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How (Inter)national Engineering Faculty Members Perceive and Teach Creativity: A Cultural Perspective

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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

Biological and Agricultural Engineering Division Technical Session 2

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Paper Authors


Hao He University of Missouri - Columbia

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Hao He is currently a Ph.D. candidate from the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri-Columbia, with research interests in engineering education, creativity fostering, virtual reality learning environment, and game-based learning. He received his BA in English Language and Literature from Zhejiang University City College in China in 2008 and then worked as an English teacher and an instructional project manager for seven years. He received his Med in educational technology at the University of Missouri in 2017. In the same year, he started his doctoral study. During his master’s and doctoral studies, he conducted studies including creativity in engineering education, blended learning in bioengineering education, virtual reality learning environment, and usability studies in multiple fields.

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Heather Hunt


Suzanne Burgoyne

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Suzanne Burgoyne is a Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita and Director of MU’s Center for Applied Theatre and Drama Research, where she investigates the use of theatre techniques as active learning pedagogy for other fields. She has been co-PI in three major MU grants that use interactive theatre: Ford Foundation Difficult Dialogues, NSF ADVANCE, and Susan G. Komen (the last in collaboration with MU’s Medical School). She has held 2 national interdisciplinary fellowships: she has been a Kellogg National Fellow (leadership training and interdisciplinary research), and a Carnegie Scholar (scholarship of teaching and learning). In 2011, she attended a summer institute at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Since then, Suzanne has conducted communicating science workshops using actor-training techniques to enhance presentation skills; and collaborated on an MU NSF grant: "NRT-IGE:A test bed for STEM graduate student communication training,” 2015-2018. Suzanne is co-author with Bill Timpson, a member of her Kellogg cohort and Professor of Education at Colorado State, of Teaching and Performing: Ideas for Energizing Your Classes. Her book, Thinking through Script Analysis, embeds learning of higher-order thinking skills, including critical and creative thinking, into the disciplinary content. Suzanne edited Creativity in Theatre: Theory and Action in Theatre/Drama Education, Volume 2 of the Creativity Theory and Action in Education series (series co-editor Ronald A. Beghetto). Suzanne is a Co-PI on the grant.

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Joshua Saboorizadeh

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PhD Graduate Student at the University of Missouri - Columbia in Theatre and Performance Studies.

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Creativity is critical to innovation; therefore, it is essential that engineering faculty members seeking to prepare their students for an increasingly complex, innovation-driven workforce should demonstrate not only understanding of and desire for creative thinking in their classrooms, but also competency in teaching creativity, including creative thinking and creative practices. However, to help cultivate such competency, it is first important to understand how faculty members’ growth environments and cultural backgrounds inform their understanding of creativity, including how such understanding affects their choices of teaching methods or strategies to foster students’ creativity. In this work, we interviewed ten engineering faculty members from diverse backgrounds at a Midwest R1 university in the United States to explore (1) how their cultural backgrounds impacted their perceptions and understanding of creativity and (2) their selection of creativity-fostering methods in instruction. Of the ten faculty members, nine were early-career faculty (with less than five years of teaching experience in higher education), while one had five to ten years of teaching experience in higher education. Eight of the faculty were tenure-track faculty, with one being recently tenured, and two were non-tenure-track teaching faculty. Two of the faculty identified as women, while the remaining eight identified as men. Five were born and reared in Asian countries (two from China, one from India, one from Sri Lanka, and one from Turkey), while the other five were born and reared in the United States. The use of “(inter)national” within the title of this essay is intended to represent the analytical tensions between (1) faculty that were born in the same country, which is expressed through emphasizing the prefix inter- within parentheses, as well as (2) faculty living and working in a country different from their country of upbringing, expressed through the term international. We explored their teaching philosophies, perceptions of creativity, and classroom teaching during the interviews. Here, we discuss the differences that arose amongst the ten faculty members’ understanding of creativity, and their choices of teaching methods, from the perspective of their cultural backgrounds. Overall, we found that, despite differences in cultural customs, the faculty shared similar views on the perceptions and importance of creativity. All of them defined creativity as a competency to demonstrate a “different thinking” mindset or to propose novel ideas, methods, or solutions. Some of them also defined creativity as the problem-solving ability. They mentioned similar methods to implement creative thinking and creative practices in an engineering classroom, but their perceptions also divided in some cases. They all enjoyed discussing with students. They believed that free discussion helped students open their minds and would be beneficial to foster students’ creativity. However, the U.S. faculty members mentioned using lectures or slide presentations more than the Asian faculty members. The Asian faculty members, who are traditionally believed to be more used to a teacher-centered teaching preference, were eager to demonstrate how creatively they can teach. More detailed results and potential causes ars discussed in our manuscript. This study provides us with knowledge about how cultural backgrounds might impact faculty members’ perceptions of creativity and their preferences of choosing or using creativity-fostering methods in their teaching. This exploration allows us to meet faculty where they are and develop an effective intervention to help faculty build competency in integrating evidence-based creative thinking practices and exercises into their engineering teaching. The intervention should, in turn, help engineering students engage more with creativity concepts/practices/activities in engineering classes.

He, H., & Hunt, H., & Burgoyne, S., & Saboorizadeh, J. (2022, August), How (Inter)national Engineering Faculty Members Perceive and Teach Creativity: A Cultural Perspective Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. 10.18260/1-2--41420

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