Thursday 29 Sep, 2016

Using Design Thinking to Explore the Universality of Human Rights

Dr. David Bosso is the 2012 Connecticut Teacher of the Year and 2012 National Secondary Social Studies Teacher of the Year. Over the course of his teaching career, Bosso has traveled to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe as part of educational delegations for global understanding. He currently serves as President of the Connecticut Teacher of the Year Council and the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies, and he was a 2014 fellow at the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes. 

dr-david-bossoRecently, we sat down with Dr. David Bosso, to talk through teaching techniques and hear how he has started to integrate Design Thinking – a problem solving technique developed at the Stanford D-school that couples design methodologies with empathy and investigation skills – into his classroom. This multi-step process, Dr. Bosso explains, is essentially “a collaborative process students can use to brainstorm solutions to real-world problems.” Download Dr. David Bosso’s complete lesson plan here.

Throughout his career, he has traveled extensively, aiming to bring different global perspectives into his classroom with each trip. It was on one of these trips, an EF Professional Learning Tour to Davos, Switzerland, that Dr. Bosso first encountered Design Thinking, and explored how mindsets like this could be brought to lessons to encourage creative collaboration among students.

The concept of design thinking is often associated with the corporate world, and companies like Google and Apple, where it is applied to quickly conceptualize, test and evolve new products. Design thinking walks innovators through six steps on their quest to identify and solve for issues: identifying one specific issue, empathizing with individual users to gain insight into how they react to that issue and using that insight to define a user-centered problem statement, ideating rapidly and collaboratively on potential solutions to that problem statement, prototyping the best of those ideas, and lastly, evolving that prototype by testing it on users, gathering additional insights and observations, and responding accordingly.

However as Dr. Bosso illustrates in his lesson plan, it can be adapted to nearly any situation whether you’re a professional designer or a high school student. As a social studies teacher, Bosso was inclined to use design thinking in his classroom because of how closely the design concepts inherent within it align with inquiry-based learning, a key component in Connecticut Social Studies Frameworks. As outlined in the state curriculum, there are four dimensions of Inquiry: developing and planning questions, applying concepts and tools, using evidence to evaluate sources, and communicating conclusions to take informed action. Inquiry-based learning is designed to shift the focus from what students should know to what students should be able to do, arming students with the creative thinking skills needed to tackle a vast range of ever-evolving and oftentimes ambiguous real-world problems. Rather than learning for the sake of a test, says Bosso, the end goal is to give students the skills needed to adapt classroom lessons to real life scenarios.

“What I found is that when the kids are the ones asking the questions, they want to find the answer to those questions that much more. It’s that much more meaningful to them,” said Dr. Bosso when asked if he saw increased engagement in his classroom when design thinking was introduced. Putting the direction of the lesson in the hand of the students ignites an inherent curiosity.

As a social studies teacher Dr. Bosso noted that it can often be difficult to incorporate hands-on activities into his lesson plans, as so much of the day-to-day work relies on documents and databases. His adaptation of the design thinking process manages to build off of these traditional resources, while allowing his students to “unleash their creativity” in a way that they don’t regularly experience in a social studies classroom.

For Bosso’s complete lesson plan on “Using Design Thinking to Explore the Universality of Human Rights,” click here.