Design Thinking in Education – HEAD Program

The teaching materials on this homepage were prepared in the project “Facilitating the development of students’ abilities in public education” (reg. no. EFOP 3.2.6–16–2016–00001), which aims at providing conditions for experience-based learning with the help of arts.

The project is part of the Széchenyi 2000 program.

This homepage offers a description of elements of project-based teaching methodology and also a selection of teaching materials, which rely on the methods connected to design thinking to achieve experience-based teaching and learning with multidisciplinary approach.

The following elements were created as pedagogical developments in the course of the EFOP 3.2.6–16–2016–00001 project: (1) a new pedagogical program for HEAD methodology; (2) a teacher training course; (3) teaching material package including teacher’s book and game collection; (4) the description of best practices used in schools.

70 teachers from 33 Hungarian schools participated in the development program.

What is the essence of the HEAD pedagogical program?

HEAD is an abbreviation for the Hungarian equivalent of ‘holistic, cooperation-based, design’ program for education and teaching, which focuses on the development of thinking.

The students develop their own knowledge in a cooperative active learning process, which matches everyday challenges and follows the principles of the active learning approach. This approach, which is based on the ‘learning by doing’ principle, is a type of problem-based learning. The focus of the development process is a problem to be solved in cooperation with the peers, by alternating divergent and convergent phases of thinking.

Which age group is the target of this program?

The program is aimed at students who are more than 10-12 years old. Cooperative problem solving requires long term intensive concentration and high level thinking processes such as the alteration of analysis and synthesis and of divergent and convergent thinking. Additionally, students must be able to abstract and visualize, and they should be empathetic and assertive enough.

How is problem-based learning defined in this program?

In fact, problem-based learning is not only the practice of already existing knowledge during problem solving. A well-defined problem facilitates learning and enhances learning motivation at the beginning of the process. While defining the problem, existing knowledge is activated. In order to come up with a number of possible solutions, information is to be collected. The possible ideas are tested, the problem is narrowed down and in this process analyzing, summarizing and decision making play an important role.

One of the main objectives of the HEAD program is to develop problem solving skills, which is achieved with the help of visuality and materiality. Problem solving requires analytic thinking, including the understanding of the problem, its analysis from several aspects in order to arrive at a decision that is well-grounded and is sure to be successful.

As the complexity of problem-solving in real life requires an interdisciplinary approach, the program aims at coordination of different school subjects. The problems in the focus of learning have no “good” solution. However, the different interpretations of the given problem help to find various ways of solving the problem, which is also supported by the specific contents of the different scientific fields.

What is the relationship between problem solving and creativity?

Thinking directed by problem-solving is the creative way to solutions. If problem-solving is in the center of attention, the problem itself does not cause a conflict or is considered to be a difficult situation, but it is a challenging setup. The creative process of solving the problem and the accompanying critical thinking is both an active and an interactive process with several feedback loops. We create possible solutions for the given problem; we collect information in order to find possible solutions; collected information induces new ideas to be tested; the test results help us narrow down the problem; we might face new problems; and the solution of these new problems might be integrated in the final solution of the original problem.

This way of looking at problems can be learned, i.e. everybody can be creative if they are not constrained. Therefore, the school must provide a learning environment which offers the possibility of thinking, which is open to all ideas, as ideas are only discarded after serious consideration, where a faulty idea is not the sign of bad performance but a necessary step in learning.

What is the role of artistic education in the program?

It has been a long time since activity-centered progressive methodologies focused on the development of skills realized that creativity connected to artistic education can develop personality in a complex manner, and explored what positive effects the development process has on learning owing to transfer effect. As a consequence, this program focuses on the relationship between science and art that is manifested in the creative process, in which design through the interpretation of design thinking creates an environment for learning with the help of art.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a problem solving process, which has well-defined steps in order that the most optimal and most innovative solution should be found to the given problem. This process is always based on the cooperation of the group interested in solving the problem. Furthermore, visual methods are widely used to depict and test ideas and finally to solve the problem.

How can design facilitate learning?

The word ‘design’ is used in a broad sense here: it actually means planning itself. I.e. by ‘design’ we do not only mean the designing of objects, but we interpret it as the product connected to the problem selected for learning. The result of design thinking might be a process, an activity, a program, a system, an environment or an object. While this product is created, there is an endless number of opportunities to learn through the arising ideas and the process of problem solving (gathering information, experiences, consideration, decision making). It is a crucial step in the process to define the original problem, which defines the learning process – this ensures that the strategy of problem solving could serve as a device for learning. If the original problem is defined adequately and exactly, and the teachers/facilitators follow the problem solving process consciously and cautiously, the method works as a self-regulating learning process.

What are the aims of teacher training?

The primary aim of the program is the presentation of new, practice oriented methodology, which is based on design thinking during learning in order to achieve complex problem solving and the development of creativity. The program, which follows activity-based pedagogy, also wants to present what active answers students can give during cooperation to solve a given problem, while they also broaden and deepen their own knowledge. This project also presents how visuality facilitates analytic thinking and successful decision making. The participants are prepared to learn the process of problem solving centered methodology, which ensures the fulfillment of integrative aims and objectives of certain school subjects.

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