Murray State Theses and Dissertations


Design thinking, a creative problem-solving method in which the end user is an active member of the design team, has historically been used in business and industry, but school leaders are beginning to use the process in education settings. This multiple-case study examined the experiences of two public school leaders who used design thinking for continuous improvement initiatives or to spur innovation in their school or district. Through interviews, the school leaders shared their purposes, outcomes, challenges, and insights of using design thinking to address complex educational problems. Results indicate that design thinking is appropriate to use for continuous improvement measures and to spur innovation in public school settings, and challenges to implementing the design thinking process include “getting lost in the process” and shifting mindsets from traditional to creative thinking, especially in the define and ideate design stages. Benefits that accompany the use of design thinking are increased engagement in the design and decision-making processes and increased trust between designers and implementers. Due to its focus on the end user, design thinking supports the current educational areas of interest of student voice and personalized learning.

Keywords: design thinking, educational innovation, public schools, continuous improvement, innovation, school leaders, problem-solving

Year manuscript completed


Year degree awarded


Author's Keywords

design thinking, educational innovation, public schools, continuous improvement, school leaders, problem-solving

Dissertation Committee Chair

Jay Parrent

Committee Member

Randal Wilson

Committee Member

Ben Littlepage

Document Type