DESIGN THINKING IN HIGHER EDUCATION: A SCOPING REVIEW
Design Thinking is trendy in engineering and management educational settings. Some researchers link Design Thinking to the 21st century skills which are highly demanded by industry. This demand challenges Higher Education to innovate their curriculum design. However, some authors have claimed the lack of consensus in Design Thinking definition, implementation and robust evidence-based results on students. Thus, in this paper we set the following research questions:
1) What are the characteristics and dimensions of Design Thinking?;
2) What skills have been assessed on undergraduate or graduate students as a result of a Design Thinking intervention?;
3) What assessment instruments have been used in those studies?;
4) What have been the results?;
5) What is the research design applied?;
6) What are the characteristics of those interventions?;
7) What are the proposed ways to operationalize Design Thinking?
There is no recent literature review about Design Thinking in engineering and management Higher Education. The purpose of this work is to bring a state-of-the-art of this topic, answering the proposed research questions. A scoping review was carried out building on the literature from the last 10 years as indexed in the ‘Web of Science’ database, using Arksey and O'Malley's (2005) five-stage framework. The process of article selection followed the Preferred Reporting of Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) Statement (Moher et al., 2009). An initial search resulted in 1181 articles. After applying inclusion and exclusion criteria, 79 studies were finally selected to be analyzed.
The results show that:
(1) There is no agreement for a clear definition of Design Thinking since it has been defined as a discipline, process, method, way of thinking, new paradigm, among others, for problem solving; nevertheless, there are two main ways of depicting Design Thinking:
i) practitioner descriptions of Design Thinking by focusing on a specific definition or dimension and
ii) Design Thinking in light of design theory (Carlgren et al., 2016).
(2) Only 20 studies out of 79 assess the impact on students as a result of an intervention. It was found around 20 skills, 7 learning outcomes and 5 attitudes which, to some extent, were assessed. The top-mentioned are teamwork, creativity, problem solving or problem framing.
(3) The most used measurement instruments are reflection journals and questionnaires, collecting self-perceptions or anecdotal experiences;
(4) Generally speaking, the results of those studies are positive in terms of good experiences reported by students;
(5) 40% of the studies used pre-test and post-test, while 20% included a control group.
(6) Another evidence of lack of consensus is the time of exposition to Design Thinking, it ranges from 2 days to a year, and the number of participants is 40 on average, the field of the participants are mainly engineering.
(7) Overall, some authors present ways to operationalize Design Thinking such as analogies, reflection, physical models, storytelling, among others.
Though Design Thinking is presenting as a promising agenda for curriculum design attaining new goals for education, the results stress the need for more empirical robust arguments and evidence-based assessment because most of the research is still based on anecdotal testimonies; otherwise it could become just another fad. The paper provides avenues for future research.