Design thinking (DT) could provide a viable method to develop 21st-century skills in English as Foreign Language (EFL) classrooms; however, its potential is not clearly understood. To explore this potential, two Japanese university teachers developed a DT course in which students built a creativity measure and wrote academic reflections. Student work displayed creative thinking, insight, and language play. Survey data revealed correlations between DT, student enjoyment, confidence communicating, and thinking flexibly. In conclusion, DT can facilitate collaborative engagement and creative thinking, however, time to develop on-task communication and a focused approach to report writing may be necessary to support understanding and communicative competence.

Practitioner Notes

1. Design Thinking (DT) provides a working process that can develop 21st Century skills such as empathy, creativity, cognitive flexibility, and critical thinking. 2. DT can help develop a classroom environment that is motivating for students and one that stimulates deep thinking and collaboration to find solutions to real world problems. 3. Using DT in a language class can facilitate communicative creativity and creative engagement in language learning. 4. In order for DT to be most effective in language classes, teachers need to spend time explaining core ideas using concrete examples and hands-on learning experiences. This is especially important for lower proficiency students. 5. The complexity of the design tasks may require students to communicate in both L1 and L2. Ideally, teachers should tailor their approach to code-switching based on the linguistic competence of the students.