The new project based learning framework (see here) released in March by High Quality Project Based Learning (HQPBL) provides an all inclusive framework to assist teachers in delivering effective project based learning. One of the elements provided in the framework that has rarely featured in previous criteria is ‘project management’. We love that this has been included as it is vital to ensure students are taught how to execute a project successfully. A common project management tool that is used in some of the largest companies in the world as well as here at UTS is design thinking. What’s it all about you ask? Here’s the breakdown…

Process of Design Thinking including empathise, design, ideate, prototype and test.
Design Thinking Process. Image from Stanford d. school

Design thinking is a human centered way to design solutions to real world problems. Elements include:

  • Empathy:  This is super important and often missed in older project management styles. It involves immersing ones self with the target group to engage, observe and empathise with them in the area of concern. It might involve surveys, interviews, observations etc. The purpose is to gain a real understanding of the end user of your product to ensure your project meets their needs. This stage takes time as it forms the basis of the entire project. e.g you want to develop a new drink for teenagers – but what do teens actually want or need in a drink?
  • Define: In this stage you pull together all the information from the first stage. After analysing all the information it can be synthesised into core problems faced by your end user. A problem statement or driving question can then be created using human centered language
  • Ideate:  Hooray ! The main problems have been identified and now it’s time to use some different strategies to identify meaningful and even ‘out of the box’ solutions to your problem.
  • Prototype:  The design team now prototype a number of scaled down versions of possible products. This is experimental and it’s likely that some work will be altered, changed or thrown in the bin while the best solutions are realised. Throughout this stage you are learning more about the problems at hand and best solutions.
  • Test: the best solutions are rigorously tested to move toward the final product. Often the outcome will require the team to go back a few steps and possibly redefine or ideate new or altered solutions.

Keep in mind that often we will step through this process, step back, step forward or start it all over again!

Want to learn more? Our free 2 day Project Design Workshop in June will be focusing on using design thinking to create project based learning programs for high school students. For more info contact Lisa Aitken at


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