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  • Writer's pictureallisonjolester

Top 5 Design Thinking Tools for Practitioner Researchers: Unleashing Your Inner Creative



Hello, all you creative classroom curators! Today, I’m taking you on a field trip to the vibrant landscape of design thinking tools. It's time to stash away the textbooks and bring out our metaphorical toolboxes. And don't worry, you won't need a hard hat for this one!

Ready to revolutionize your research with some design thinking sparkle? Buckle up, buttercups, because here come my top five tools to empower your inner creative genius.


1. Empathy Maps: Your Passport to Learner's Perspectives

Empathy Maps are the psychic superheroes of design thinking. They allow us to crawl into the minds of our students, without the awkwardness of actual mind-reading. Here’s how to get mapping:

  • Draw a large square and divide it into four quadrants. Label them 'Seeing', 'Thinking', 'Feeling', and 'Doing'.

  • Center a circle for your student persona.

  • Fill each quadrant with your observations or student feedback. What are they seeing, thinking, feeling, and doing in your learning environment?

Voila! You've just created an empathy map! And you didn't even need a fancy geography degree.


2. Ideation Sessions: Brainstorming's Cooler Cousin

Ideation is like throwing a party for your brain where all ideas, big or small, ridiculous or revolutionary, are invited. Here's the magic recipe:

  • Choose a question or challenge related to your research.

  • Set a time limit, say 10 minutes.

  • Now brainstorm as many ideas as possible. Remember, no idea is too wild!

Just let your brain off the leash and watch the creative chaos unfold. And remember, there's no 'I' in 'ideation'... oh, wait…


3. Rapid Prototyping: For the Quick and Curious

Who needs months of meticulous planning when you can have rapid prototypes? It’s like speed dating, but with ideas.

  • Choose one concept from your ideation session.

  • Create a quick, simple version of your idea. Sketch it, craft it, or even act it out.

  • Test it and seek feedback.

Remember, the goal isn’t perfection, it's progress. So, put that obsessive attention to detail on the back burner and let's get messy!


4. Journey Mapping: The Yellow Brick Road of Learning

Journey Mapping is your chance to walk a mile (or lesson) in your students’ shoes.

  • Identify the different stages of your lesson or day.

  • Now, plot your students' emotions, engagement, and learning at each stage.

  • Look for peaks and valleys to understand when students are most engaged or disconnected.

Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single map… or something like that.


5. The 'How Might We...?' Method: The Question that Sparks Innovation

With this simple question, you can transform problems into opportunities. Facing a challenge? Flip it into a 'How might we...?' question.


Struggling with student engagement? Instead of sighing over disinterested students, ask, "How might we make our lessons more engaging?" Now you've switched from problem-mode to solution-mode.



So, there you have it! Five design thinking tools to jazz up your research process, add some pizzazz to problem-solving, and generally make you feel like a practitioner research rockstar.


Remember, design thinking isn’t a one-size-fits-all pair of jeans, it’s more like a stretchy, glittery, ridiculously comfortable jumpsuit. So, try these tools on for size, adapt them, remix them, and strut your stuff down the runway of research. Let’s get designing!

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