Fostering Creativity in Engineering Education: Relationship of Design Task Difficulty to Solution Novelty
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Conflicting claims about engineering students’ abilities to innovate solutions to design tasks warranted evaluation of measures and clarification of roles of design task and student characteristics in developing innovative solutions. Three manuscripts clarified quality of measures and roles of design tasks and student characteristics using survey data from 361 students. The first manuscript evaluated measures of task difficulty, current achievement motivation and cognitive style using CFA, EFA and reliability analyses. Measures were found to have low validity and reliability. Future studies should be conducted with large sample sizes and improved item quality. The second manuscript clarified roles of Grade Point Average (GPA), classification, major, task familiarity, current achievement motivation, and cognitive style in developing innovative solutions using decision tree analysis. GPA, major, current achievement motivation, and cognitive style were significant predictors of novelty. Eight combinations of students’ characteristics that predict novelty of students’ solutions to a design task were identified. Of the eight, four combinations predict conventional solutions. The remaining four combinations predict novel solutions. Stability of combinations and their thresholds should be verified with different design tasks and large sample sizes. The third manuscript examined relationships of design task structuredness and complexity to novelty of solutions after controlling for GPA, major, challenge, anxiety, interest and novelty-seeking orientation. Structural equation modeling found significant iii positive association between structuredness and novelty, significant negative association between complexity and novelty, and significant positive correlation between structuredness and complexity. Only major 2 (BAEN, BMEN, CHEN, ETID, ISEN, NUEN, OCEN or PETE) was found significant relative to undeclared majors. Structuredness, complexity, major 2 explained 21% of the total variance in novelty. Findings support development of models to explain relationships between design tasks and abilities to innovate as moderated or mediated by student characteristics, controlling confounding effects of design tasks and students’ characteristics in ideation studies, and discovery of strategies to develop students’ abilities to innovate solutions.
Rathore, Gurlovleen Kaur (2017). Fostering Creativity in Engineering Education: Relationship of Design Task Difficulty to Solution Novelty. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from