Related Research

Research Related to Design Thinking

This section features research that, while not necessarily directly centered on design thinking, overlaps with much of what the teaches. There are three categories: Personal Change, Pedagogy, and Methods and Mindsets. Personal Change highlights psychological states and how they may change due to certain experiences. This is relevant because much of the's impact is helping people feel and act more creatively. The Pedagogy category cites research on teaching frameworks similar to the's. Finally, Methods and MIndsets provides more detailed information describing a few of the individual elements the compromise design thinking i.e. Empathy and Prototyping.

Personal Change


Headline: Self-efficacy is a psychological construct defined by Albert Bandura. It is described as people's judgement of their ability to accomplish a goal. Think of it like self-confidence only around specific areas or tasks. For example a person might be very confident in general but have low self-efficacy in Math. What Bandura and others have show is that self-efficacy can increase through certain types of practice. Furthermore, an increase in self-efficacy often leads to an increase in motivation and academic achievement.

Intersection with Design Thinking: One way to reframe creative confidence is to see it as creative self-efficacy. This suggests that it is not only possible to increase creative confidence but that an increase will positively affect individual's sense of self concept and motivation.

Further Resources:

Albert Bandura's seminal article (very dense read):

Dale Schunk's overview of self-efficacy and education:

Growth Mindset

Headline: Carol Dweck coined the phrase "growth mindset" which refers to a disposition whereby one believes that traits such as talent or intelligence are not fixed but malleable and capable of changing. Her work has shown that students with fixed mindsets around intelligence tend to focus more and achievement goals--especially goals they know they can meet--than on learning. They are more defensive or defeatist when encountering failure because it they see it as a judgement on the whole of who they are. Finally, fixed mindset students are especially susceptible to drops in self-esteem and intrinsic motivation. Growth mindsets around intelligence, on the other hand, lead students to focus more on learning, especially in the face of difficulty, because they see learning as a way to grow. This leads students to develop mastery which in turn promotes higher self-esteem, intrinsic motivation, and learning. Fortunately, there are powerful--and sometimes surprisingly subtle--interventions that can help people who have a fixed mindset develop a growth mindset.

Intersection with Design Thinking: Many people who first encounter design thinking believe that "they are not creative." This is an example of having a fixed mindset about creativity. Learning experiences at the aim to enhance students' creative confidence. This can only be done if students believe their creativity is malleable. Dweck's work suggests that not only is it possible to create a growth mindset around creativity, but the resulting impact on motivation, resilience, and learning can be powerful.

Further Resources:

Mindsets by Carol Dweck

A chapter by Dweck and Molden summarizing the subject. Note that this document was published before Dweck's book and has a few lexical differences, i.e. "mindsets" are called "self-theories," a "fixed mindset" is called "entity theory," and a "growth mindset" is called an "incremental theory":

A study by Lisa Blackwell, Kali Trzeniewski, and Carol Dweck that investigates the effects shifting students to growth mindsets:

Related Psychological Concepts


Headline: Motivation is an enormous topic related to how conceptualizations drive behaviors. Here we will point to a few sub-topics that connect with DT principles. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are classifications that distinguish internally driven behaviors and external rewards. People experience both everyday, but some feel that most education systems have an overabundance of extrinsic motivators. Another perspective of motivation centers around the difference between learning goals, seeking to improve one's own abilities, and performance goals, seeking out praise from others. Have a learning goal orientation leads to challenge seeking behaviors; whereas, performance goals often lead to challenge avoidance and learned helplessness. Another motivational concept is that of an ego protective buffer. This occurs when students can effectively shield their egos from failure and yet still feel motivated to turn that failure into success.

Intersection with Design Thinking: A core element of DT is to encourage students to uncover and solve problems meaningful to them. This is an avenue towards a more intrinsically motivated education paradigm. The belief is that students will be more motivated and engaged in learning if they are allowed to choose challenges they want to work on. This doesn't mean that instructors cannot infuse these challenges with standards or other essential skills. It does mean that students are co-creators in this process. Furthermore, one of the overarching goals of DT is to develop a sense of creative confidence. In that sense, student growth is highlighted more than how successful their designs function. Using reflection and being transparent about this can help teachers facilitate learning goals (to boost creative potential) rather than performance goals (make a perfectly functioning design).

Further Resources:

Elaine Elliot and Carol Dweck's work on goals and motivation:
Richard Ryan and Edward Deci discuss intrinsic and extrinsic motivation:
Debra Stipek's book about motivation and education:
Stipek, D. J. (1993). Motivation to learn: From theory to practice.
Catherine Chase's work on ego protective buffers.
Chase, C. C. (2011). Motivating persistence in the face of failure: The impact of an ego-protective buffer on learning choices and outcomes in a computer-based educational game. Stanford University.


Headline: Grit is defined as a personality trait that helps people persevere through failure and adversity to achieve a long term goal. The construct is related to other important concepts like resilience and persistence but Grit has been shown to be more steady than resilience and last over a longer duration than persistence--which is usually associated with completion of a short term task. Another important finding is that Grit is one of the few psychological constructs that does not correlate with IQ yet predicts success.

Intersection with Design Thinking: DT helps students not just respond to failure but to continually leverage it as a learning opportunity. To achieve almost any worthwhile long term goal, students much overcome a wide spectrum of adversity. Grit is a trait that helps deal with repeated adversity. Although it has not been studied, one might surmise that prototyping strategies might help develop Grit or at least help support students who do not have a high degree of Grit.

Further Resources:

Angela Duckworth's seminal article on Grit:
Duckworth and Quinn's studies on measuring Grit:


Headline: Constructivism is a major epistemological philosophy, the center of which, is the belief that people construct knowledge from a mixture of prior knowledge and new experiences. Constructivist theories—which have been crafted by a number of luminaries including; John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky—suggest certain pedagogical principles. One of which is the teacher as a facilitator of knowledge and not a didactic lecturer. In this tradition learning is dependent on an existing mental schema unique to each individual. Suggesting that teachers should try to connect new ideas with existing views. Another principle is that of active learning. Many constructivist believe that people learn best when they are intreating directly with their environment, often in a social manner. One conceptually and phonetically similar concept is that of Constructionism which highlights making ideas tangible in the real world.

Intersection with Design Thinking: The strongest link between Constructivism and DT most likely the learning by doing tradition. DT as taught by the does not feature very much tell and practice. Instead, students are armed with just enough design knowledge to explore problems and make sense of them. Experienced instructors and coaches meet with student teams in order to guide their process, especially when they feel stuck. Furthermore, the build to think mentality that surrounds prototyping aligns with Constructionism. Students are given agency over their education by constructing authentic solutions to real problems that can be tested and implemented.

Further Resources:

John Dewey
Dewey, J. (2007). Experience and education. Simon and Schuster.
Jean Piaget
Seymour Papert


Problem Based Learning

Headline: PBL is an instructional technique where the primary learning of content and skills happens through solving of complex problems. In this paradigm, the role of the teacher and student are much different than the "sage on stage" model of traditional instruction. Teachers in PBL facilitate students by asking guiding questions rather than lecturing. Likewise, because students are exploring a new problem without receiving new information, they are in a position to actively construct new knowledge from their existing knowledge. PBL has been shown to increase flexible problem solving skills. With appropriate scaffolds, researchers have also seen PBL lead to more self directed learning skills and better collaboration.

Intersection with Design Thinking: Like PBL, DT focuses more on guiding student work than on direct instruction from teachers. Both emphasize the importance of collaboration. A skill that is increasingly required of 21st century learners.

Further Resources:

An overview of PBL by Cindy Hmelo-Silver
An exploration of the instructional model underpinning PBL

Challenge Based Learning

Headline: CBL is a method of teaching and learning pioneered by the education group within Apple. The goal is to make learning relevant to students by connecting large problems (i.e. water and food) to experiences they encounter everyday. A scaffolding of question asking and exercises helps students create implementable solutions to the challenge they face.

Intersection with Design Thinking: Both CBL and DT frame initial ambiguous challenges that encourage students to identify and define specific problems within a topic. Furthermore, students interact with these specific problems in a very real way inside and/or outside of the classroom. This allows for methods like needfinding and testing with users. It also means that the context where solution implementation happens is accessible.

Further Resources:

Apple's website with Challenge Based learning resources:
A thorough description of Challenge Based Learning:
The 2011 New Media Consortium report on Challenge Based Learning:

Maker Movement

Headline: The idea that students learning through making is at the heart of the maker movement. Proponents argue that this is a far more engaging form of education than traditional classroom instruction. Although making can happen in any context, maker spaces, equipped with various forms of technology, are becoming more and more common in school. In most cases, the maker movement is linked to STEM or STEAM education. Part of this is because much of the making is focused on building or hacking technology. However, as the maker movement increasingly guides students towards creating implementable solutions, the importance of storytelling as a way to communicate one's work has emerged. This presents more opportunities to link making to non-STEAM fields.

Intersection with Design Thinking: Making, or more specifically, prototyping is a core concept of design thinking. Students at the not only create prototypes to test solutions, they build to think.

Further Resources:

The Maker Mindset by Dale Dougherty (founder of Maker Faire):

An article investigating learning through making:

Creativity in Education featuring Montessori & Reggio Emilia

Headline: Although both education and creativity are large fields of study, their intersection is not as deeply understood as it could be. There has always been a tension in mainstream education between teaching "fundamentals" and creativity--which is often view as a bonus. This parallels a tension between art and more entrenched subjects. As a result, much of the work focuses on teaching creativity to gifted students. We can, however, learn from research on education paradigms where creativity is a central tenet such as Reggio Emilia and Montessori schools.

Intersection with Design Thinking: Creativity is at the core of design thinking--especially in the K-12 space. One framework of design thinking's role in education involves two, often complementary, aims: teaching students to harness their own creativity & helping teachers work in a more creative way. Thus it is important to understand the different audiences within the education system and how to enhancing creative confidence throughout it.

Further Resources:

A nice history recounting influences on creativity in western education:

Elliot Eisner essay about the value of arts education:

A guide of Reggio Emilia Practices:

A guide of the Montessori Method:

An analysis of academic outcomes using the Montessori Method:

Social Emotional Learning

Headline: Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is often described as a set of skills or competencies that involve self-awareness, self-management, relationship building, and conflict resolution. SEL is most commonly taught as a set of independent sessions in schools by classroom teachers or specialists. There are examples of after school programs and schools where SEL is part of the overall culture. The goal is to help students develop the tools to understand and manage their own emotional responses to social situations. Studies have found that most SEL programs are effective at creating more positive student interactions. Moreover, these programs often lead to increased academic engagement and increased academic performance (in the range of 10-15% on standardized tests).

Intersection with Design Thinking: SEL can influence design thinking in two major ways. The first is the potential impact self and social-awareness has on students' ability to work in teams. Collaboration is a major component of design thinking. SEL skills can help create a positive team atmosphere which is essential for implementing a successful group process. The second influence is on empathy work. Finding and understanding human needs is at the heart of design thinking. Having the mindset of understanding others and practice resolving issues in a personal way, all things SEL promotes, can drive a design thinking process.

Further Resources:

The Positive Impact of Social and Emotional Learning for Kindergarten to Eighth-Grade Students:

An article focusing on educators' social emotional skills:

Assessing SEL:

21st Century Skills

Headline: 21st Century Skills are a set of abilities, themes, and subjects that students should master in order to meet their potential in the modern world. Many of these skills are different than traditionally educational objectives. Although multiple definitions exists, 21st century skills puts emphasis on core subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Interwoven in those subjects are themes like innovation (creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication), information/media, and life skills. Other additions--which appear as core subjects or themes depending on the source--include environmental awareness, social responsibility, and decision making.

Intersection with Design Thinking: Design thinking most directly fits into the innovation theme as both strongly promote creativity and collaboration. Frameworks for how 21st century themes weave through core subjects can prove to be a guide for how to connect design thinking with core subjects.

Further Resources:

A popular 21st century framework:

A comparison of multiple 21st century frameworks:

Project based learning and 21st century skills:

Measuring 21st century skills:

Methods and Mindsets


Headline: Although empathy is not a traditional field of study; but rather, a concept that cuts across different domains. Nonetheless, a fair amount research exists on the effects of empathy on behavior. For one, studies show that empathy and creativity are positively correlated. Other lines of research suggest that empathy can lead to more prosocial behavior and more altruistic motivations. On the other hand, bullies have been show to lack an ability to empathize with fellow student's emotions.

Intersection with Design Thinking: Empathy is a key process step and central tenant of design thinking. Designers use empathy as a way of understanding how other people experience problems. They also use it as a guide for understanding how well solutions meet needs. Essentially it is the reason we call it human centered design. The broader research on empathy highlights some of the other potential benefits of incorporating empathy in education.

Further Resources:

An article exploring the link between empathy and creativity:

These articles focus on empathy's impact on behavior and motivation:

This study explores the lack of empathy in bullies:


Headline: Much of the research on prototyping has been in the field of engineering the role prototypes have in product development. Although important, there are a growing number of researchers investigating how prototyping impacts problem solving. For example, it has been show that people who iterate frequently over a period of time out perform people who simply plan over that same period. That was a test of a long held belief amongst designers. A slightly more surprising result came from a recent study which showed that parallel prototyping--making and testing more than one version of a prototype per iteration--actually leads to a better design and high self-efficacy than prototyping in series.

Intersection with Design Thinking: Like empathy, design thinking relies heavily on prototyping as a skill and a disposition. Students are asked not only to create prototypes of solutions, but to view prototyping--often framed as enlightened trial and error--as an approach to problem solving. It creates an attitude of investigation and active experimentation which fundamentally shifts the drivers of learning from the teacher to the student. When students master prototyping, they are mastering the skill of asking and answering key questions.

Further Resources:

Steven Dow Parallel Prototyping (parallel prototyping reduces fixation, results in better designs, and increases self-efficacy):

Steven Dow and Scott Klemer show the value of time constraints:

Gerber (low fidelity allows for health view of failure):

Back to the research homepage


/groups/k12/search/index.rss?tag=hotlist/groups/k12/search/?tag=hotWhat’s HotHotListHot!?tag=hot6/groups/k12/sidebar/HotListAdded tag - hotdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 18:05:15+00:002016-06-09 18:05:15addTag14Added tag - activitydyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 08:51:57+00:002016-06-09 08:51:57addTag13Added tag - testdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 08:51:48+00:002016-06-09 08:51:48addTag12Added tag - prototypedyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 08:51:46+00:002016-06-09 08:51:46addTag11Added tag - ideatedyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 08:51:45+00:002016-06-09 08:51:45addTag10Added tag - definedyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 08:51:43+00:002016-06-09 08:51:43addTag9Added tag - empathizedyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 08:51:42+00:002016-06-09 08:51:42addTag8Added tag - stokedyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 08:51:40+00:002016-06-09 08:51:40addTag7Added tag - design thinking processdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 08:51:38+00:002016-06-09 08:51:38addTag6Added tag - resourcesdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 08:51:35+00:002016-06-09 08:51:35addTag5dyoungDevon Young2016-06-06 23:47:53+00:002016-06-06 23:47:53updated4dyoungDevon Young2016-06-06 21:53:23+00:002016-06-06 21:53:23updated3dyoungDevon Young2016-06-06 20:58:40+00:002016-06-06 20:58:40updated2First createddyoungDevon Young2016-06-06 20:58:21+00:002016-06-06 20:58:21created1wiki2016-06-06T23:47:53+00:00groups/k12/wiki/bb07fFalseResources and Tools by Stage/groups/k12/wiki/bb07f/Resources_and_Tools_by_Stage.htmlDevon Young14 updatesResources and Tools by Stage Key tools and worksheets in each step Warm-up [Download file "Stoke Deck.pdf"] Improv Toolkit for Educators, Improv Activiti...Falsedyoung2016-06-06T23:47:53+00:00Added tag - hotdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 18:04:48+00:002016-06-09 18:04:48addTag18Added tag - full-cycledyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:21:38+00:002016-06-09 06:21:38addTag17Added tag - designed by k12 labdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:21:34+00:002016-06-09 06:21:34addTag16Added tag - educator workshopdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:21:23+00:002016-06-09 06:21:23addTag15Added tag - 2-hourdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:21:18+00:002016-06-09 06:21:18addTag14Added tag - 2016dyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:21:08+00:002016-06-09 06:21:08addTag13Removed tag - workshopdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:21:02+00:002016-06-09 06:21:02removeTag12Removed tag - morning routinedyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:21:00+00:002016-06-09 06:21:00removeTag11Removed tag - dp0dyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:20:59+00:002016-06-09 06:20:59removeTag10Removed tag - design thinking burstdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:20:56+00:002016-06-09 06:20:56removeTag9Added tag - workshopdyoungDevon Young2016-06-06 15:58:59+00:002016-06-06 15:58:59addTag8Added tag - design thinking burstdyoungDevon Young2016-05-23 20:34:51+00:002016-05-23 20:34:51addTag7Removed tag - burstdyoungDevon Young2016-05-23 20:34:43+00:002016-05-23 20:34:43removeTag6Added tag - morning routinedyoungDevon Young2016-05-23 20:34:05+00:002016-05-23 20:34:05addTag5Added tag - dp0dyoungDevon Young2016-05-23 20:33:54+00:002016-05-23 20:33:54addTag4Added tag - burstdyoungDevon Young2016-05-23 20:33:47+00:002016-05-23 20:33:47addTag3dyoungDevon Young2016-05-23 16:46:27+00:002016-05-23 16:46:27updated2First createddyoungDevon Young2016-05-23 16:08:56+00:002016-05-23 16:08:56created1wiki2016-05-23T16:46:27+00:00groups/k12/wiki/213e5FalseDesign Thinking Burst: May 18, 2016 /groups/k12/wiki/213e5/Design_Thinking_Burst_May_18_2016_.htmlDevon Young18 updatesDesign Thinking Burst: May 18, 2016 What: An introductory experience for educators who are interested in learning about the design thinking process. When: April 28, 2016 at the d...Falsedyoung2016-05-23T16:46:27+00:00Added tag - hotdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 18:05:46+00:002016-06-09 18:05:46addTag16Added tag - full-cycledyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:22:15+00:002016-06-09 06:22:15addTag15Added tag - designed by k12 labdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:22:11+00:002016-06-09 06:22:11addTag14Added tag - educator workshopdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:22:06+00:002016-06-09 06:22:06addTag13Added tag - 2-daydyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:22:01+00:002016-06-09 06:22:01addTag12Added tag - 2016dyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:21:58+00:002016-06-09 06:21:58addTag11Removed tag - workshopdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:21:52+00:002016-06-09 06:21:52removeTag10Removed tag - discover design thinkingdyoungDevon Young2016-06-09 06:21:50+00:002016-06-09 06:21:50removeTag9Added tag - workshopdyoungDevon Young2016-06-06 15:59:14+00:002016-06-06 15:59:14addTag8Removed tag - savedyoungDevon Young2016-06-06 15:59:10+00:002016-06-06 15:59:10removeTag7Added tag - discover design thinkingdyoungDevon Young2016-05-23 21:41:41+00:002016-05-23 21:41:41addTag6Added tag - savedyoungDevon Young2016-05-16 20:35:23+00:002016-05-16 20:35:23addTag5dyoungDevon Young2016-05-13 21:14:20+00:002016-05-13 21:14:20updated4dyoungDevon Young2016-05-11 15:57:56+00:002016-05-11 15:57:56updated3dyoungDevon Young2016-05-11 03:15:39+00:002016-05-11 03:15:39updated2First createddyoungDevon Young2016-05-11 03:01:09+00:002016-05-11 03:01:09created1wiki2016-05-13T21:14:20+00:00groups/k12/wiki/7c78cFalseDiscover Design Thinking workshop: May 5-6 2016/groups/k12/wiki/7c78c/Discover_Design_Thinking_workshop_May_56_2016.htmlDevon Young16 updatesDiscover Design Thinking workshop: May 5-6 2016 Edit this page Create a new page Delete this ...Falsedyoung2016-05-13T21:14:20+00:00Added tag - hotarazAriel Raz2016-06-09 18:05:38+00:002016-06-09 18:05:38addTag13Added tag - prototypearazAriel Raz2016-06-09 06:30:10+00:002016-06-09 06:30:10addTag12Added tag - full-cyclearazAriel Raz2016-06-09 06:30:00+00:002016-06-09 06:30:00addTag11Added tag - grades 9-12arazAriel Raz2016-06-09 06:29:55+00:002016-06-09 06:29:55addTag10Added tag - student curriculumarazAriel Raz2016-06-09 06:29:51+00:002016-06-09 06:29:51addTag9Added tag - 1-weekarazAriel Raz2016-06-09 06:28:21+00:002016-06-09 06:28:21addTag8Added tag - 2016arazAriel Raz2016-06-09 06:28:18+00:002016-06-09 06:28:18addTag7Removed tag - student workshoparazAriel Raz2016-06-09 06:28:07+00:002016-06-09 06:28:07removeTag6Removed tag - fail forwardarazAriel Raz2016-06-09 06:28:03+00:002016-06-09 06:28:03removeTag5Added tag - student workshoparazAriel Raz2016-06-06 16:37:11+00:002016-06-06 16:37:11addTag4Added tag - fail forwardarazAriel Raz2016-06-06 16:36:53+00:002016-06-06 16:36:53addTag3arazAriel Raz2016-03-14 03:01:39+00:002016-03-14 03:01:39updated2First createdarazAriel Raz2016-03-14 02:48:24+00:002016-03-14 02:48:24created1wiki2016-03-14T03:01:39+00:00groups/k12/wiki/0502dFalseMt. Vernon Presbyterian School - Fail Forward/groups/k12/wiki/0502d/Mt_Vernon_Presbyterian_School__Fail_Forward.htmlAriel Raz13 updatesMt. Vernon Presbyterian School - Fail Forward On this page you'll find resources for the one week workshop we held with Mt. Vernon Presbyterian School. The frame of the weeklong experience was...Falsearaz2016-03-14T03:01:39+00:00weblog2009-11-19T16:29:14+00:00groups/k12/weblog/56457FalseNew Riverside-Nueva partnership/groups/k12/weblog/56457/New_RiversideNueva_partnership.htmlLeticia Britos0 updatesNew Riverside-Nueva partnership The Nueva School has some exciting news to report. After the six of us (Rebecca, Megan, Keely, Kim, Anna, and I) from Nueva met Deepa and Veena fro...Falselbritos2009-11-19T16:29:14+00:00hot/groups/k12/search/index.rss?sort=modifiedDate&kind=all&sortDirection=reverse&excludePages=wiki/welcomelist/groups/k12/search/?sort=modifiedDate&kind=all&sortDirection=reverse&excludePages=wiki/welcomeRecent ChangesRecentChangesListUpdates?sort=modifiedDate&kind=all&sortDirection=reverse&excludePages=wiki/welcome0/groups/k12/sidebar/RecentChangesListmodifiedDateallRecent ChangesRecentChangesListUpdateswiki/welcomeNo recent changes.reverse5search