About Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a creative thinking process and an approach to empathising, learning, collaborating, creating and problem solving. 

It is a structured process that supports educators, children and young people (as well as designers and inventors) to:​

  • Identify a problem or challenge

  • Take forward a supported inquiry based approach

  • Foster empathy through which research and information is gathered

  • Think laterally (the ability to use your imagination to look at a problem in a fresh way and come up with a new solution) to inspire ideas generation and find possible solutions

  • Encourage reflection, refining and testing before a final solution is found

  • Develop key aptitudes and skills beneficial in life, learning and work such as adaptability, social awareness and empathy as well as the 5 C’s: curiosity, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication

  • Learn to learn – helps develop aptitudes such as curiosity, reflection and resilience that enable children to learn to learn


Learning to learn engages learners to build on prior learning and life experiences in order to use and apply knowledge and skills in a variety of contexts

European parliament 2006

The Design Thinking process can be used by everyone

The Design Thinking process can be used by everyone. In Stirling we have used Design Thinking as part of Maker Space projects and project based learning successfully with children in Early Years, Primary and Secondary Schools.  

Design Thinking can be used to support an activity, topic and project based learning. It can support  development of the curriculum and problem solving with a class or school team. 

The Design Thinking process promotes empathy and equity, helping enable everyone’s voice to be heard, skills to be recognised and ideas to be taken on board. It promotes collaborative research enabling teachers to facilitate learning and learn alongside students, removing the need for ‘teacher as expert’, instead becoming a guide and resource.

Teachers and students can all benefit when this mindset and pedagogy is applied to learning and teaching.  

"Creativity can be thought of as the colour that brings Curriculum for Excellence to life. The 5C’s – curiosity, collaboration, creativity, cooperation and communication - run throughout the four capacities and are integral to the meta skills which are increasingly important in today’s workplace". 'What are Creativity Skills' Education Scotland.

The World Economic Forum states that in 2020, creativity is the third most needed skill, with the associated skills, complex problem solving and critical thinking, filling the top two spots. Creativity is the skill of the future.

There are many excellent resources promoting Design Thinking in Education that are shared on our links and resources page.

The stages and definitions of the Design Thinking process 


The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.


A careful and detailed study into a specific problem, concern or issue.


To form an idea of a particular thing.


To think deeply or carefully about something. To think critically.



Creativity can be thought of as the colour that brings Curriculum for Excellence

to life

education Scotland

The first, original, or typical form of something. A prototype is a simple model or drawing that lets you test out your idea, reflect and think critically about. You can also share your prototype with other people so they can do the same. It allows you to make improvements to your idea before designing your final solution. You can create one or many prototypes.  

Definitions of the 5C's 


The use of imagination or original ideas to create something new.


The action of working with someone to produce something.

Critical Thinking

The ability to evaluate information. To think critically about an issue or a problem means to be open-minded and consider alternative ways of looking at solutions.


The process of passing information and understanding from one person / being to another. Communication is not only a human activity, animals communicate too.


An eagerness to explore, discover and figure things out. A desire to learn. An interest leading to inquiry.


develop the 5Cs-

key aptitudes and skills beneficial in life, learning and work