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  • School of Education
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  • Stanford, CA 94305-3096

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is an orientation to learning that that encompasses active problem solving and marshalling one’s ability to create impactful change. It builds on the development of creative confidence that is both resilient and highly optimistic.

Why is Design Thinking Critical to 21st Century Learning?

According to The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the central economic competitiveness issue for the Obama administration is to create an aligned, 21st century public education system that prepares students, workers and citizens to triumph in the global skills race. A focus on innovation, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration is essential to prepare students for the future. Design thinking can help us imagine new possibilities for learning that will change the lives of both teachers and students in powerful ways as we confront the challenges and possibilities of teaching and learning in the 21st century.

Design thinking focuses on needfinding, challenging assumptions, generating a range of possibilities, and learning through targeted stages of iterative prototyping. A key component of the process is fostering the ability to not only solve problems, but to define problems. This seemingly subtle shift can energize one towards empathetic action.

"Design thinking is basically a methodology that allows people to have confidence in their creative ability."

- David Kelley, founder of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design ( in Public School Insights


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