Designing for 21st Century Global Problem Solving

Educator develops unit plans that demonstrably impact student learning of "Perspective Taking" and "Design Thinking" concepts in real-world problem solving.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

The educator utilizes design thinking and perspective-taking skills to engage students in 21st century global problem solving, where students construct, test, implement, and present a solution to a current world problem.

Method Components

Components of Designing for 21st Century Global Problem Solving

  • Design Thinking: Helps students develop empathic views of and solutions to world problems.

    Design thinking is an easy-to-follow instructional flow of five steps. Students reflect on the problem and develop empathy with those directly impacted. In the next step, students define the problem and develop ideas and possible solutions for the problems. Students can use prototyping to model, construct, invent, and begin solving a global problem. The last step of the design thinking model involves testing the solution. The students can go through the process from the beginning thought process to the end testing phase.

  • Perspective-Taking: Promotes empathy and understanding of the bigger picture associated with modern global problems.

    Perspective-taking skills are essential to promoting empathy and a deeper understanding of the problems affecting the world. Perspective taking is an essential skill that students need to understand “why” and “how” situations happen from another person’s perspective. Promoting perspective taking gives students an understanding of the importance of drawing unbiased conclusions and answers in their research.

  • Global Problems: To develop perspective-taking skills, students need to dive deep into research about a global problem.

    Examples of Global Problems:
    • Pollution in the Five Gyres
    • World Hunger and Poverty
    • Global Water Scarcity
    • Medical Care Inequalities
    • Endangerment of the Honeybee Population
    • Global Warming/Pollution

    Student can research and request approval to choose their own world problem on which they will focus.

  • Guiding Questions: Guiding questions promote perspective taking and help give students an understanding of the basics of a global problem.

    Examples of Guiding Questions:
    • What is the world problem?
    • Does the world problem affect you? If it does not affect you now, could the problem affect you at some point in your life? Why or why not?
    • What is the total population impact of your world problem?
    • Is your world problem environmental, human, natural, artificial, or a combination of these?
    • How do various media outlets (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, etc.) address the problem? Is there a media bias?
    • How is the local government addressing the problem?
    • How is the United States government addressing the problem?
    • How is the world addressing the problem?
    • Can technology play a role in solving the global problem you are studying?
    • How is your world problem being addressed? Are there prevention and/or action plans in place to address the world problem?
    • How can the local community make a positive impact on the world problem?
    • Is there a hopeful solution to the world problem? Why or why not?

Suggested Implementation

  1. Students select one current world problem. (See examples above)
  2. Students construct a research inquiry into their selected world problems.
  3. Students can use the design thinking worksheet.
  4. Students implement a prototype solution to the world problem.
  5. Students present their research and information.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

According to Ellen Galinsky, President and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute (FWI), students in the 21st century must master perspective taking to succeed in the 21st century. With the rise of social media and the shrinking world of communication, perspective taking is an essential skill that students need to understand the “why” and “how” of a person’s actions, reasoning, and rationale. Developing students’ understandings of global problems beyond their everyday lives can help them begin to build a global perspective of the world around them. Design thinking promotes empathy for and problem solving of global problems.

Using design-thinking principles from the IDEO Center at Stanford University, the study discusses applications of design thinking to innovate around the world.

Through research, this book outlines seven essential skills 21st century students need to succeed. The book provides research, methods, and implementation steps that educators, parents, and stakeholders can implement.

A series of references explaining the rationale for why we need to teach world problems.

Parents prefer seeing actual samples of their children’s work instead of traditional reporting methods.

Provides students opportunities to go through the process of design thinking.


A worksheet any educator can use as a formative assessment tool to measure students’ understanding of the design-thinking process.

An introduction to anyone who may have never heard of or used the design-thinking method in their classroom.

A current resource for global problems around the world.

Another current resource with presentations and information about global issues affecting the world.

Project-based learning (PBL) will motivate students to engage, research, and learn. PBL should be the centerpiece of pedagogy when teaching students.

An up-to-date, current events page hosted by the UN about global problems affecting people.

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 and 3, and a rating of "Applying" or better for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview Questions

Completes the questions through a choice of solutions. The educator may collaborate with students to complete the questions. (200-word limit)

  • Did you use the design thinking philosophies in teaching the Design & Perspective project? Please describe the process used to demonstrate student impact.
  • How did you informally, formally, and summatively assess your students?
  • How did you adapt your lesson to meet the needs of your learners? What resources did you use to introduce your students to global problems?

Part 2. Work Examples/Artifacts

To earn this micro-credential, please submit three or more artifacts demonstrating the student learning impact. The artifacts may include global problem solutions. Solutions may include presentations, public service announcements, blogs, prototypes, interviews, completed design-thinking worksheets, etc.

Part 3. Reflection

The educator and student/s complete the questions through a choice of solutions. The educator may collaborate with students to complete the questions. (200-word limit)

  • What was the student learning impact of teaching “Designing for 21st Century World Problems” in the classroom?
  • How did 21st-century global problems promote perspective taking and design-thinking skills in the classroom?

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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