Research has questioned the ability of our educational systems to prepare students for the increasingly uncertain and complex nature of the modern world. The need to rapidly predict trends, and find solutions to complex problems has increased the importance of empathy, creativity, cognitive flexibility and critical thinking in the workplace. In order to prepare students for the challenges they will face, fostering these 21st-century skills should be essential goals for educators. In this presentation, we look at how these skills can be developed in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classroom through group-projects based on Design Thinking (DT). DT is an approach that focuses on designing solutions based on an empathetic understanding of end-users. In theory at least, DT courses provide dynamic activities that engage creative and critical thinking skills and help students develop the empathy and cognitive flexibility to help them succeed in the modern working environment. In order to critically analyse the potential for DT as a framework for structuring language lessons we will describe a DT-based EFL course in a Japanese university. The course consists of two types of lessons: 1) group activities and projects based on DT that stimulate student creativity; and, 2) an academic writing component using the creativity input as a basis for reflection and analysis. Attendees at the presentation will leave with theoretical insights into the impact of DT on student engagement and practical suggestions for implementing DT in language lessons.
Neil Cowie, Okayama University, Japan
Tim Cleminson, Kawasaki University of Medical Welfare, Japan
Stream: Design for learning
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