Designing Effective Solutions

Using a tested design and development group project methodology to support student design teams as they collaboratively create an effective solution to a problem or challenge.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Collaboratively complete a design-based learning project using a multistep group design methodology, Empathize & Research, Define & Focus, Generate Ideas, Prototype & Test Cycles, and Refine & Review to design and develop a solution to a problem or challenge as a team.

[Adapted from Bootcamp Bootleg (authorized by the Stanford University,, and Design Thinking @ Neuva School, (also see the Managing Project Cycles micro-credentials)]

Method Components

As students undertake a design activity in groups, the teacher leads them through the five steps of the Designing Effective Solutions process to collaboratively address a problem or challenge.

Five steps to designing effective solutions

The collaborative design and development process involves five project stages, typically done in order. However, skipping around is common, and prototyping and testing are often repeated in quick loops.

  • Empathize & Research
    • Observe real people dealing with the challenges involved in the problem to be solved.
    • Engage these people in interviews, surveys, and discussions.
    • Immerse yourselves in their perspectives and experience what they experience.
    • Regularly share findings and lessons learned among team members.
  • Define Focus
    • Develop a deep understanding of the design challenge and the people it affects.
    • Create an actionable problem statement that reflects you group's points of view.
  • Generate Ideas
    • Collectively generate a large quantity and variety of ideas (see the Idea Generating micro-credential).
  • Prototype Test Cycles
    • Choose the most promising idea(s) to make into a physical form creating prototype(s) of possible solutions to the challenge or demonstrate in a simulation or role play.
    • Learn by building.
    • Fail quickly, often, and cheaply.
    • Incorporate lessons learned from prototypes into the next set of prototypes.
  • Refine Review
    • Refine the final prototype(s).
    • Get feedback from users and refine some more.
    • Review the results and, if needed, go back to a previous stage and work from there.

Suggested preparation

  • Each student design team discusses what kinds of collaborative thinking lead to good problem solving and the design of good solutions, using examples of effective designs and team processes they've experienced.
  • Introduce collaborative design thinking mindsets and guidelines. Good collaborative design thinking and doing often includes the following mindsets and design guidelines (see the Design Thinking & Doing micro-credential):
    • Show don't tell.
    • Focus on both individual and collective human values.
    • Craft a clear team vision.
    • Embrace experimentation.
    • Mind the team processes.
    • Be biased toward individual and group action.
    • Go for diversity in your design team.

Suggested review

  • Student teams discuss how both the results and the team processes in the designing effective solutions project could be improved in the future, and talk about other ways it could be applied to the real world and their own lives. This could include opportunities for entrepreneurship to provide a successful product or service to the world.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

Collectively designing effective solutions involves a structured approach to generating ideas and creating solutions to making the world a better place though ingenuity, invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship.


Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

Following are the items you must submit to earn this micro-credential and the criteria by which they will be evaluated. To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1, 3, and 4 and a “Yes” for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview questions

(200-word limit for each response)

  • Activity Description: What team project activities did you and your student design teams engage in to become more proficient in their designing solutions projects? Please describe the learning activities and strategies you used.
  • Activity Evaluation: How do you know your student teams increased their proficiency by engaging in the Designing Effective Solutions process and what evidence did you collect that demonstrates these learning gains?

Part 2. Evidence/artifacts

Please submit examples of student work from two student design teams (such as links to writing, audio, images, video, or other media) that demonstrate progress toward the Designing Effective Solutions competency. This can include items such as samples of interviews of people experiencing the problem, results of brainstorming sessions, evidence of the research done, examples of prototype solutions and how they were improved, evidence of presentations of the results, or other relevant items.

Part 3. Student reflections

For the two student teams whose work examples were included above, submit student-created reflections on the Designing Effective Solutions process they experienced. Use the following questions as a guide (200-word limit for each reflection):

  • How did using the design solutions mindsets and collaborative design processes help your team come up with creative solutions for the challenge you were tackling?
  • How did this collaborative learning activity change your view of the value of working in a group to come up with creative designs and solutions, and how might group design and project processes be used to help create a better world?

Part 4. Teacher reflection

Provide a reflection on what you learned, using the following questions as a guide (200-word limit):

  • What was the impact of engaging your students in the Designing Effective Solutions activity?
  • How will experiencing these project activities shape your daily teaching practice in the future?

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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