International School has integrated a Design Thinking and Problem Solving approach into its education process thanks to which students will acquire skills, abilities and self-confidence needed to live and work in the dynamic world of the future. This approach involves techniques of rational and intuitive thinking based on finding innovative solutions for various problems in a creative process that requires participants to find solutions together, identifying problems through several key stages.

Design Thinking and Problem Solving meet the demands of the digital age in the best way possible. This is why this advanced approach has a special place in education. Thanks to it, students acquire skills, abilities and self-confidence needed to live and work in the dynamic world of the future.

Design thinking is based on the innate ability of mankind, which can be developed further through training, to be intuitive, to recognize patterns and construct ideas that are both emotionally significant and functional.

David Kelley

Students as innovators – developing key skills for living and working in the 21st century

Traditional learning required children to prepare for tests and provide correct answers. However, the digital revolution has called this concept of education in question, because nowadays, the answer to almost any question can be found on Google.

The development of technology has generated a need for specific skills that will allow students to get by more easily in the age of rapid changes and find innovative answers to every challenge. Design Thinking develops precisely those skills that every individual needs for professional and academic success in the 21st century:

  • Creativity and innovativeness
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration

Another important thing – this is a process that leaves a child his/her freedom so their imagination could develop without restriction.

What does it look like?

For example: instead of telling a child to design a car, which would mean working within the framework of established patterns, we ask them to solve a problem, so they could freely express their creativity. In this case, the assignment would be to design a vehicle to transfer people from point A to point B. Thus, children get the opportunity for out-of-the-box thinking which unleashes their innovativeness and leads to important discoveries.

Another important element of the Design Thinking and Problem Solving model is its emotional component. In other words, instead of solving problems for problems’ sake, children learn to solve them for specific needs of a real or imaginary person. This way, they become more engaged, emotionally invested and focused. This is particularly important because, in the modern world, everything is user-oriented, i.e. aimed at making the world better for everyone.

6 stages of Design Thinking process for students

International School is the only elementary school in Serbia and the Balkans that implements a Design Thinking and Problem Solving approach. As part of their extracurricular clubs, students of International School have the opportunity to take part in the activities designed to help children become problem solvers. To achieve this goal, we use three important elements in teaching:

  • Educational technology to motivate and engage them
  • STEM labs and problem-based instruction
  • Stages of the Design Thinking Process specifically adapted for elementary school children

Every extracurricular activity involves several Design Thinking stages during which students solve entertaining, concrete and challenging problems. See for yourself how our students enjoy this adventure of learning and research.

1. Empathy

This is often the most important stage that determines the extent of a student’s motivation and interest. If carried out correctly, other stages are much easier to execute. Concrete examples are used to arouse empathy in elementary school students. For example, during a mission to Mars, the spacecraft that was supposed to return astronauts back to Earth broke down. The task is to figure out how to supply the crew with food and water until their craft is fixed. Thanks to educational technology, student can see the astronauts’ faces, learn their names, families and hobbies, thus forming an emotional bond and finding motivation to solve the problem and help a specific person.

2. Problem definition

After being introduced to the astronauts and their needs, the children have to articulate the problem they are trying to solve. This is a very important step, because the proposed solutions directly depend on it. Thus students need to take all the circumstances into account: the time the astronauts have, available food and water supplies, possibilities of obtaining additional food and water by means of special spacecrafts and robots.

3. Brainstorming

This is often the most entertaining stage, because student enjoy proposing different solutions to a concrete problem, and their imagination truly knows no bounds. It is important to note that this is a group activity where students share their suggestions with each other. To make brainstorming successful, students need to observe the following guidelines:

  • Don’t be judgmental to other people’s opinions
  • Suggest as many different ideas as possible
  • Complement and build on your friends’ ideas
  • Maximum creativity.

4. Prototype

Once they agree on the solution they are going to apply, the children will start designing a prototype. For example, using LEGO STEM kits, they can build spacecrafts able to transport food supplies to Mars, use levers and cogs to fix the broken spacecraft, program a mini robot to deliver the necessary supplies to the crew, etc.

5. Testing

A teacher goes from one group to another asking questions about the prototypes so as to make sure the solutions are functional and effective. During this stage, students will often identify defects of the proposed solution, which enables them to fix and improve the prototype

6. Presentation of the solution

The task of each team is to present their solution in an interesting, clear and engaging manner. This is the final stage that allows students to develop presentation and convincing communication skills, as well as the ability to present content in front of a larger audience.

International School students, future innovators, creative minds and problem solvers

By encouraging them to be emphatic and to solve problems independently, and innovatively, we help students to grow into curious, self-confident and creative adults who will use their knowledge and skills for the benefit of mankind and our planet.

Design Thinking and Problem Solving concepts implemented at International School allow students to develop all their talents in a stimulating and encouraging environment, and to use their full potential.

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