PhD in Design Thinking

I’m a Human-Centred Design (HCD) focused workshop facilitator since 2012.

I completed my PhD at Queensland University of Technology, Australia, in 2021. My PhD research focused on deepening the understanding of design thinking pedagogy in higher education worldwide, with significant findings. This doctoral thesis adopted a phenomenographic approach to study the qualitatively different ways in which educators experience design thinking teaching in higher education at a global level. The study found four qualitatively different ways of experiencing design thinking teaching in the higher education context, and extends design thinking teaching practice to a more holistic structural understanding of design thinking pedagogy. I received two scholarships for my doctoral study – the Australian Government Research Training Program Stipend International (RTPSI) (changing from QUTPRA) and QUT HDR Tuition Fee scholarship.

Let me briefly tell you about my research.  

“Design thinking pedagogy: A phenomenographic study of design thinking teaching in the higher education context”

“Historically, design thinking has been embedded in the design fields; however, in the first decade of the 21st century, it emerged as a widespread phenomenon due to its perceived contribution to economic growth and social benefit. This popularity was due to increasing interest in non-design domains regarding problem-solving, creativity, and innovation. Consequently, diverse disciplines in higher education started teaching and facilitating design thinking. Despite this expanding application, research has revealed a problematic lack of empirical evidence about how design thinking is delivered, learned, and taught. The literature attributes this lack to several factors, including unexplored pedagogical foundations and minimal consensus around the definition of the term leading to the absence of a common language enabling translation across disciplines.”

“This doctoral study acknowledges the plurality of meaning and responds to the lack of research about design thinking teaching from a transdisciplinary perspective by utilising a phenomenographic approach to explore design thinking pedagogy in the higher education context. Phenomenographically, the term ‘design thinking pedagogy’ invites exploration of the various ways in which educators’ awareness of the learning and teaching situations are structured. Thus, the research question is: What are the qualitatively different ways in which educators experience design thinking teaching in the higher education context? Here, the use of the term ‘experience’ recognises the relational nature of teaching, and associated with this, that a way of experiencing design thinking teaching can be described in terms of simultaneous awareness of particular aspects of a phenomenon in a particular situation. Further, such experiences can vary, and this variation is structurally differently due to a focus on various parts of the phenomenon.”

Interviews with 20 educators from around the world, @GnanaharshaB determined four qualitatively different ways of experiencing design thinking teaching in the higher education context.

  • Category-A: Design thinking teaching experienced as fostering in students the development of critical capability directed towards their designing in the context of design practice.
  • Category-B: Design thinking teaching experienced as enabling the development of potential to effect social change through design and empowering students to develop self-efficacy.
  • Category-C: Design thinking teaching experienced as enabling students to develop their ‘design capability’ through engagement in a real-world context with real-world issues.
  • Category-D: Design thinking teaching experienced as helping students to develop transferable creative skills and providing students with a ‘flavour’ of designing.
In phenomenographic research, this is called ‘outcome space’.

“The study’s findings are represented by an outcome space that shows the inter-relationship between the categories and the expansion in each category’s object of focal awareness. From Category-A to -D, the focusses are: design praxis, critical capability to effect social change, professional design capability, and creative confidence and ability. The study further elaborates the findings with three dimensions of variation of the categories: design thinking, design thinking subject content, and student learning.”

“As significant, broader outcomes of this research, the findings expand understanding of educators’ varied experiences of design thinking teaching in design and non-design disciplines in higher education; they extend the previously limited focus on design thinking teaching practice to a more holistic structural understanding of design thinking pedagogy. Thus, the study contributes the evidence base for a common conceptual framework that will facilitate communication among researchers, educators, and practitioners to support the development of more effective design thinking curricula, learning, and teaching within and across disciplines.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s