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When design thinking goes to school: A literature review of design competences for the K-12 level


School can nurture critical thinkers, creative individuals, and skilled collaborators and communicators, who are curious about and invested in society. Design thinking is a promising educational approach because it builds on the notion that students learn by tackling problems in the world. However, implementing this approach in a school setting is not straightforward. Our paper synthesizes the findings from the literature on design thinking in the K-12 school context. We explore what competences students apply and develop in the design process and how these competences are described in the literature. Then, we link the discovered competences to the pedagogical context by comparing them with phases of inquiry developed by educational thinker John Dewey. This paper’s main contribution is a conceptualization of competences and their relations, which we in closing summarize in our Design Competence Framework. This model can encourage teachers and researchers alike to be attentive to these competences and to assess them.

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This research was supported by Grants from Aalborg University and Innovation Fund Denmark.

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Rusmann, A., Ejsing-Duun, S. When design thinking goes to school: A literature review of design competences for the K-12 level. Int J Technol Des Educ (2021).

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  • Design thinking
  • Competences
  • Inquiry
  • K-12