Applying Design Thinking to Curriculum Reform

Design thinking in a Medical curriculum
An example of the possibilities and results of the student involvement in curriculum design can be found in the Brief to the editor in Academic Medicine, Vol. 92, No. 4 / April 2017 from two Third-year students Jordan Anderson  and Christopher F. Calahan and their professor Holly Gooding, MD, MSc of the Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

The involvement of the students was focused on the application of Design Thinking. Design thinking receives more and more attention in  course and curriculum design in higher education.

What is meant by Design thinking?
A description of design thinking is for example given by Rikke Friis Dam Teo Yu Siang in their website article '5 stages in the design thinking process'.
“In essence, the Design Thinking process is iterative, flexible and focused on collaboration between designers and users, with an empasis on bringing ideas to life based on how real users think, feel and behave. Design thinking tackles complex problem by:

  1. Empathising: Understanding the human needs involved.
  2. Defining: Re-framing and defining the problem in human-centric ways.
  3. Ideating: Creating many ideas in ideation sessions.
  4. Prototyping: Adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping.
  5. Testing: Developing a prototype/solution to the problem. “

In their article Dam and Siang  gives a description of these five steps

Review and Feed-back from the students
Anderson,  Calahan and Gooding formulated in their letter to the editor:
‘Applying this approach to medical education, design thinking in curriculum reform would engage students, as end users, in the coproduction of learner-centered education.’

The faculty and the student leaders have developed a model for the involvement of the students. This has resulted in:

 ‘Within this model, faculty are able to consult students for a variety of purposes, including structured review of course materials, one-time meetings to discuss proposed activities, and even working longitudinally to cocreate teaching sessions. In one instance, students were able to provide constructive feedback on their experience using online video instruction to improve the quality of teaching materials.
Participating faculty have modified courses based on student feedback, and students have noted an appreciation for being involved in the process. Amidst the many changes in curriculum reform, engaging the perspective of the learner enables exciting innovations designed with the student in mind.’

More information about Design thinking
More information on Design Thinking can be found in the article: Why Design Thinking Should Matter to Higher Education, Part I, Sweet, Blythe and Carpenter, 21 March 2017. DOI: 10.1002/ntlf.30108. The National Teaching and Learning Forum.