apply design thinking mindsets to the curriculum

The mission of the Design Thinking Initiative is to incorporate design thinking into liberal arts education and to facilitate ongoing dialogue about the role design plays in shaping the human experience. In support of this mission several curriculum enhancement grants are being offered in four categories: Bridging Divides; Methods and Mindsets; Experimental Learning Spaces; Remix the Curriculum.

Collaborating across the disciplinary divisions.

Example: Two (or more) courses from different divisions working together on a common design project.

Existing courses are transformed by incorporating design thinking:

Mindsets—collaboration, human-centeredness, and experimentation;

Methods—redefining problems through empathy with stakeholders, iterative prototyping and testing.

Example: An Anthropology course that uses prototyping or making to expand its methodological approach.

Example: Support for a design/build special studies with two or more students from multiple disciplines.

Propose small but effective changes in supplies and materials that could transform how you use an existing learning space.

Propose a creative and mindful use of the Capen Annex classroom or prototyping studio.

Example: A plan to build a prototyping cart for Japanese language courses that allows students to create artifacts as they learn key concepts.

Design-oriented intellectual engagements that take place outside of the classroom to feed into or expand the educational mission of the campus.

Example: A week-long design challenge bringing together people from Biology, Mathematics, French, African Studies and Dance.

Enhancing learning through design thinking

Watch Susannah Howe describe the Capstone Course for seniors in the engineering major, Design Clinic. The goal of Design Clinic is to give students exposure to working for and with clients. Susannah has used two curriculum enhancement grants to extend that opportunity to students in Anthropology, Computer Science, and Landscape Studies by creating interdisciplinary student teams in collaboration with Suzanne Gottschang, Dominique Thiebaut, and Reid Bertone-Johnson, respectively.

Click to Download the Curriculum Grant Application for Academic Year 2017-2018

The following grants are funded for 2016-2017:

Landscape Studies + Engineering

Bridging DivisionsThe Ciencia Pública Agua parklet

    Reid Bertone-Johnson
    Susannah Howe


    • Broadscale Design and Planning
    • Design Clinic

    Linking two courses around a common design challenge to create parklet for the Northampton Department of Public Works.

Studio Art + Landscape Studies

Bridging Divisionsmacleish field station

    Fraser Stables
    Reid Bertone-Johnson


    • [Studio Art] Cross Disciplinary Foundations
    • Visual Storytelling

    Linking two courses through a collaborative four-week design project at Smith College’s MacLeish Field Station.

understand italian artisanry

Experimental Learning Spacesitalian artisan making gold gilding

    Bruno Grazioli


    • Made in Italy: Italian Design and World Culture

    Enhanced emphasis on design process. Introduction of iterative prototyping to study of Italian culture and design.

Design Debates on Smith's MOOC

Methods and Mindsetsphotograph of activists from smith college archives

    Lauren Duncan
    Deborah Keisch


    • Psychology of Political Activism: Women Changing the World

    Enhanced emphasis on design process. Course applies design thinking principles to effectively scaffolding substantive online discussions for Smith’s first MOOC (Massively Open Online Course).

how to make a map

Methods and Mindsetsreproduction of map created by spatial analysis lab at smith college

    Jon Caris
    Scott Gilman

      * Faculty development workshop

    Development of a new course for faculty to facilitate more mapmaking into coursework.

Socially engaged memory

Methods and MindsetsCAZAM_HAT DRONE

    Lynne Yamamoto


    • Topics in Installation Art

    Development of socially engaged art on the topic of memory. Students will design a play corner at the Kensington School in Springfield, MA, which enrolls many resettled children from Syria and other countries.

Prototyping Anthropology

Methods and Mindsetsprototyping cart

    Caroline Melly
    Suzanne Gottschang

      * Multiple Anthropology Courses

    Enhanced emphasis on design process. Grant to develop prototyping kits for use by anthropology department.

MAking knowledge

Bridging Divisionsfuturistic eye interface

    Alex Keller
    Dana Leibsohn


    • Making Knowledge/Sharing Knowledge

    Creation of new interdisciplinary course on the making and sharing of knowledge.

Inspired? Prepare a proposal

The Design Thinking Initiative is supporting further experimentation with the curriculum and with learning and working spaces on campus. We invite faculty to get their feet wet with design thinking next year. Start brainstorming on a proposal idea today!

Applications for 2017-2018 grants will open in Spring 2017. The deadline to submit proposals will be 1 June 2017. Grant recipients will be notified on 15 June 2017.

Design thinking is an active process of learning how to become more collaborative, experimental, human-centered, and mindful or metacognitive about process. Becoming a design thinker means developing fluency in shifting back and forth from analytical thinking to playful and unbounded creativity. It involves reframing how problems are understood, developing prototypes you can learn from, immersing projects in lived experiences, and constantly making revisions.
The goal is to amplify the pockets of creative production or design already at Smith. The grants have also been devised to welcome more students, staff and faculty who may be non-traditional practitioners of design. Smith’s design thinking initiative is at heart an effort to democratize access to design thinking by using it across disciplines to enrich learning on campus.
Design thinking encourages faculty, staff and students to form a bias toward action. A successful proposal places at its center experiments that make ideas tangible and real-world engagements that improve understanding of social problems.
Yes. We accept proposals that are still in the early stages of drafting. Our hope is that the support of the grant will help these ideas flourish.
Recipients of the grant will participate in a one-day design thinking faculty development workshop at Capen Annex as well as regular participation in a monthly lunchtime Design Thinking Teaching Circle throughout the academic year to provide a community of intellectual practice and support.

In Fall 2016, the Teaching Circle will meet at noon on Friday 23 September; 21 October; and 11 November.

Recipients will also submit a final report in which they share syllabi, specific assignments developed to support grant goals, any rubrics developed for assessment, and a reflection on challenges and successes of their curricular revisions. In addition, recipients agree to allow Institutional Research to survey students for assessment purposes.

You will need to submit a 1-2 page description of your project, along with a detailed budget request and the cover sheet available for download below. Indicate which grant category you are applying for and how your proposal meets the spirit of the grant. Funds may be used to support materials and supplies, student aides, faculty stipends (up to $1,000), or research allocation (up to $1,250). A maximum of $4,000 can be requested for a collaborative grant (additional support may be available in exceptional situations with more extensive justification).

Click to Download the Curriculum Grant Application for Academic Year 2017-2018