5 1/2 Questions with Maureen Carroll from d.school

Elina Zheleva
Jul 15, 2015 · 4 min read
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Maureen Carroll, Ph.D. is the Founder of Lime Design, and a lecturer in Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school) where she co-teaches Creativity & Innovation, and in Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education where she co-teaches Educating Young STEM Thinkers. She is also the Director of Stanford University’s REDlab (Research in Education & Design), a partnership between d.school and School of Education. Carroll has a Ph.D. in Education: Language, Literacy & Culture from the University of California at Berkeley. In this short interview we talk about integrating design thinking in K-12 and the importance of preserving the creativity spirit in kids and grownups alike.

1. You head the Research in Education & Design Lab (REDLab) — what are some of the latest research findings in this field?

At REDlab, we just finished our National Science Foundation ITEST d.loft grant, and it has been a learning filled journey. We discovered the power of design thinking as a tool for integrating content learning for students in middle school, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Our Stanford students were learning design thinking as they became mentors to middle schoolers in a local after school program. This gave them an opportunity to create activities that integrated STEM concepts and design thinking, and embrace not only the process of design thinking, but the mindsets. They learned the value of failing forward, having deep empathy for the middle schoolers, and the importance of prototyping, testing and iterating.

2. In your work at Lime Design you have applied design thinking in various educational projects and you have a good overview of what has been done in this field on a global level. What has design thinking brought to K-12 education?

In my Lime Design work, I have had the opportunity to introduce and support the integration of design thinking in K-12 education through teacher professional development, school leadership, and curriculum design. I have worked with students, principals, superintendents, curriculum developers, and educators, and what is the most delightful thing to me is the myriad of ways design thinking has been embraced. Different parts of the process seem to resonate with different people. For some, it’s about how empathy changes the way the do their work. This has happened in how teachers create more student-centered lessons, how principals evaluate teachers in more collaborative ways, and how students look for opportunities to make the world a better place. For others, design thinking seems to provide a scaffold for taking risks, and becoming increasingly comfortable with not knowing exactly how things may unfold.

3. How do you see design thinking in the curriculum for K-12 students?

I think there are many ways to successfully integrate design thinking into the curriculum for K-12 students. For example, in designing a six-week curriculum, I would suggest starting with a one-hour design challenge, then a three-day challenge, and then a week-long design challenge. I would intersperse skill building in interviewing, empathy map and needs statement (POV) construction, brainstorming, prototyping and testing throughout subsequent weeks, perhaps focusing on one or two skill building sessions each week.

4. Do you have examples from your practice?

We have three examples of integrated design thinking curriculum that was inspired by the Design for the Other 90% Movement on our REDlab website. They are entitled:

  • DIVE IN! Redesigning Water: An Integrated Design Thinking/STEM Curriculum
  • IGNITE! Redesigning Energy: An Integrated Design Thinking/STEM Curriculum
  • BUILT TO LEARN! Redesigning Shelter: An Integrated Design Thinking/STEM Curriculum

Another important part of design thinking curriculum is integrating the mindsets in the way you approach your work. For example, you might tell your students you are going to try a new way of teaching a lesson. By doing this, you are modelling what it means to be a life-long learner who is willing to take risks, and learn from what doesn’t work. For me, the mindsets of design thinking are as important as the process.

5. What are your thoughts on the future of design thinking?

I think that the value of creativity is going to be an increasingly important part of a child’s education, and that it shouldn’t stop when kindergarten ends. I wonder why we put the finger paints away, and we stop dancing, drawing, acting, and singing. Design thinking challenges us to rethink how we are going to sustain and nurture one’s creative soul. I believe design thinking provides a tool that values the dreamers and doers and that it will continue to transform the way we teach, the way we learn and the belief in our ability to change the world.

About the author:

Elina Zheleva is Managing Partner and Director at launchlabs Sofia — a business redesign studio with an international network of offices. Elina is a design thinking evangelist trained at the HPI School of Design Thinking and Stanford d.school. Together with her team she works around the world with organizations to help them transform into more customer-centred and innovative workplaces.

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