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Incorporating Divergent Thinking Skills Development into a Project-based Course in Industrial and Systems Engineering

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Industrial Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Industrial Engineering

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Paper Authors


Elif Akcali University of Florida

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Dr. Elif Akçalı is an Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Florida (UF) and a UF Entrepreneurship Faculty Fellow. She is an industrial engineer, a visual artist and an explorer of the interplay between thinking and making in the arts and engineering. In 2013, Dr. Akçalı was selected as the Creative Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Florida, and spent two semesters in the School of Theater and Dance (SoTD). After this experience, Dr. Akçalı began experimenting with the use of arts-integrated teaching and learning methods in engineering education. Since 2014, she has been affiliated with the Engineering Innovation Institute at UF and teaches a course entitled "Divergent Thinking" that she specifically designed for engineering students. While the traditional engineering curriculum and pedagogy rely and place an emphasis on the development of convergent thinking skills of students for the delivery of discipline-specific domain knowledge, Dr. Akçalı challenges and invites the students in her class to think differently and develop their divergent thinking skills.

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Wayne C.W. Giang University of Florida

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Dr. Wayne Giang is a human factors researcher with a focus on human-decision making and interface design. His interests bridge human-systems and health-systems, including design of decision support tools for healthcare providers. As an assistant professor, Dr. Giang’s teaching focuses on cognitive engineering, human information processing, and statistics. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario and his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto.

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McKenzie Landrum University of Florida

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Ms. McKenzie Landrum is a Lecturer in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Florida. Both her Bachelors in ISE and her Masters in Management come from UF and she is currently pursuing her PhD in ISE from UF. As a Lecturer, Ms. Landrum has taught Spreadsheet-Based Decision Support Systems, Industrial Quality Control, Lean Production Systems, and Computer Programming for Engineers. Her research interests lie in the development of active learning methods.

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As the pace of change is increasing rapidly at every facet of human existence, problems are becoming extremely complex. Therefore, individuals with creative mindsets are becoming indispensable members of the future workforce [1]. However, neither the development of creative skills of nor the cultivation of creative mindsets of engineering students is being adequately addressed in existing engineering education curricula [2]. Literature on creativity reveals that there exists a rich body of empirical work that examines the processes through which a creative result is obtained. These studies have led to several theories that provide possible explanations of the sources of creativity. One such theory is from Guilford [3] who distinguishes between divergent and convergent production (i.e., thinking). While divergent thinking relates to an ability to generate and conceptualize multiple solutions to a given problem, convergent thinking relates to an ability to identify and develop one correct solution. Engineering education curricula are primarily designed to develop the convergent thinking skills of students with little or no emphasis on divergent thinking skills development (DTSD). Consequently, there is a need to enhance current educational material and practices in general and discipline specific engineering curricula to emphasize exposing students to various exercises for DTSD and provide multiple opportunities for students to utilize divergent thinking skills during ideation for course projects. To address this need, we developed a DTSD module for a required course in a large public university’s Industrial and Systems Engineering curriculum. As Industrial Engineers deal with complex, often multidisciplinary problems, development of divergent thinking skills are imperative to their ability to ideate solutions. The module includes a series of idea generation exercises that are interspersed with facilitated reflection sessions. In each exercise, students are asked to generate multiple ideas individually for a given problem under strict time constraints. After each exercise a real-time, organic reflection session asks students to reflect and articulate on their approaches to idea generation and allows for students to learn about alternative approaches as they listen to the idea generation processes of their peers. We examined the effectiveness of the DTSD module using two measures: 1) changes in self-perceptions of creative ability and mindsets, and 2) reflections on the influence of DTSD training. Questionnaires containing the Short Scale of Creative Self [4] and Creative and Fixed Mindset [5] measures were administered before training, after training, and at the end of the course. Reflections on the training were collected after training and at the end of the course. Students responded to prompts about the influence of the DTSD module on their creative self-perceptions, their approach to the course deliverables, and their future careers. We piloted the DTSD module in Summer 2019 in a class of 10 students and collected preliminary data on how to improve the delivery of the module as well as the educational impact. Preliminary results were overwhelmingly positive and provided some evidence on the effectiveness of the approach. We revised the design of the module and assessment tools for use in Fall 2019 semester with 38 students.

References [1] A. Gray, “The 10 skills you need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” World Economic Forum, Online; accessed October 13, 2019. [2] S.A. Atwood and J.E. Pretz, “Creativity as a Factor in Persistence and Academic Achievement of Engineering Undergraduates,” Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 105, no. 4, pp. 540–559, 2016. [3] Guilford, J.P. 1967. The Nature of Human Intelligence. McGraw-Hill. [4] M. Karwowski, I. Lebuda, E. Wisniewska, and J. Gralewski, “Big five personality traits as the predictors of creative self-efficacy and creative personal identity: Does gender matter?,” Journal of Creative Behavior, vol. 47, no. 3, pp. 215–232, 2013. [5] M. Karwowski, “Creative mindsets: Measurement, correlates, consequences,” Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 62–70, 2014.

Akcali, E., & Giang, W. C., & Landrum, M. (2020, June), Incorporating Divergent Thinking Skills Development into a Project-based Course in Industrial and Systems Engineering Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34806

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