BY: Amin Matni

Assessing Design Thinking through the Activation of a Social Challenge in Higher Education

Abstract

This thesis is an inquiry that documents, identifies and assesses the effectiveness, circumstances, and potential resources related to addressing the gap between social needs and higher education as stated in the National Development Strategy 2011-2016. The aim of the thesis is to evaluate the response of the students on the collaborative, human-centered, result-oriented aspects of design thinking while addressing the eating experience topic, an articulated theme from the wicked problem of obesity. The eating experience theme provided students from design, business and engineering majors a contextualized topic to test design thinking in a series of workshops conducted in three different universities.

Quantitative research methods were used to test the students’ feedback on design thinking, map their reactions during the process and rate the workshops. The later served as a recruitment channel to bring interested students from design, business and engineering majors in a last workshop. Participants develop one of the previously generated seed concepts and reflect on the multi-disciplinary experience. Results have shown that students successfully articulated the method, focused on the user-needs, collaborated with each other and generated tangible seed concepts to address the social topic. The interior design students assessed the method with an average rating. They were the least comfortable with the ambiguity level of the topic and with the user-centered approach of design thinking. Whereas the engineering and business students rated the method with high scores and were comfortable in the workshops. Furthermore, 22% of the students involved in the study were interested to enroll in the last multi-disciplinary workshop yet 5% participated due to their workload and the lack of incentives. In conclusion, the inquiry engaged students in a transformative academic experience that impacted their cognitive and ethical capacity. It also revealed new opportunities that can bridge the gap between higher education and social needs.

Download thesis submission