Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educ Foundations & Leadership


Educational Leadership

Committee Director

Karen L. Sanzo

Committee Member

Rachel White

Committee Member

John Baaki


Design thinking is a process for solving complex problems through creative actions. There are three primary ways design thinking is being used in education today: (a) as a teaching tool, (b) as a strategy for teachers to redesign their students’ learning experiences, and (c) as a tool for school leaders to design school change (Gallagher & Thordarson, 2018). Design thinking includes a strong emphasis on team-based learning regarding the problem and possible solutions (Lindberg et al., 2010). This case study describes one school’s approach to navigating complex challenges, inspiring school change, and developing conditions for meaningful collaboration using a design thinking-based approach to professional learning. The theoretical lenses of organizational learning and collective teacher efficacy were used to frame the study. Participants included school administrators, teachers, and instructional specialists from one high school who were a part of a design thinking-based professional learning program. Findings from the study indicate that school leaders held a desire to build capacity within the school and understand the importance of cultivating a positive school culture. Additionally, teachers found value in leading meaningful change, encountered resistance to change due to their roles as teachers, and were able to contextualize their work in the division-level initiative to be replicated their own school. All participants acknowledged the impact of COVID-19 on their school change process and that their momentum stalled as a result of the global pandemic. The results of this study can help guide educators as they implement inquiry-based activities that are team based, to create conditions for teachers and administrators to work collaboratively to solve complex problems, and to empower teacher leaders and administrators to establish efficacy and ownership in professional learning experiences.