Critical Thinking and Creativity in Higher Education
Other conference contribution, 2013

In engineering education, students are prepared to solve problems in the future that are currently unknown, put knowledge into context and understand complex concepts. Therefore, one of the major learning goals is a problem solving strategy that is applicable in constantly changing environments. It is necessary for students to critically evaluate current solutions and use their creativity to challenge them, in order to come up with new solutions and ensure progress in technology and science. [1] Therefore, it is important to create an open learning environment that encourages students to ask critical questions and challenge knowledge presented to them. This should be specially emphasized in first year courses to establish a tradition of asking questions for the entire education. [2] Unfortunately, students are often taught mainly basic fact knowledge at the beginning, which is presented to them as being true and unquestionable. The students often lack the freedom to develop their own ideas and come up with their own hypotheses, but rather are given clear instructions what to learn and step-by-step protocols for labs. This behavior is difficult to change once they come to master level courses and students are often demanding detailed instructions even in master level labs. Furthermore, students frequently have difficulties to put knowledge into context and connect information learned in different courses. The main goals that students should be able to apply concepts to new situations, critical evaluate, and find creative solutions, are often not achieved. [3] This workshop will discuss critical thinking and creativity in engineering education. The main aim is to review different tools to improve the current situation, their feasibility and how to examine student abilities. Participants are encouraged to share successful teaching experiences that have strengthened student’s critical thinking and creativity and discuss why certain approaches work in some situations, but not in others. It should also be considered where and when new methods could be implemented. Is it feasible to achieve the desired outcome by changes on the single course level or is a curriculum wide approach needed? Which year is most critical? Another aspect that will be discussed is student examination. Is it possible to design exams in a way that encourage critical and creative thinking? How much will such exams change students learning? At last the overall consequences both for students and teaching staff will be considered. What are the restrictions for changes? What problems need to be overcome? [1] Woods, D. R., Felder, R. M., Rugarcia, A., & Stice, J. E. (2000). The Future of Engineering Education III. Developing Critical Skills. Chemical Engineering Education, 34(2), 108–117. [2] Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, S. S. Kenny (chair). Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities. State University of New York–Stony Brook, 1998. [3] Litzinger, T., Lattuca, L. R., Hadgraft, R., & Newstetter, W. (2011). Engineering Education and the Development of Expertise. Journal of Engineering Education, 100(1), 123–150.


Patric Wallin

Chalmers, Applied Information Technology (Chalmers), Engineering Education Research - EER (Chalmers)

Chalmers, Applied Physics, Biological Physics

NNEER conference proceedings 2013

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Educational Sciences

Learning and teaching

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