Teaching engineers to think creatively

Barriers and challenges in STEM disciplines

Authored by: David H. Cropley

The Routledge International Handbook of Research on Teaching Thinking

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415747493
eBook ISBN: 9781315797021
Adobe ISBN: 9781317752301

10.4324/9781315797021.ch33

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Abstract

Creativity has long been portrayed as an elusive and ill-defined quality of people and things. Ford and Harris (1992) lamented the lack of attention paid to creativity in the social sciences, suggesting that it lacked a “universally accepted definition” (p. 186) and was undervalued as an academic ability. More recently, de Sousa (2008) suggested that creativity remains an elusive construct. While some might argue this was the case in the early days of the modern era of creativity research (e.g. in the decade immediately following Guilford (1950)) it seems increasingly unjustified to claim that the development of creativity in educational settings is being held back by a lack of clarity on what creativity is. This is not to say that the message is reaching the ears of the people who matter – in this case, teachers at all levels. Benson (2004) made this point very clearly – her anecdotal evidence suggests that primary school teachers, for example, express a concern about their own lack of understanding of the nature of creativity. Benson (2004) also highlights some common misconceptions – what her teachers did think they know about creativity is that it is simply a matter of letting children “do their own thing” (p. 138) and that creativity, at its core, is “developed mainly through art and music” (p. 138). In an earlier study of university students in the field of apparel design, Kawenski (1991) saw the same problem also among the students – “In the first place, their romantic notions led them to believe that creative thinking consisted of just letting their minds waft about dreamily, waiting for the muse to strike them.” (p. 263).

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