Teaching design thinking as a tool to address complex public health challenges in public health students: a case study

Title: Teaching design thinking as a tool to address complex public health challenges in public health students: a case study
Authors: Ingram, CarolynLanghans, TessaPerrotta, Carla
Permanent link: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/13039
Date: 12-Apr-2022
Online since: 2022-08-05T08:53:17Z
Abstract: Background: Developing a public health workforce that can understand problems from a population perspective is essential in the design of impactful user-centred responses to current population health challenges. Design Thinking, a user-driven process for problem-defining and solution-finding, not only has utility in the field of public health but stands as a potential mechanism for developing critical skills -such as empathy, creativity and innovation- amongst future professionals. Though the literature reflects the use of DT across many health sciences disciplines, less research has been published on how students apply learned concepts using real-world challenges of their choice and what difficulties they face during the process. Methods: This case study evaluates achieved learning outcomes after the introduction of a design thinking block into post-graduate public health curriculum at the University College Dublin. Two independent assessors evaluated student learning outcomes and observed difficulties during the process by assessing group presentations to identify and understand any learning difficulties using an ad-hoc designed tool. The tool consisted of twelve items scored using a 5-point Likert scale. Student feedback, in the form of an online survey, was also analysed to determine their level of enjoyment, perceived learning outcomes and opinions on the course content. Results: The assessors evaluated thirteen DT group presentations and reports from 50 students. The groups chose a range of topics from socialization of college students during Covid-19 to mental health challenges in a low-income country. Independent assessment of assignments revealed that the highest scores were reached by groups who explored a challenge relevant to their own lives (more than 80% of total possible points versus 60% class average). The groups that explored challenges more distant to themselves struggled with problem finding with a mean score of 2.05 (SD ± 1.2) out of 5 in that domain. The greatest difficulties were observed in problem finding and ideation. Though most students found the design thinking block enjoyable and relevant to their education, they recommended that the DT block be a stand-alone module. Students recognized that groups who chose a familiar topic experienced fewer difficulties throughout the process. Conclusion: The study showed that DT learning outcomes were best achieved when students focused on challenges, they had either personally experienced or were familiar with. These findings provide insight for future iterations of DT workshops and support the teaching of user-centred approaches to future public health practitioners.
Funding Details: Government of Irelands' Human Capital Initiative (2020–2025)
Type of material: Journal Article
Publisher: Springer
Journal: BMC Medical Education
Volume: 22
Start page: 1
End page: 9
Copyright (published version): 2022 The Authors
Keywords: Design thinkingHuman-centred designPublic healthLearning outcomes
DOI: 10.1186/s12909-022-03334-6
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
ISSN: 1472-6920
This item is made available under a Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ie/
Appears in Collections:Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science Research Collection

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