In the best of worlds, design thinking is a way to structure an iterative design process for young people that is understandable and easy to accomplish. It uses the idea of creating a product, with an explicit process of brainstorming, finding out the needs of the audience, design, development, testing, sharing, and more. I’m being deliberately vague because there are quite a few models of design thinking and I’m not talking about any one in particular.
Design thinking can help students and teachers break out of the lecture/test model and showcase what kids can do, rather than tests that try to catch them at what they can’t do. It’s a place for students to use different problem-solving styles, to add their own flair to school work, and to think about the impact they could have on the world.
Now the worry. In some cases, what I’ve seen promoted as design thinking in K12 is too oriented towards planning, overly structured, and spends too much time in the pre-production phases of the design cycle. The design “thinking” takes over the design “doing”.