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Developing an Interview Protocol to Elicit Engineering Students’ Divergent Thinking Experiences

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Shannon Clancy University of Michigan

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Shannon M. Clancy (she/they) is a Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. She earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. Their current research focuses on undergraduate engineering student experiences with divergent thinking and creativity as well as engineering culture and curriculum. This work is motivated by their passion for teaching and mentorship for students of all ages and seeks to reimagine what an engineer looks like, does, and who they are, especially for queer folks, women, and people of color, through empowerment, collaboration, and co-development for a more equitable world.

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Shanna Daly University of Michigan

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Shanna Daly is an Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. She has a B.E. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton and a Ph.D. degree in Engineering Education from Purdue University. In her work, she characterizes front-end design practices across the student to practitioner continuum, develops empirically-based tools to support design best practices, and studies the impact of front-end design tools on design success. Specifically, she focuses on divergent and convergent thinking processes in design innovations, including investigations of concept generation and development, exploring problem spaces to identify real needs and innovation opportunities, and approaches to integrate social and cultural elements of design contexts into design decisions.

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Laura Murphy University of Michigan

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Laura is a PhD Candidate in Design Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her work investigates inclusive design processes, developing strategies for practicing engineers to more deeply account for diverse perspectives during design activities.

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Colleen Seifert University of Michigan

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As problems become more complex, global, and interdisciplinary, engineers need to develop novel solutions and utilize resources, information, and tools in strategic and creative ways. Divergent thinking describes a process where multiple options, pathways, alternatives, or ideas are developed. For engineering students, divergent thinking can facilitate flexibility and expand opportunities considered when solving problems. To develop divergent thinking skills in engineering, we must understand how it is (and is not) facilitated in current engineering education experiences. Current pedagogy and resources available in engineering education on divergent thinking are limited. Thus, our research focused on exploring educational experiences in which students felt they considered divergent thinking. In this paper, we describe the iterative development of an interview protocol to elicit student experiences related to opportunities for divergent thinking. From the initial round of piloting, we found student awareness of divergent thinking was limited. Our findings highlight the need to structure questions in ways that align with students’ existing understandings of their engineering experiences. Our team made modifications to the protocol to address this, including using accessible terms to describe divergent thinking, asking students to describe one example project they remembered well, and focusing questions within one step of the project selected by the student as most relevant to their exploration of alternatives. This iterative development of the protocol was successful in eliciting divergent thinking experiences across their work.

Clancy, S., & Daly, S., & Murphy, L., & Seifert, C. (2022, August), Developing an Interview Protocol to Elicit Engineering Students’ Divergent Thinking Experiences Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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