Can engineers be taught creativity?
Can Engineers be Taught Creativity?
[Name of the Writer]
[Name of the Institution]
Can Engineers be Taught Creativity?
Human mind wields tremendous power in changing the very course of history. In this regards, creative thinking and creativity possess tremendous potential to help humans achieving that. For engineers, creativity is the key to unraveling the very solutions of complex and complicated issues as part of designing and innovation. The final result of creativity is quite commonly in the form of different innovative designs and scientific breakthroughs that were considered impossible decades ago. This paper will look at different aspects of creativity and its importance in the lives of engineers.
At first creativity was considered to be considered within artistic domains of application and a part of arts as de Sousa (2008) has described it as the elusive construct. However, it has changed tremendously around five decades ago when the Soviet Union has introduced Sputnik I as part of their space mission in 1957. Kazerounian and Foley (2007) have described creativity as “prerequisite in any ingenious design” that has brought about different constructive changes thereby shaping the very face of today’s modernized world. The developed achievements are because of an amalgamation of national sciences and mathematics converging with critical thinking and creativity. In science and engineering domain, the understanding of economics and the desire for creating innovative outlooks has provided pathways towards creativity in this domain.
At first the very failure of incorporating innovative ideas in educational grounds has not surfaced until the 1949 address of the American Psychological Association’s President. Gilford (1950) has elaborated different psychologists possess a very limited definition of creativity having a substantial emphasis on human intellectual functionalities. It includes attaining factual knowledge together with recalling and repeating it. Hence, it includes reapplying the learned logical manner to find solutions to the problems having specified goals and following instructions. These all domain constitute the perspective of convergent thinking pattern.
The very definition of creativity is quite broader in perspective that Sternberg (2007) has listed more than 60 different definitions of it from different perspectives of cognitive sciences, social psychology, behavioral psychology, design research¸ and most importantly, innovation to name a few. Nevertheless, most of the people have a more generalized and implicit definition regarding creativity. It includes a person’s nature to take chances coupled with the capability to make unparalleled decisions while being flexible and imaginative. Also, it includes questioning the normative aspects of doing different works inquisitively. Plucker et al. (2004) has defined creativity as the interaction with aptitude, process, and environment by which an individual or group produces a perceptible product that is both novel and useful as defined within a social context.” However, Kazerounian and Foley (2007) have defined a more generalized and elaborative definition of creativity as the ability for generating new associations and new ideas in between the existing ideas. In order to consider it much simpler, it is the ability for creating and formulating new things. A very similar version of definition also correlated with the incorporation of intellectual mind with what Gilford (1950) calls, “divergent” mode of thinking. The very idea of Sputnik’s innovation has provided a doorway for thinking that convergent thinking leads towards conventional solutions to problems; whereas, divergent thinking produces fruits leading to novelty (Cropley, 2015).
Can Creativity Be Taught?
Creativity can be taught as part of educational development programmes, more specifically belonging to Science, Technology, Engineering and Management (STEM) domains. Surely, creativity is at a different pace among each and every subject of studies; however, it requires several aspects to look for ways for enhancing the understanding of creativity. Kazerounian and Foley (2007) have mentioned about the lack of creativity in engineering as it is not valued considerably within contemporary educations. However, the practice of fostering and nurturing creativity within lives of engineers is quite possible with the help of cross-section of education, psychology, and common engineering practices. Nevertheless, as part of teaching creativity, most of the teachers come across with the basic understanding that the students either have creative or non-creative mind and this individual difference cannot be challenged and/or altered. On the other side of the picture, psychological development has showed that creativity can be embedded as part of the educational curriculum and taught to the students all around the world regardless of their educational backgrounds.
Surely, there are numerous ways to augment inclusion of creativity within the lives of young STEM graduates and students. One of the most common ways is to provide the necessary motivation for the students by having different rewards on developing something on creative grounds. As compared to studies conducted by Amabile (1983) that has reflected that the rewards lead toward lack of motivation as well as creativity, contemporary studies conducted by 38 has concluded that provided the rewards for creativity are salient having backed up with cleared instructions, rewards can enhance the creativity within students with an overall increase in extrinsic motivation. Furthermore, as Eisenberger and Rhoades (2001) have concluded that the either employees or students as part of workplace believe that a strong connection exists between rewards and performance. Hence, for achieving that, they feel highly determined for creating something innovation in product, person, press and process domains (Cropley, 2015) thereby leading to enhanced level of creativity within the classroom and also the workplace. It can also raise another issue relating to the potential focus of student of achieving high achievement while avoiding low grades. Quite commonly, they appear to be similar aspects, whether the students take a promotion focus, or they take a prevention focus, they both severely impact the levels of problem-solving and hence, creativity for engineers. During the researchers manipulation of the learning environment such that it leads to the formulation of embracing risks associated with behaviors resulted in an enhanced level of creativity among the students. By providing that environment, the students are much more willing to take risks without considerably worrying about the potential to fail. On the other hand, whenever the students become much more relied upon the penalties relating to failures, they become prevention focused thereby reducing their problem solving and creativity levels (Kazerounian and Foley, 2007).
Cropley and Cropley (2005) have elaborated the domain of creativity in teaching and the very implication of it. Fresh graduates from different renowned universities also have a tough time to get a good job in their primary field of study. The core reason is highlighted as to be skill deficiencies in areas of critical and independent thinking, creativity and problem-solving. It is also reflected from a UK based study conducted by Cooper, Altman and Garner (2002) that has reflected that the very educational system has started to militate itself against the innovative grounds. Within most of the university of the United States teaching engineering possess a strong hostility against any innovation and/or creative ideas; however, the empirical ideas are supported by it. However, the relationship between student’s GPA and creativity levels do not reflect a clear correlation in engineering courses as well.
Engineers and Creativity – A Must
Cropley and Cropley (2005) have provided an outlook for engineers to excelled in four different dimensions of creativity; namely, effectiveness, novelty, elegance and germinability. Each of these four dimensions can be quite helpful in assessing based on ratings of the degree of reliability along with satisfactory validation which includes rating of these four domains in terms of creativity. This four-dimensional model can be quite useful for engineers for enhancing their outlooks in functional creativity domain. The relevance and effectiveness allow the engineer to assess whether the proposed solution provides viable answer to the question at hand. Novelty includes that the solution to the problem is unique, original and most importantly, surprising. The element of elegance includes the beauty of the solution and can also be linked to its cost effectiveness. The fourth dimension, Generalizability includes that the solution can be generalized to a number of applications rather than limited to a particular aspects.
However, the question at hand is, how can creativity add value to lives of engineers? The creativity domain faces tremendous difficulty while penetrating within the domains of engineering. Owing to this concern, Sternberg (2007) has expressed his deepest sentiments in expressing creativity and innovation and the value that it can bring within the society. He has added that the problems human race is confronting at this very time are quite difficult and novel. In order to find solutions to those problems, creativity, and divergent thinking is required. Creativity is of enormous value to engineers because it allows them to generate solutions to difficult and novel problems. The innovation of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) techniques is the most vibrant example of it. Overwhelming concerns about the degradation of the environment has led towards the development of those techniques that could not hinder industrialization but also does not put nature in harm’s way (Environmental Protection Agency, 2015).
It can also be considered as a nexus for describing the complex relationship between society’s physical resources, its wealth and most importantly, technological advancements. Technology is the key for translating a physical resource and technology also determines the very efficiency related to harnessing, obtaining, distributing and afterwards, storing those resources. Without the inclusion of technological advancement, the nation’s wealth is compromised as there would be inadequate ways for harnessing all those energies and resources and turning them into something useful for society. Moreover, as a part of engineering optimization, the utilization of resources would also become a question of balancing the rate of return with the rate of investment in any new development. The very process of transforming the raw materials (or physical resources) into wealth is driven by a constant influx of new challenges for the engineers that require technological solutions; rather than, short-term fixes. It is also of the essence to note that these skills should have to be developed as part of teaching engineering students (Cropley, 2005).
All in all, engineers should have to be taught about thinking divergently and creatively. The fruits of incorporating creativity as part of engineering curriculum would not only enhance the overall performance of students in the professional field; but also allow them to become a much better part of society as well.
Amabile, T., (1983), The Social Psychology of Creativity, Springer, New York.
Cooper, C., Altman, W. and Garner, A. (2002). Inventing for business success. New York: Texere.
Cropley, D. H. (2015). Teaching Engineers to Think Creatively: Barriers and Challenges in STEM Disciplines. In R. Wegerif, L, Li., J. C. Kaufman, (Eds), (2015). International Handbook of Research on Teaching Thinking. Routledge Press. pp. 402-410.
Cropley, D. H., & Cropley, A. J. (2005). Engineering creativity: A systems concept of functional creativity. Creativity across domains: Faces of the muse, 169-185.
De Sousa, F. C. (2008). Still the Elusive Definition of Creativity. Tarptautinis psichologijos žurnalas: Biopsichosocialinis požiūris(2), 55-82.
Eisenberger, R., & Rhoades, L. (2001). Incremental effects of reward on creativity. Journal of personality and social psychology, 81(4), 728.
Environmental Protection Agency,. (2015). Carbon Dioxide Capture and Sequestration | Climate Change | US EPA. Retrieved 11 June 2015, from http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ccs/
Guilford, J. P. (1950). Creativity. American Psychologist, 5, pp. 444-454.
Kazerounian, K., & Foley, S. (2007). Barriers to creativity in engineering education: A study of instructors and students perceptions. Journal of Mechanical Design, 129(7), 761-768.
Plucker, J. A., Beghetto, R. A., & Dow, G. T. (2004). Why isn’t creativity more important to educational psychologists? Potentials, pitfalls, and future directions in creativity research. Educational psychologist, 39(2), 83-96.Plucker, J. A., Beghetto, R. A., & Dow, G. T. (2004). Why isn’t creativity more important to educational psychologists? Potentials, pitfalls, and future directions in creativity research. Educational Psychologist, 39(2), 83-96.
Sternberg, R. J. (2000). Identifying and developing creative giftedness. Roeper Review, 23(2), 60-64.
Sternberg, R. J. (2007). Creativity as a habit. In A.-G. Tan (Ed.), Creativity: A Handbook forTeachers (pp. 3-25). Singapore: World Scientific.
Sternberg, R. J., and Williams, W. M., Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1996, How to Develop Student Creativity, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, VA.