Pathways to Design Thinking is a one-credit, interdisciplinary course that the Elon Center for Design Thinking offers during the three-week January term. Students learn the design thinking process by completing two projects. An individual design challenge encourages each student to assess an area of their life that could be improved, execute each stage of the design thinking process, and reflect on how design thinking helped them address their challenge. The second project pairs three to five students with a client who has a real-world issue that can be addressed with design thinking. At the end of the class, the student team leads the client and other project stakeholders through a customized workshop to help them through the five steps of the design thinking process.
In 2024, the director of the center was leading a study away program for January term but still wanted to offer the class. I stepped in as the teaching assistant and led the class, with the help of three student employees who mentored the teams. We created customized workshops for Elon University's HealthEU initiative, the town of Elon's committee on diversity and belonging, and an Elon faculty member who is setting up a new research lab.
The course materials were already created and most of the class sessions were opportunities for collaboration. I did a bit of direct instruction but primarily got to facilitate and observe the students as they engaged in the group project. I was especially excited to work with our three student employees as they mentored their teams and improved their leadership skills. They were already experts in design thinking and now they have experience using their expertise to lead a team and collaborate with a client.