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How to Teach Research Skills: Inspiring Students to Advocate for Social Change

“No research without action, no action without research”
-Kurt Lewin

Research Tips for Students with Interests

We can all agree that the power of Google is infinite today in 2022. The moment we stumble upon an idea or unfamiliar concept in simple conversation with others, we’re encouraged to pull out our mobile phones, key in a few words, and configure our own research of sorts for a deeper dive into that word or concept. The internet has invited all of us into a world of information overload, it’s just a click away.

As educators, we must understand that our students are now existing in a world where information is limitless. The extensive discovery of personal interests is a great thing for students. And as teachers, you should encourage students to further learn and obtain research on those interests. However, as educators, you want to equip them with the appropriate tools and resources to best support their interests in the most efficient way.

Students Educating Others

“The best research you can do is talk to people”
- Terry Pratchett

So, the search engines and online resources are now in place for your students to seek information. What’s the next step?

As your students research and learn more about an issue they care about, their first thought is to share their new knowledge and insight with others. Encourage this behavior by providing live and online opportunities for them to teach others, including their classmates, younger students and adults in their lives. This can include school assemblies, community forums, teach-ins, peer-to-peer programs and social media forums. Include opportunities for your students to share their information in interesting ways (written, art, theatre, etc.) and they should also give other students the chance to explore their own thoughts and feelings about the topics. Youth who want to know more may be more likely to learn from another young person. The basic skill for all schoolchildren is the ability to sift through content for relevance and accuracy, individually and with one another.

Cultivating Student’s Interest

Now, you’ve observed the sharing of information amongst your students in the classroom. As an educator, what topic or area of interest do you notice makes your student’s faces light up most or sparks their gift of gab? As educators, we should observe and tap into those personal interests with our students. Some will be more obvious than others. Nonetheless, when there’s a particular area of interest that seems to bring on an increased level of curiosity with your students, there’s effective steps and resources available to help guide your student’s research and discovery phase.

It may be an interest that could lead to a community-based project where they work with other teammates to accomplish a similar goal. Are your students passionate about a problem in your community or have an idea on how to solve it? Are they curious about ways to design solutions and start a social movement? Do they know they have what it takes to inspire others with their positive actions?

Design for Change Online Platform

Design for Change Platform (DFC) leads your students through a signature design thinking framework: Feel, Imagine, Do, Share, using various activities and resources on the virtual platform. The DFC also has materials in place to get you certified as a Design for Change Educator with its self-paced, online professional development program. Sign up and you’ll have access to expert design thinking materials, guided student activities, and hands-on learning modules to strengthen your practice as you work to shape your school and students into a design thinking community.

Help Your Students Kick Start Their DFC Project

Design for Change USA also has an online platform for educators to tap into the resources necessary to help their students kick off their DFC projects with the proper tools and research.

DFC encourages educators to start with these steps in mind:

  1. Browse and select a learning path, our curated collection of learning materials and activities centered around a topic or theme

  2. Add and invite students to their project teams

  3. Facilitate activities and track student progress

We want educators to feel confident and empowered to learn the resources and share the DFC platform with students to get them started on a successful project of their interest. Access the Design for Change Platform today. Teachers all over the US are using the platform to teach social awareness and design thinking to students, so they can solve big “issues” in their community.

Jessica Taft, a leading scholar on youth activism explains that today's young leaders are building on the legacy of their predecessors who helped desegregate the South, reformed education in Chile, and won rights for working youth in Bolivia. "Around the world, we are seeing children and youth engage as social, political, and economic actors, demonstrating their capacity to help make social change," said Taft. "Adults make a lot of assumptions about children and what they're capable of, and those assumptions are often quite false."

Today’s youth are passionate activists for positive community and social change. Because young people often have the desire, energy and idealism to do something about the injustice they see in the world, they are powerful agents for change. Transforming students’ feelings of anger, sadness and hopelessness into concrete actions that can make the world more equitable is a vital teaching opportunity. And with the right educators and supporters there to lead the way, they can become passionate advocates for positive change across the country.

Design for Change is the #1 Platform for Student-Led Change!


We provide a free web and mobile platform for educators to bring the Design for Change program into their classrooms, in person or virtually.

Social Change Podcasts for Students

Engage your students in learning about social issues, causes, and topics relevant to their lives, and open discussions on ideas that matter

Professional Development Courses

Get certified as an expert educator in design thinking, or complete Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) training for educators

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