Rebuilding and Reinforcing Creativity Through Assessment in Engineering Students and Practitioners

Bret Lingwall
Associate Professor
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

When Cropley and Cropley proposed promotion of creativity through assessment, they did so in terms of individuals in the general population. Engineering students and practitioners, however, can be a different sort of person as individuals and even more so in team settings. One side effect of the conventional engineering education as currently construed… that trains the forming engineer to seek the “right” solution in the most “efficient” manner possible, is that creativity can be stripped away. Creativity itself is often misunderstood. Here we define creativity in terms of both novelty and quality. To solve the complex, wicked, problems of the next 100 years, engineers must be able to seek novel solutions that are of high quality (i.e. creative). We use the idea of promotion of creativity through assessment and use it to rebuild creativity in both engineering students and practitioners and subsequently reinforce the mindsets and skills via both rubrics and assessments combined with facilitated learning experiences. Need: High school students consistently score higher in creativity than engineering graduates, particularly in team settings, even when corrected for demographics. This leads to increasingly derivative design work and marginally incremental advancements of the states of the practice and art. We see Senior Design engineering students consistently only doing that which they saw in either class or an internship rather than seeking novel solutions or high quality. Guiding Question: We pose that in facilitated developmental experiences wherein students are guided through interactive active learning activities using complex problems and guided by rubrics that creativity can be rebuilt and reinforced.Outcomes: Through 18 months of work on this project, the creativity rubric has been developed, validated, and implemented in facilitated developmental experiences in several cohorts of freshmen and seniors in general design courses as well as technical design courses. Teams have been emphasized, while individuals not neglected. Assessments of design processes and products before and after interventions on these and other cohorts (for baselines) have shown that interventions are promising for rebuilding and reinforcing creativity in engineers. Broader Impacts: In an age where complex, wicked, problems face society, engineers need to have the workforce skills to thrive and drive positive change. The broader impact of this work is improved designs from engineers. Improved designs that are novel and quality are more sustainable. Improved designs that are novel and quality are stakeholder driven and meet the needs of users and society in more holistic and ethical manners.


Andrea Surovek, SD Mines, and Roni Reiter-Palmon, University of Nebraska Omaha