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Teaching Creativity, Innovation, And Change In The Leaderless Classroom

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.937.1 - 6.937.12

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Paper Authors

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Jr., Donald Horner

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Dr. Jack Matson

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session #3242

Teaching Creativity, Innovation, and Change in the Leaderless Classroom

Donald H. Horner, Jr., Jack V. Matson, The Pennsylvania State University


Creativity: having the power to create; marked by originality; imaginative. Innovation: the act of innovating or producing something new or unusual. Change: to make different; to alter; to transform.1 Different concepts? Yes. Related concepts? Definitely. Teachable concepts of particular relevance to engineers? Without question.

Definitional differences notwithstanding, there exists a shared essence which binds notions of creativity, innovation, and change. The essences of these concepts, whether taken singly or in combination, is one of enthusiasm, enlightenment, and engagement that accompanies doing something in a unique, unusual, and different way. Given the positive energy and predisposition to action that these concepts connote, they do not necessarily fit well into established, traditional models of classroom instruction and interaction. The challenge for educators is to develop and employ a method for teaching these concepts in a manner that is consistent with the essence that the concepts share.

This paper proposes that the process of teaching creativity, innovation, and change to engineering students in a university setting must itself be creative and innovative while concomitantly promoting change. The method promoted here is a “leaderless classroom” approach, which requires students to become entirely and radically responsible for their own learning. In contrast to traditional modes and styles of teaching, which encourage unenlightened students to remain passive recipients of knowledge imparted by all- knowing professors during the learning process, the “leaderless classroom” casts typical professorial and student roles asunder. The latter assume complete responsibility for the creative, innovative, and change process, to include goal setting and direction, in and out- of-class activities, topics and content studied, learning processes, and student assessment. The result is a classroom culture which recasts typical student-professor interaction and behavioral patterns, engages students, makes students personally responsible for their own learning, and stimulates creativity, innovation, and change.

The paper begins with a description of typical classroom processes and how the leaderless classroom approach differs from this norm. An account of the culture created by the leaderless classroom follows. The paper then highlights observations and results

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright C 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Horner, J. D., & Matson, D. J. (2001, June), Teaching Creativity, Innovation, And Change In The Leaderless Classroom Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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