An exploration of students’ perceptions and attitudes towards creativity in engineering education
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This study used a mixed methods approach to develop a broad and deep understanding of students’ perceptions towards creativity in engineering education. Studies have shown that students’ attitudes can have an impact on their motivation to engage in creative behavior. Using an ex-post facto independent factorial design, attitudes of value towards creativity, time for creativity, and creativity stereotypes were measured and compared across gender, year of study, engineering discipline, preference for open-ended problem solving, and confidence in creative abilities. Participants were undergraduate engineering students at Queen’s University from all years of study. A qualitative phenomenological methodology was adopted to study students’ understandings and experiences with engineering creativity. Eleven students participated in oneon- one interviews that provided depth and insight into how students experience and define engineering creativity, and the survey included open-ended items developed using the 10 Maxims of Creativity in Education as a guiding framework. The findings from the survey suggested that students had high value for creativity, however students in fourth year or higher had less value than those in other years. Those with preference for open-ended problem solving and high confidence valued creative more than their counterparts. Students who preferred open-ended problem solving and students with high confidence reported that time was less of a hindrance to their creativity. Males identified more with creativity stereotypes than females, however overall they were both low. Open-ended survey and interview results indicated that students felt they experienced creativity in engineering design activities. Engineering creativity definitions had two elements: creative action and creative characteristic. Creative actions were associated with designing, and creative characteristics were predominantly associated with novelty. Other barriers that emerged from the qualitative analysis were lack of opportunity, lack of assessment, and discomfort with creativity. It was concluded that a universal definition is required to establish clear and aligned understandings of engineering creativity. Instructors may want to consider demonstrating value by assessing creativity and establishing clear criteria in design projects. It is recommended that students be given more opportunities for practice through design activities and that they be introduced to design and creative thinking concepts early in their engineering education.