.” In Design Anthropology, 232–250. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003085195.

Udoewa, Victor. 2022. “An Introduction to Radical Participatory Design: Decolonising Participatory Design Processes.” Design Science 8: E31. https://doi.org/10.1017/dsj.2022.24.

Vink, Josina. 2019. “In/Visible–Conceptualizing Service Ecosystem Design.” PhD diss., Karlstads Universitet. https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A1313628&dswid=1527.

Wagoner, Maya M. 2017. “Technology against Technocracy: Toward Design Strategies for Critical Community Technology.” PhD diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Wrigley, Cara, and Kara Straker. 2017. “Design Thinking Pedagogy: The Educational Design Ladder.” Innovations in Education and Teaching International 54 (4): 374–85. https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2015.1108214.

A logo with numerous colorful squares overlapped to the left of the words "Design Thinking, Teaching, & Learning Collaborative."

Downloads

Published

2024-01-29

How to Cite

Lake, Danielle, Wen Guo, Elizabeth Chen, and Jacqui McLaughlin. 2024. “Design Thinking in Higher Education: Opportunities and Challenges for Decolonized Learning”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 12 (January). https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.12.4.