New Trier Embraces Design Thinking in Pilot Program

The District continually explores new and innovative ways to enhance the educational experience. To help students approach real-life complex problems and develop skills and mindsets that are highly desired by colleges and employers, New Trier (NTHS) has partnered with Siebel Center for Design (SCD) at the University of Illinois and the New Trier Educational Foundation (NTEF) to launch a design thinking program.

Design thinking, also known as “human centered design,” is a problem-solving approach in which participants identify the unmet needs of a population to design solutions collaboratively and across disciplines - all with the end user in mind. This type of thinking asks people to design solutions to problems where there is no obvious solution or precedent.

At the November, 2023 Board of Education meeting, Assistant Superintendent Peter Tragos told the Board that a design thinking approach aligns closely with many of the District’s strategic planning goals in the framework of Intellectual Engagement, Growth, and Readiness. He noted that a World Economic Forum report in 2016 found that 65% of students entering kindergarten that year would work in jobs that did not yet exist. Those students are New Trier’s Class of 2029, and providing them with durable skills like adaptability, collaboration, and learning how to learn will serve them well in the future. To see the full video, click here.

The District has been refining ideas for a human-centered design program at New Trier since 2019, when a small group of teachers from different departments proposed an all-day workshop to present ideas for a design thinking school. Tragos said the group has since had four successful retreats bringing together teachers, staff, students, parents, the New Trier Educational Foundation, alumni, community members, and industry professionals.