11: Human-Centered Design (HCD)





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  • What is Human-Centered Design? design process + empathy
  • The Design Process Phases:
    • Inspiration: How do I ask questions and stay human-centered? What key constraints can I use to set benchmarks and objectives? How can I balance concrete constraints while staying open to exploration? What research studies can I conduct to identify what my clients truly need?
    • Ideation: How to I interpret what I’ve learned in order to develop concrete ideas and prototypes? How can I keep my mind open to generate many ideas?  How can I evaluate ideas to determine best solutions?
    • Implementation: How can I develop sustainable solutions?  How can I assess whether or not solutions are working? How can I use prototypes to reveal unforeseen consequences and constraints?
  • Design Process Implementation:
    • Phases often overlap
    • Cycling between convergent and divergent thinking is normal
    • Find solutions that relate to needs of community
    • Postive deviance – use positive outliners for inspiration
    • Do not forget to consider distribution systems while designing sustainable solutions
  • Mindsets of a Human-Centered Designer:
    • Learn from failure
    • Make it – tangibility is good
    • Creative confidence – everyone has ideas and the power to implement them
    • Empathy – clients are roadmaps to innovative solutions
    • Embrace ambiguity – not knowing creates opportunities to explore
    • Be optimistic – the solution exists
    • Iterate often – use feedback to revise often



Human-centered design (HCD) is an approach that can be used to develop projects that engage students AND teach content & 21st Century skills.  This approach is also a problem solving model that can be scaffolded for students to develop better products.  The HCD phases can be used to organize projects into phases – especially projects aimed at designing products for specific clients.  The mindsets of a human-centered designer can be cultivated within teachers and students in order to make them better problem solvers.

Preparation Steps
  • HCD Applied to Designing & Implementing Projects:
    • Use multiple data sources to identify needs of students
    • Use needs of students to develop criteria/constraints for evaluation of project design
    • Design assessments based on student needs for assessing success of project activities
    • Develop ideas based on constraints for scaffolding content and 21st century skills
  • HCD Applied to Developing Project Scaffolding:
    • Develop scaffolding ideas and empathy by going through HCD cycle first – can apply it to designing and implementing a project
    • Research methods for teaching phases of HCD process.  See Design Process articles for ideas.
    • Develop activities and tools that scaffold student application of HCD phases.  See Design Process articles for ideas.
    • Design activities and tools that focus on HCD mindset(s) that will be honed and applied in upcoming project
    • Develop assessments for determining whether or not students are successfully learning content and applying HCD steps
Early Implementation Steps
  • HCD Applied to Designing & Implementing Projects:
    • Implement project and use assessments and constraints to measure success of project and make adjustments as needed
    • Use student input throughout the project to assess project effectiveness and to fine tune project
  • HCD Applied to Developing Project Scaffolding:
    • Implement scaffolding tools and activities that guide students to apply HCD processes
    • Use assessments to determine if HCD is helping students develop better understandings and better products
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • HCD Applied to Designing & Implementing Projects:
    • Uses experiences from implementing HCD to design scaffolding that helps students apply HCD
    • Reuse effective HCD practices to design other projects
  • HCD Applied to Developing Project Scaffolding:
    • Use student input to refine HCD tools and processes
    • Use programs such as Ignite by DiscoverSTEAM to connect students with corporate clients to make HCD applications more relevant
    • Develop routines that give students opportunities to deliberately practice HCD steps

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