Date of Award

Winter 1-5-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Dr. Caroline C. Sullivan

Second Advisor

Dr. Michelle Zoss

Third Advisor

Dr. Jonathan Cohen


Recently, design thinking as a method to solve ill-defined problems has increased in middle school curricula. In this qualitative case study consisting of 23 participants in seven middle school student groups, this study sought to understand how students experienced and responded to design thinking and distributed scaffolding as students navigated a design challenge of creating a public art installation honoring a person or group that promoted human rights. Additionally, this research sought to explain how the distributed scaffolding embedded within each phase of design thinking further aided students in their learning and work production. This study reported how design thinking promoted critical thinking and problem solving, how students experienced and responded to distributed scaffolds that were placed into curriculum units to help students reflect, how students demonstrated social studies skill and content knowledge, and how students worked through real-world human-centered problems towards a viable solution.