Adams, J. P., Kaczmarczyk, S., Picton, P. and Demian, P. (2009) Problem solving and creativity in engineering: perceptions of novices and professionals. In: Ao, S. I., Douglas, C., Grundfest, W. S. and Burgstone, J. (eds.) Proceedings of the World Congress on Engineering and Computer Science 2009, Vol. 1. Hong Kong: Newswood Limited. 9789881701268.
Adams, J. P., Kaczmarczyk, S., Picton, P. and Demian, P.
Current UK and European benchmark statements for both undergraduate and professional engineers identify problem solving and creativity as essential capacities. They do not, however, offer guidance on how these skills might be fostered or assessed. Researchers have for many years explored how the differences between novices and experts might show educators’ techniques and strategies for improving problem solving skills in their students. They also suggest a number of capacities relating to creativity which might vary from professionals to novices. A number of semi-structured interviews have been undertaken with engineering undergraduates at The University of Northampton, Loughborough University and Birmingham University in order to explore these issues. The interviews with novice undergraduates are further supported by interviews with practicing professional engineers and engineering academics. Analysis has been in the form of a phenomenographic study. Early findings from the interviews have usefully been used to inform an action research project to develop a problem-based learning module to improve creative problem solving skills in undergraduate engineers. A number of emerging themes that have been identified include: confusion with the concept of ‘creativity’ in engineering; identification of processes in the case of professionals against products in the case of students; issues with motivation and ownership with regard to academic problems and significance being placed on real life activities as a way of teaching and learning creative problem solving