INF536 Literature Critique

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The NMC Horizon Report K-12 2015, identifies that education has its own set of problems that need to be addressed at some level over the coming years.  It recognises that there are problems that can be easily solved because they are known and understood.  There are those problems that are more difficult to solve as they are known but the solutions are not as obvious and then there are those wicked problems that are extremely complex in nature.  Each of these categories impact policy, leadership and practice.  The Horizon Report by its very nature is a document that promotes the need for design thinking in an attempt to redesign education. The NMC Horizon Report Library Edition 2015 identifies that one area that needs to undergo a rethink is that of the library space (p. 10). It suggests that libraries are now evolving from spaces for developing information spaces to include innovative spaces such as makerspaces and media production spaces. While the focus of this edition is mainly academic and research libraries there are elements of this document that can and should be considered by school libraries. Design thinking is now being recognized as a way of transforming and innovating education.

This essay will critique 6 articles to synthesise and highlight the tensions and challenges that still exist in education adopting design and design thinking. It will discuss the idea that physical and digital space needs to be redesigned in order for schools to remain relevant and engaging spaces for learning. In order to show synthesis of the ideas from the 6 articles below, this essay will discuss inquiry-learning as one pedagogy that requires consideration of learning spaces within the school, especially in the library and how this learning space needs to connect to classroom spaces to evolve our schools from the ‘classroom-as-container’ mentality.


Brown, T., & Katz, B. (2011). Change by design. Journal Of Product Innovation Management, 28(3), 381-383.


Engine Service Design & Walker Technology College. Dear Architect: The Vision Of Our Future School: Walker Technology College


IDEO. (2012). Design thinking for educators toolkit 2nd Edition. Retrieved from


Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). The design-thinking process in innovation acceleration : Transforming organizational thinking. (pp.103-123). Boston : Pearson.


Razzouk, R., Shute, V. (2012). What is design thinking and why is it important? Review of Educational Research, September, 82 (3), 330–348.


Seidel, V., & Fixson, S. (2013). Adopting design thinking in novice multidisciplinary teams: The application and limits of design methods and reflexive practices. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 30, 19–33. or


From the articles listed above, it is acknowledged that there is no one agreed upon definition of design and design thinking. This can make it challenging for those who consider themselves beginners in design thinking. Kuratko, Goldsworthy & Hornsby (2012) recognizes design as a process that involves the conversion of ideas into some observable form or artifact. Design can be “a plan of action or a physical thing” (p. 103) or it “could be a product, service, process or business model” (p. 104). Brown and Katz (2011) would seem to concur with this idea of design as being about the creation of products as they see design thinking as the ability to “translate observations into insights and insights into the products and services that will improve lives” (p.332). The strength with these definitions is that they acknowledge society has moved beyond the idea of product as architecture, interior decorating and those industries such as education can and should use design thinking to design the service of learning they provide. The weakness of these definitions lies in the fact that they are more focused on the end rather than the process, the how to arrive at a solution that leads to the designed service or product.

Razzouk and Shute (2012) provide the definition that design and design thinking is an “analytic and creative process” (p.330) that “[generates] solutions for problems” (p. 331) and therefore they identify design and design thinking as being more about solving problems. Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby (2012) acknowledge that creative thinking is required and that by using divergent thinking the product will be “better designed” (p.105) and this “leads to more innovation” (p.105). It is interesting to note innovation is introduced by Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby (2012) after the artifact has been delivered and embraced to a larger audience. The use of the term innovation rather than product could be considered more advantageous as innovation suggests the idea of something that is firstly different and then measured as better (McGrath, 2015, p. 54). With the importance placed on the need for artifacts to be introduced to a wider audience before being considered as innovation, Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby (2012), suggest that design thinking is measurable as the impact of the innovation determines its success or effectiveness.

Seidel and Fixson (2013) offer the concept of design as “the application of design methods” to various problems or challenges that require different thinking. These methods are the formal methods of “need finding, brainstorming and prototyping” (p.19) and it is through these formal methods that innovation is promoted. Again, it can be understood by Seidel and Fixson (2013) that design thinking is the strategies employed to reach that place of innovation.

IDEO’s Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit (2012) defines design thinking as a combination of process and problem solving for “transforming difficult challenges into opportunities for design” (p. 11).  The other elements that provide strength to IDEO’s definition is that design thinking are an “intentional process” and a “mindset” (IDEO, 2012, p. 11). John Hockenberry (2012), discusses this idea of intent in his Ted talk ,where he describes intent as being what you want to show the world. In education then, what is it that schools intend to show about what is happening in their environment? Obviously, it needs to be learning but what about pedagogy and the culture of the school? Even though each school represents education, the culture of learning can be different.

One of the differences that exist between the six articles is who designs? All of the articles identify that design and design thinking is no longer limited to architects and engineers and that anyone can be a designer. In fact, Brown & Katz (2011), identify that it is a “natural evolution from design to design thinking” and that it’s “too important to be left to designers” (p. 381).  Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby (2012) appear to aim their article towards a business setting by providing the example of Apple. They specifically state that anyone can become a designer if they have “an idea and then tweak and transform it into a desirable or needed form” (p. 104). Initially, this seems empowering to the reader who is new to the ideology of design thinking but on reflection one could ask the question, is there ever a time when an idea cannot lead to a “desirable or needed form?” (Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby, 2012, p. 104).

Razzouk & Shute (2012) do relate design thinking to education but throughout their article it seems to recognise design thinking as an individual activity as can be evidenced when describing design engaging “a person in opportunities to experiment, create and prototype, model, gather feedback and redesign” (p. 330). Another weakness that could be identified is that in their discussion of design thinking as belonging in educational contexts, they focus on student-centred design thinking. If education is to be transformed then it needs to be a collaborative process that includes the whole school community. This collaborative process is evidenced in the design brief Dear Architect – a Vision of Our Future School. The title of this article offers something that the other articles do not, that being the word vision. This article is strengthened by the fact that it can be seen that it has been collaboratively worked upon to provide the brief of what the learning space at Walker College needed to be in order to be effective for the whole college community.

Seidel & Fixson (2013), offer research into the effectiveness of “novice multidisciplinary teams” which highlighted the idea that design thinking is a learned process when the formal methods of need finding, brainstorming and prototyping were employed in a collaborative setting.  It is strategic to include as many voices as possible as this harnesses support and commitment for the need for change and to not keep doing something as it has always been done (Best & Inholland University of Applied Sciences, 2011). IDEO (2012) offers a practicality to educational settings and do provide ideas for the novice design thinker, even though educators have been designing their physical spaces to meet their individual contexts. They identify five phases to their design process – discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation and evolution (p. 14). Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby (2012) identify three phases – play, display and watch the replay (pp. 117 – 120).  It can be seen again then that there is no one definite process, the important theme to recognise here is that design thinking is a process. Another key element to success is time and experience. This can be validated in Razzouk & Shute (2012) who identify that the more experience and challenges faced is the major determining factor in recognizing expertise over novice designers. IDEO (2012) clearly state that design thinking is “collaborative,” “optimistic” and “experimental” (p. 11)

Empathy for the user is a major theme that can be found in the literature. Seidel & Fixson (2013) identify this understanding the context of the user as central to the formal method of needfinding to generate the concepts / problems to be solved. Brown & Katz (2011) describe the need of going out and observing, actually immersing oneself in the context where transformation needs to occur. The belief that they have regarding this idea of empathy is powerful when they state, “[f]or a design thinker, it has to be ‘us-with-them” (p.382). IDEO (2012) also identify that this idea of empathy and focusing on the user is what contributes to developing a design thinking mindset. In effect it is empathic design that encourages success when designers “put themselves into the shoes or situation of their users so as to better understand users’ needs” (Perrault & Levesque, 2012, p. 16).


How does design thinking transfer into the reality of designing a school library setting?


The Australian Curriculum and the Board of Studies Teaching and Education Standards NSW Syllabuses, shows the need for teacher librarians, teachers and administration to redesign pedagogies for effective learning to take place, as technologies, creativity and critical thinking skills and inquiry learning are embedded alongside the various content. Learning spaces are recognised as formal and informal and teachers are being encouraged to rethink their idea of learning space from a ‘classroom – as- container’ mentality (Leander, Phillips & Taylor, 2010, p. 329).  This metaphor can equally apply to school libraries. School libraries and teacher librarians need to consider their “imagined geography” and design their containers to meet the needs of the learning community (Leander, Phillips & Taylor, 2010, p.331). Now more than ever design and design thinking are being viewed as necessary in this time of change in education.

The pedagogy of inquiry learning has and continues to be used in school libraries by teacher librarians but after reading the above articles, the question can be asked, how does the role of design of space impact the success of such pedagogy? Guided inquiry is designed from the research of Carol Kuhlthau and was initially known as the Information Search Process (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007). Kuhlthau’s research highlighted the process that students utilised in being able to move from initiating a topic to gaining a deep understanding of the content as it was student-centred with opportunity for feedback throughout the process and is significant as it includes thoughts, feelings and actions.  Inquiry learning aligns itself with a constructivist theory of learning. It is active learning.

In their book, Guided Inquiry Design – A Framework for Inquiry in Your School, Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari (2012) have used design thinking and research to create a process that will help schools break the ‘classroom-as-container.’ They identify eight phases – Open, Immerse, Explore, Identify, Gather, Create, Share and Evaluate. Throughout each of these phases there is a need to consider the physical and digital spaces of the school library. As identified in the literature above, forming teams is important to design thinking but it is also important to Guided inquiry (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2012; Stubeck, 2015). Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby (2012) also identify that throughout a design thinking process there needs to be a “proactive champion”(p. 105) and using Guided Inquiry the teacher librarian has the opportunity to be this leader. To blur the walls between the library, classrooms and real world other core members of the team to drive this learning is class teachers. Class teachers are the experts in the direction they envision the content to take and the students in their care. Teacher librarians offer expertise in digital literacies, inquiry learning and resources (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2012).

The reality for designing learning spaces in the primary school library is that the intent for learning is both formal and informal and that a school library supports the learning needs of the students but that of the teachers designing the learning programs and the parents who need support in these changing times of education (Stubeck, 2015). The way that the school library can be used and the users who utilise the space can vary daily (Turner, 2014). In primary school libraries students come in to have formal lessons and then at break times, before and after school the library is open for students to catch up with friends, take advantage of technologies if they do not have access from home or just enjoy some quiet time for reading. Teachers can also use the space for planning time to search for the resources needed, meet with grade partners, staff or subject committee meetings. It is interesting to add though that usually there is no time to collaborate between the teacher librarian and teachers because of timetabling issues (Stubeck, 2015).

Considering these factors then a library that supports its users needs to consider the physical space for flexibility (Sullivan, 2011; McGrath, 2015). Furniture that can be easily moved and arranged would provide such flexibility. Shelving and tables that are on wheels and can be rearranged also provides   Areas where the whole class can gather if explicit teaching needs to be given, areas where small groups can gather and brainstorm, provide feedback to each other and areas where students can break away from the larger group to complete learning tasks independently with a clear focus (Grigsby, 2015). Thornburg (2013), in his book, From Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments, he describes the need for spaces he describes as campfires, watering holes and caves. Thornburg (2013) identifies these spaces as not only necessary for learning but for students to be able to find flow, or engagement in their learning. Through such flexibility the school library then becomes a place that “embraces innovation, [encourages users to] think outside the box, engage in interdisciplinary and community collaboration, embrace sudden learning opportunities and address real world problems” (McGrath, 2015). By having this flexibility then the library is supporting and promoting not only active learning but authentic learning that is core to Guided Inquiry.

Part of the Guided Inquiry design is the Open and Immersion phases where students are invited to be curious and immerse themselves in information and resources available to help them gain some background knowledge into the topic. The implication here is that teacher librarians need to consider when designing the library space elements such as signage; lighting; accessibility to chargers for iPads; accessibility to digital resources via websites; pathfinders and wikis (Sullivan, 2011). If immersion in information sources is part of assisting students driving their learning and teachers facilitating, then the physical design needs to be considered. It can be seen then that teacher librarians can be leaders through their proactivity in embedding the library in learning not just in physical space but digital space (Grigsby, 2015).

Another issue in designing the library space to align with the requirements of Guided Inquiry is to go through the collection of resources and ensure that the information the students are being exposed to is current and relevant. If it is out of date, politically incorrect or offensive in its use of images or language to portray certain cultures, then weed the collection (Grigsby, 2015). School libraries are not effective when they become warehouses for the storage of printed materials and technologies that are obsolete (Grigsby, 2015; Sullivan, 2011).

Throughout all the phases of Guided Inquiry there needs to be space to display their learning. Display of learning could and should include professionally printed posters; books; photo collages; 3d artifacts but could and should include posters showing the phases of Guided Inquiry; anchor charts; identified questions for further research; digital presentations on interactive whiteboards; 3d models (created using 3D printer) or recycled materials that are created to show the creative and busy efforts of students and teachers. These displays promote learning, thinking and an avenue for collaborative feedback not just to a specific class but to and from all users of the learning community. These displays then make the design of the library a fluid, engaging and welcoming learning space that celebrate learning and embed school libraries at the heart of the school (Sullivan, 2011).

Design thinking is a mindset that encourages growth as it promotes thinking beyond what has always been done before in any industry. It is constantly iterative in that when an innovation is made, there will be the need to keep evaluating, observing and innovate some more so that the product or service is working to make the world better place. Design thinking is product or service, process and problem-solving (Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby, 2012; Razzouk & Shute, 2012; IDEO, 2012; Seidel & Fixson, 2013). It involves empathy for the users of the product or service and encourages collaboration so that solutions and innovation is reached not for the user but with the user (Perrault & Levesque, 2012; Seidel & Fixson, 2012).

Design thinking is being embraced by schools and school libraries not only in the design of learning tasks but also in designing learning spaces to allow effective and authentic learning to take place. Deed, Lesko & Lovejoy (2014) state that “[a]rchitecture can create an impression, or be symbolic, of the type of learning environment likely to be experienced” (p.370). The questions that individual schools need to ask then are what is our vision? What is it we want to show the world as our representation for learning? How can we develop the skills needed to be effective at designing the learning and learning spaces our learning community needs? It is the responsibility of each individual school to consider their context and their users so that they remain relevant and engaging spaces for learning (IDEO, 2012). Design thinking provides opportunities to model to students how they can contribute to the solutions for the challenges that they face and will continue to face throughout their life.



Best, K. & Inholland University of Applied Sciences (2011). What can design bring to strategy? Design thinking as a tool for innovation and change. Retrieved from

Brown, T., & Katz, B. (2011). Change by design. Journal Of Product Innovation Management, 28(3), 381-383.

Deed, C., Lesko, T. M. & Lovejoy, V. (2014) Teacher adaptation to personalized learning spaces. Teacher Development: An International Journal of Teachers’ Professional Development, 18(3), 369-383.

Engine Service Design & Walker Technology College. Dear Architect: The Vision Of Our Future School: Walker Technology College

Grigsby, S. (2015). Re-imagining the 21st Century School Library: From Storage Space to Active Learning Space. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 59(3), 103-106.

Hockenberry, J. (2012) We are all designers Retrieved from

IDEO. (2012). Design thinking for educators toolkit 2nd Edition. Retrieved from

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L K. & Caspari, A. K. (2007). Guided inquiry: learning in the 21st century. Westport, ConnecticutLibraries Unlimited

Kuhlthau, C.C, Maniotes, L.K., & Caspari, A.K. (2012). Guided inquiry design : a framework for inquiry in your school. Santa Barbara, California : Libraries Unlimited.

Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). The design-thinking process in innovation acceleration : Transforming organizational thinking. (pp.103-123). Boston : Pearson.

 Leander, K. M., Phillips, N. C., & Taylor, K. H. (2010). The changing social spaces of learning: Mapping new mobilities. Review of Research in Education, 34, 329-394.

McGrath, K. G. (2015) School libraries and innovation. Knowledge Quest, 43(3), 54-61

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Library Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

Perrault, A. M., & Levesque, A. M. (2012). Caring for all students. Knowledge Quest, 40(5), 16-17

Razzouk, R., Shute, V. (2012). What is design thinking and why is it important? Review of Educational Research, 82 (3), 330–348.

Seidel, V., & Fixson, S. (2013). Adopting design thinking in novice multidisciplinary teams: The application and limits of design methods and reflexive practices. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 30, 19–33. or

Stubeck, C. J. (2015). Enabling inquiry-learning in fixed schedule libraries: an evidence-based approach. Knowledge Quest 43(3). 28-34

Sullivan, M. (2011). Divine Design. School Library Journal, 57(4), 26-32.

Thornburg, D. (2013). From the Campfire to the Holodeck : Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Turner, H. (2014). Library Xgen student-centred spaces. Knowledge Quest 42(4), 28-31