UBC Graduate Research

Designing an educational program for at-risk youth in transition from elementary to secondary school : comparing the traditional problem-solving approach to the design thinking approach Kernohan, Kris


Youth at-risk are challenged by life circumstances which can have long-term implications. When students move from elementary to secondary school, they encounter social, emotional, and academic challenges in the transition. However, because the factors which define at-risk students are similar to those accentuated by the transition process, the challenges faced by at-risk students are exacerbated, which further impacts their chance of future success. In order to better support students at-risk in transition to secondary school, a program which meets the unique needs of this group should be designed. A review of several definitions and the characteristics of at-risk youth, as well as current literature regarding the challenges presented by the transition to secondary school, is undertaken. Two different approaches to programmatic design for schools are defined and examined—the traditional problem-solving method, and the design thinking method. Each method is then used in a thought experiment in which worked examples of each method are presented. The two approaches are then compared, and the suitability of (1) the decision making processes and (2) the resulting types of programmatic structures is examined in relation to general educational needs and those specific to youth at-risk in transition to secondary school.. A guide for future practice in these domains is offered.

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