Design Thinking Efforts

Research Space for Design Thinking Practices

The Center for High Impact Practices (CHIP) and the College of Continuing Education and Professional Development (CoCEPD) are partnering to provide ODU students and community partners with a cutting-edge agile learning space to intentionally ideate and create new knowledge to solve complex, ill-structured, real-world problems of today and the future.

Unlike the Entrepreneurial Innovation and Strome Entrepreneurial Center’s mission for economic growth through startups and development of a culture of entrepreneurship, SPARK will facilitate a learning experience through the principles of design thinking.  

Why is this approach to thinking important for our students and future scholars?  The answer is that we are currently educating students for jobs that do not yet exist to use technologies that have not been invented in order to solve problems we do not even know are problems yet.  Now that we have your attention...

Design Thinking is a formal method for practical, creative resolution of problems and creation of solutions, with the intent of an improved future result. In this regard, it is a form of solution-based, or solution-focused thinking – starting with a goal (a better future situation) instead of solving a specific problem. By considering both present and future conditions and parameters of the problem, alternative solutions may be explored simultaneously. This approach differs from the analytical scientific method, which begins by thoroughly defining all parameters of a problem to create a solution. Design thinking identifies and investigates with known and ambiguous aspects of the current situation to discover hidden parameters and open alternative paths that may lead to the goal. Because design thinking is iterative, intermediate "solutions" are also potential starting points of alternative paths, including redefining of the initial problem.

Design thinking employs divergent thinking as a way to ensure that many possible solutions are explored in the first instance, and then convergent thinking as a way to narrow these down to a final solution. Divergent thinking is the ability to offer different, unique or variant ideas adherent to one theme while convergent thinking is the ability to find the "correct" solution to the given problem. Design thinking encourages divergent thinking to ideate many solutions (possible or impossible) and then uses convergent thinking to prefer and realize the best resolution.

Response to Current Needs

Design thinking has been suggested for use in schools in a variety of curricular ways as well as for redesigning student spaces and school systems. Design thinking in education typically takes three forms:

  1. helping school administrators solve institution-based problems;

  2. aiding educators develop more creative lesson plans/curriculum;

  3. promoting design thinking skills in students.

Design thinking as a viable curricular and systemic reform program is increasingly being recognized by educators. Much of today's education system guides students toward finding the correct answers to fill-in-the blanks on standardized tests, as this kind of instruction facilitates streamlined assessments to measure success or failure.  It is critical that, particularly in under-served schools this model of learning does not continue to prevail. Students need both the skills and the tools to participate in a society where problems are increasingly complex and nuanced understandings are vital.

S  olving   P  roblems that   A  dvance   R  esearch through   K  nowledge creation

Solving Problems that Advance Research through Knowledge creation


ODU is using the Design Thinking Paradigm to problem solve how we can make the Student Experience better to ensure academic success and increase graduation rates. The Design Thinking Challenge is an approach where the Center for High Impact Practices (CHIP) and Student Engagement Services are collaborating to identify high impact services that will be deployed in the Fall 2017 Semester. The process is documented through the following videos. The first video depicts our initial meeting where we are using the empathy element to identify services that students value.


SPARK Use Summary:

SPARK provides a flexible space for CHIP and CoCEPD to facilitate design thinking principles and practices allowing use by faculty, student, staff and community collaboration across all disciplines. There is an immediate need for:

  • Faculty development learning space for the facilitation of more formal training such as ePortfolio, OER, Design Thinking, Technology in the Classroom, Competency Based Education and Integrative Learning curriculum and course design in support of high impact practices;

  • A formal and flexible learning space to engage with local community partners to implement design thinking authentic problems in order to find new and unchartered solution pathways;

  • An informal learning space for faculty and undergraduate research to use the design thinking process to gain insights and innovative solutions;

  • A formal and informal space for staff to create solutions that directly impact student success in the classroom;

  • A common and flexible space for faculty and faculty/student collaboration on grant writing;

  • A common and flexible space for faculty to work together to integrate courses;

  • A space for learning community faculty and students to collaborate and share knowledge;

  • A training space to promote etiquette, ethics and professionalism for students participating in internships, conferences, international travel, and undergraduate research;

  • A space to accommodate supplemental instruction sessions for high DFWI courses;

  • A learning space for Upward Bound students to focus on competency based instruction in math and to develop their e-Portfolios;

  • A learning lab space for science faculty to work on projects that focus on design thinking;

  • A learning space for faculty to collaborate with K-12 science students and teachers that facilitate STEM partnerships.