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May 15, 2020 Friday 01:35:49 PM IST

Design Thinking for Better Cognition

Teacher Insights

Next time when you buy a Metrorail ticket, what if the ticket can tell you straight away the time the next train is reaching your station even before you reach the platform? Or, what if next time you leave your house without switching on the lights and you came home late at night, trying to find the light switch? Can’t it be a challenge? With a minor change in the design, we can get these switches to illuminate at night just like a radium watch. The Bluetooth speakers that we can carry around and connect to any Bluetooth devices are another example of design thinking. Design Thinking is a process or ideology which is used as a practical and creative approach to solving complex problems. It is a human-centered approach that involves or makes individuals think out of the box or think creatively to solve a sticky problem which results in a solution that can be practically applied in everyday life. 

Right from early childhood, we have been taught or made to think in a set pattern or how to respond to various curveballs that life throws at us. Every human naturally develops a pattern of thinking modelled on repetitive activities and commonly accessed knowledge. These thinking patterns assist us in quickly applying the same actions and knowledge in similar or familiar situations, but they also have the potential to prevent us from developing new ways of seeing, understanding, and solving problems. This natural thinking process developed by each individual fits him or her into a predictable thinking perspective that comes naturally. In design thinking, an individual is made to think cognitively and out of the box providing a solution-based approach to solve problems.


In a classroom, the main focus of design thinking is on developing the students’ creative confidence through the whole learning process. The first step to develop creative confidence is to change the mindset of traditional thinking or taking the age-old method to solve complex problems. At the kindergarten level, this change of mindset can be achieved to a great extent by getting kids engaged in more practical work rather than following the traditional classroom method. The practical framework can be achieved by giving kids playdough, LEGO, and watching how they transform the playdough or LEGO into some of the most creative designs that make sense to them. 

During this whole exercise, if there is an engagement of the teacher to visualize what the child has created can bring about a whole new learning experience, both to the child and the teacher. This collaboration between the teacher and the student to engage in a hands-on design challenge will bring about cognitive awareness, encouraging great ideation, and fostering active problem-solving methods. At higher class levels, design thinking can be achieved by breaking down the complex structures into smaller or manageable bundles. This can be implemented and executed for each of the topics or subjects that are covered at the higher-level classrooms which give each participating individual enough time and space to understand the core concepts of the topic or subject and is able to process the information in a better manner slowly bringing out the holistic creative side of that individual. “Creativity is as important now in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status,” according to Sir Ken Robinson, a well-known British education and creativity expert.


Education today is making tireless efforts to promote creative thinking; at the same time, it’s also killing creativity by boxing people into set thinking patterns to take its actual form in an individual. Whenever you play with a little child age two to five, you will always be impressed with their curiosity, enthusiasm, creativity, and inventiveness. Much of these slowly start to disintegrate when they are driven to gain knowledge based on a set curriculum, making individual learners by heart and re-produce the “true answer” to questions or problems; this approach leads to draining out creativity out of individual learners.

Let individual learners explore the possibilities for creative learning by creating an environment or thirst for learning by expanding one’s creative horizons from the metaphysical world around. The hole in the wall concept by Mr. Sugata Mitra Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, England is a classic example of how children can learn by themselves without any assistance from a teacher or an educator. There is the five-step process to implement design thinking effectively in classrooms, which are Understand, Observe, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. Make teacher-student engage with each other to understand the concepts together, observe how it is done and can be implemented, encourage ideas to flow irrespective of the context through brainstorming, create a prototype sketch and test to see what works and what doesn’t work.

Dr. Ajay Sanker

The writer is an academician and corporate trainer from Kochi, Kerala. He holds a PhD in Management and is a postgraduate in Human resource management and is an alumni of Indian Institute of Management, Rhotak. He is a resource person for IHRD model finishing school, Government of Kerala and Finishing school of Kerala University, for their various training's for academicians, government employees, and colleges. 

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