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Critical Incidents in Engineering Students’ Development of More Comprehensive Ways of Experiencing Innovation

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Nicholas D. Fila Iowa State University

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Nicholas D. Fila is a postdoctoral research associate in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Industrial Design at Iowa State University. He earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. His current research interests include innovation, empathy, design thinking, and instructional design heuristics.

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Justin L. Hess Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Justin L Hess is the Assistant Director of the STEM Education Innovation and Research Institute at IUPUI. His research interests include ethics, design, and sustainability. Dr. Hess received each of his degrees from Purdue University, including a PhD in Engineering Education, a Master of Science in Civil Engineering, and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. He is currently the Vice Chair of the American Society of Civil Engineers' Committee on Sustainability subcommittee on Formal Engineering Education.

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Numerous approaches to fostering the innovative behaviors of engineering students have been explored, especially in recent years. However, often these studies are not qualitatively grounded in students’ experiences with being or becoming innovative. This study builds upon a previous study that explored differences in the ways engineering students understood and experienced innovation. While that study utilized phenomenography to explore variation in ways of experiencing innovation, here we used the Critical Incident Technique (CIT) to explore how engineering students progressed from less to more comprehensive ways of experiencing innovation. We sought to address the research question, “What aspects of engineering students’ innovative experiences were critical to the development of their ways of experiencing innovation?” Through CIT, we identified 122 critical incidents among the 16 interviews. We used thematic analysis to group these incidents into four categories including: Learning From Immersion; Learning from Failure; Learning from Others; and Learning from Success. These categories encapsulated two to three incident types each, or 10 incident types total. Further, we utilized these findings to begin exploring trends in how critical incidents informed participants’ ways of experiencing innovation. These findings detail critical components for promoting students’ novel or more comprehensive understandings of and approaches to innovation that other engineering educators may utilize in their own courses and curricula. Importantly, we recognize that these findings are not exhaustive and future studies are to elaborate upon the the incident types and trend identified herein, and explore if and how these findings can translate to other populations.

Fila, N. D., & Hess, J. L. (2018, June), Critical Incidents in Engineering Students’ Development of More Comprehensive Ways of Experiencing Innovation Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30240

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